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  #1  
Old 01-12-2010, 07:10 AM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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The Decline of the American Fraternal Organizations

This thread...
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=547024
...got me thinking. Here was an organization with thousands of members, meeting halls, awards & etc, & it has vanished so thoroughly that even we are hard-pressed to scrape up a single fact about it. And it existed, & throve, less that 100 years ago.

Fraternal organizations are dying. Masons, Moose, Elks, Odd Fellows...there are a tiny scrap of what was once a vast social network. There were many others. From my youth, I remember a few old men who belonged to a Scandanavian Fraternal order, dedicated to Saint Olaf. And any careful inspection of the Lost New York site will uncover photos of lodge halls, whose founding organizations are utterly lost to living memory.

Millions belonged to these groups. They were effective charitable fundraisers. They provided structure, ritual, & companionship. Booze & food were served (if the Moose Halls are anything to go by).

Why did these groups die? What happened to the American Fraternal Orders?
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  #2  
Old 01-12-2010, 07:29 AM
Gustav Gustav is offline
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Ah, so that's how they did it before facebook...
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Old 01-12-2010, 07:35 AM
zamboniracer zamboniracer is offline
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See the book Bowling Alone (2000) by Robert D. Putnam for one opinion.
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Old 01-12-2010, 07:52 AM
Bricker Bricker is online now
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I would like to carefully exempt my own order, the Knights of Columbus, from the charge of dying. The K of C is growing, with a current all-time high membership of over 1.8 million men.
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Old 01-12-2010, 07:55 AM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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Originally Posted by Bricker View Post
I would like to carefully exempt my own order, the Knights of Columbus, from the charge of dying. The K of C is growing, with a current all-time high membership of over 1.8 million men.
It helps a lot when you have a bar on site.
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  #6  
Old 01-12-2010, 08:34 AM
Hypno-Toad Hypno-Toad is offline
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The rise of the youth culture of the 60's may not have helped them much. It's a little hard to bring in new blood when the kids are chanting, "Dont trust anyone over 30!" Organizations full of older white men sound like just the bourgeois ideal that the hippies (real and pop imitations thereof) rejected. They're also a pretty good symbol of The Man.

But I wonder at what age men generally join such orders? If folks don't become shriners until they're established, the youth opinion may not matter as much. OTOH, aging boomers may not want to join BECAUSE it's a sign of aging, like getting AARP membership.
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Old 01-12-2010, 08:38 AM
Munch Munch is online now
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Originally Posted by zamboniracer View Post
See the book Bowling Alone (2000) by Robert D. Putnam for one opinion.
Beat me to it. Any discussion involving American social organizations and their involvement is woefully inadequate if Putnam's work isn't at the heart of it.
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Old 01-12-2010, 08:40 AM
StusBlues StusBlues is offline
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Originally Posted by Bijou Drains View Post
It helps a lot when you have a bar on site.

Eh, most of them did, actually.

The Knights are closely related to the Catholic church. In my diocese, they work hand in glove. That sort of relationship provides a growth and outreach opportunity that the Masons and other groups don't have. They're notorious for standing alone.
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  #9  
Old 01-12-2010, 08:47 AM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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My father met a guy who became Catholic just so he could join the K of C.
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  #10  
Old 01-12-2010, 08:54 AM
Mr. Moto Mr. Moto is offline
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I won't deny that in most areas these organizations are in decline, but oddly enough they seem healthy in my neck of the woods. Within a few miles of my house are booming Moose and Elks lodges, the KofC is very active locally and one of the largest VFW chapters in the state is located here.
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  #11  
Old 01-12-2010, 09:01 AM
Jack Batty Jack Batty is offline
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The only thing I know about these things are that they used to be the sponsors in my town's little league. We didn't have the Little Yankees or the Junior Red Sox. I played for the Jaycees, against the KC's, Rotary and the Eagles.

But you have to take pity on these poor saps. Where else can you find a fifty year old man riding a mini-bike with a fez on? When BPOE goes tits up ... small town parades across the nation are going to be just a bit more boring.

Last edited by Jack Batty; 01-12-2010 at 09:02 AM..
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  #12  
Old 01-12-2010, 09:05 AM
Mr. Moto Mr. Moto is offline
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But you have to take pity on these poor saps. Where else can you find a fifty year old man riding a mini-bike with a fez on? When BPOE goes tits up ... small town parades across the nation are going to be just a bit more boring.
When all we are left with is the Red Hat Society, we'll have to just call the parades off.
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  #13  
Old 01-12-2010, 09:15 AM
Bricker Bricker is online now
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Originally Posted by Bijou Drains View Post
It helps a lot when you have a bar on site.
Interesting comment, and I think it tells a story -- not the one you probably intended, though.

When I was a kid of about ten, I remember being with my dad, driving along a local thoroughfare and passing a K of C council home.

"What are 'Knights of Columbus?'" I asked.

"Oh," my dad replied, "They're a drinking club."

My ten-year-old brain immediately conjured up a detailed vision of a chairman, members, and orderly procedure all for the purpose of drinking. It was years later, when I joined the Knights, that I realized there was a subtle truth in some respects to what my dad said, but those days were numbered when he made his observation, and in sharp decline by the time I joined.

In earlier times, no doubt the K of C, with their stand-alone council homes that did include bars, were (along with their charitable works, fraternal benefits, and other good deeds) also largely a place for men to get together and hoist a brew. But when a young man named Virgil Dechant took over the chief executive officer position for the Knights in 1977, he began to radically change the direction of the Knights. He believed that stand-alone council homes that drew members from multiple parishes were a poor model, because the members' primary attention went to raising funds to keep and maintain their own real estate. Dechant began pushing for smaller councils to form within a single parish, and either use parish facilities or acquire their own buildings on or near parish property. He believed that councils thus formed would (correctly) see their primary mission as support of the parish and its activities.

Of course, many older councils remain, continuing the use of the older model. But the trend of the Order has been away from the "drinking club" atmosphere and towards a true Catholic, family, fraternal, service organization.

I know your comment was not intended to get as much of a detailed response as this is... but I am convinced that this change in emphasis is one reason the K of C continues to grow and prosper even as other fraternal organizations fight declining enrollment.

Last edited by Bricker; 01-12-2010 at 09:17 AM..
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  #14  
Old 01-12-2010, 09:21 AM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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Yes, I know the K of C now has many councils that meet at churches and don't have a bar. My father was a grand knight 30 years ago and is still an active member , he is 4th degree. His place has a bar but the other local councils do not.

In the early days of SNL they had a skit about the K of C and at the end they always said "The bar is open!"
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  #15  
Old 01-12-2010, 09:35 AM
Antinor01 Antinor01 is offline
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What do these groups do? I've heard of them but never really understood them. From the OP I see mentioned charity fundraising. That sounds like a good thing but there are a ton of fundraising groups now. He mentions ritual and structure. I'm not really sure what is meant by that. And then companionship. There are a bazillion ways to find that now.

It sounds like they are largely shrinking because there is a lot more competition for peoples time and a lot of ways to get what they offer.
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  #16  
Old 01-12-2010, 09:48 AM
msmith537 msmith537 is offline
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What do these groups do?
Since ancient times, they split the rocks of ignorance that obscures the light of knowledge and truth

Now let's all get drunk and play Ping-Pong!!!
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  #17  
Old 01-12-2010, 09:52 AM
davekhps davekhps is offline
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Part of me wishes these clubs would come back into fashion. Many fond childhood memories of family at the VFW, the Moose, etc.

Facebook is nice and all, but it's not the same, not even close. Outside of some lucky small towns, America doesn't do community anymore, and that's a shame.
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Old 01-12-2010, 09:56 AM
Bricker Bricker is online now
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Originally Posted by Antinor01 View Post
What do these groups do? I've heard of them but never really understood them. From the OP I see mentioned charity fundraising. That sounds like a good thing but there are a ton of fundraising groups now. He mentions ritual and structure. I'm not really sure what is meant by that. And then companionship. There are a bazillion ways to find that now.

It sounds like they are largely shrinking because there is a lot more competition for peoples time and a lot of ways to get what they offer.
The K of C has a pretty detailed five-point service structure. Councils are encouraged to institute programs to benefit the church, local community, the family, the council itself, and youth.

So in the youth area, my local council does things like hosts a free-throw competition, with winners at our level moving up to compete and a district, regional, and state final. We do a pizza party for the altar servers, and sponsor the local Boy Scout troop. We annualy recognize an "Outstanding Young Man," and "Outstanding Young Woman," in the area and award a small scholarship as a prize.

In the community area, we provide labor and funding to assist local shelters and soup kitchens. We procure and deliver food for needy families for Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners.

And so forth....
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Old 01-12-2010, 10:01 AM
Bricker Bricker is online now
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Yes, I know the K of C now has many councils that meet at churches and don't have a bar. My father was a grand knight 30 years ago and is still an active member , he is 4th degree. His place has a bar but the other local councils do not.
Yes, thirty years the trend I spoke of was just starting, but even then, I'd be willing to wager your dad has a story or two about some tension between the ideals of serving the community or church, and the need to keep up the local building; or about the distinction between the Grand Knight and the club president and the challenges in that relationship and their distinct goals.

- Bricker, PGK, PFN, FDD
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Old 01-12-2010, 10:26 AM
mswas mswas is offline
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Baby Boomers en masse kind of rejected tradition for some reason. In my experience in Masonry there was a bit of a generation gap between the oldsters and my generation. My parents' generation is less represented amongst Masons. The rate of decline is declining, but it's still in decline.
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Old 01-12-2010, 10:27 AM
mswas mswas is offline
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Eh, most of them did, actually.

The Knights are closely related to the Catholic church. In my diocese, they work hand in glove. That sort of relationship provides a growth and outreach opportunity that the Masons and other groups don't have. They're notorious for standing alone.
Except Catholic church attendance overall is declining. IIRC. And they are having more trouble getting priests.
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  #22  
Old 01-12-2010, 10:39 AM
Mr. Moto Mr. Moto is offline
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Let me tell you a couple stories - just as an example.

When we needed a Christmas tree this year, we went to the VFW - we have been buying trees from them for several years now. The tree was top quality and very inexpensive. A couple weeks after this the post had their Christmas party for the kids - my three kids had an afternoon of crafts, time with Santa and a good lunch.

They were sent home with a couple of Beanie babies and a gift bag with candy and a $10 Wal-Mart gift card. Total cost for mom and dad - zero.

I can go there on Friday nights for a full dinner, on weekends for breakfast. For a sandwich and beer or cocktails it can't be beat. Members get charged, for instance, 75 cents for a domestic draft during happy hour - this goes up to a buck later.

The post is constantly raising money for the benefit of veterans and servicemembers, and this amounts to a lot of money annually.

I will admit that the post does not get much of my time - I have a young family. But I am glad to support them in what they do and equally glad to enjoy the benefits they provide.
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Old 01-12-2010, 10:41 AM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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Yes, thirty years the trend I spoke of was just starting, but even then, I'd be willing to wager your dad has a story or two about some tension between the ideals of serving the community or church, and the need to keep up the local building; or about the distinction between the Grand Knight and the club president and the challenges in that relationship and their distinct goals.

- Bricker, PGK, PFN, FDD

My dad and his friends really like that they are independent of a church.
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Old 01-12-2010, 11:04 AM
2ply 2ply is offline
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The first job my mother had after she had me was a waitress at the Elks where my dad was a member. This was back in the Bush I years when women were excluded from membership and even my 6 year brain though that was wrong. I used to hang out there and drink pop and eat popcorn while my mom worked and my dad socialized and they saved money on a babysitter. Fun times.

The Elks club in my tiny home town (different from the town I was a tot in) does very well and has recruitment well about the state and national average, mainly because its a bar and a one of the few places to socialize around there. Some of my high school classmates who never left town are members so it's nice to run into them when I visit my mother, who is a member. The Elks were forced by law to admit women in the 90s, and my mom tells me a lot of the old timers do not like it, but without women paying dues, most lodges wouldn't have enough money to stay open. I could see why people would be less interested in the Elks if they lived in a larger city, though.
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Old 01-12-2010, 11:09 AM
gang green gang green is offline
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I know some of it had to do with lawsuits some years back about sexual discrimination. These are fraternal orders - no women allowed. This caused some women to sue for discrimination.

In many cases, the fraternal order had a women's branch - the Masons had Eastern Star, the Rotary Club had the Pilot Club, the Elks had the Does - but the "men only" thing really had some people riled.

Anyway, some of them have integrated. My dad has been in Kiwanis for decades, and my mom joined when they opened up to women. But overall, yes, the clubs are in decline. It seems that fewer and fewer people are interested in joining these types of organizations.

Oh, and as for the VFW in particular, they came under fire for not recognizing the veterans of Vietnam. It's taking them a long time to overcome that stigma, and I understand that many veterans still won't join because of it.
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Old 01-12-2010, 11:10 AM
kopek kopek is offline
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IMHO
1) Changes in blue laws - the bars were an attraction on Sundays
2) Mobility - we now drive for entertainment and to entertainment leaving most "local" things struggling to survive
3) Loss of ethnic identity
4) Loss of community and stewardship - most has a charity as a central theme. Now the government meets most of those charitable needs. Or at least we like to think it does.
5) Decline of organized religions. If you don't have people in the pews, you aren't going to have many in your Sokol Hall.
6) Sexism and racism isn't as tolerated and fraternals were by their very nature at least one of the two.
7) Cost. Those "castles" and "Aeries" were expensive to build, heat and maintain.

Those are off the top of my head and from some I remember closing.
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Old 01-12-2010, 11:15 AM
silenus silenus is online now
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Nothing personal, but here's hoping that the VFW someday ceases to exist because nobody qualifies for membership.

Around here, membership seems to be growing a bit lately, as more and more younger people discover that Lions, Elks, etc. make very good networking sites for business. I know that when my students speak before the Lions, there have been a greater percentage of non-ancients in the last few years.
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Old 01-12-2010, 11:17 AM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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Why did VFW not recognize Vietnam vets? I had not heard that.
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  #29  
Old 01-12-2010, 11:29 AM
Mr. Moto Mr. Moto is offline
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Oh, and as for the VFW in particular, they came under fire for not recognizing the veterans of Vietnam. It's taking them a long time to overcome that stigma, and I understand that many veterans still won't join because of it.
Actually, the VFW has always recognized Vietnam veterans as an organization - this recognition, though, didn't always percolate down to individual posts or members who often made Vietnam vets feel unwelcome. Those days seem to be long gone, though - Vietnam vets dominate leadership positions in my post and the national commander is a Vietnam vet.

And the same mistake doesn't seem to be made today - I have never felt unwelcome at the post even though my wartime experience is very limited - I was in a support role for the Bosnia operation and have several months of imminent danger pay for operations in South America.

Last edited by Mr. Moto; 01-12-2010 at 11:31 AM..
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  #30  
Old 01-12-2010, 11:30 AM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
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Originally Posted by Bricker View Post
In earlier times, no doubt the K of C, with their stand-alone council homes that did include bars, were (along with their charitable works, fraternal benefits, and other good deeds) also largely a place for men to get together and hoist a brew. But when a young man named Virgil Dechant took over the chief executive officer position for the Knights in 1977, he began to radically change the direction of the Knights. He believed that stand-alone council homes that drew members from multiple parishes were a poor model, because the members' primary attention went to raising funds to keep and maintain their own real estate. Dechant began pushing for smaller councils to form within a single parish, and either use parish facilities or acquire their own buildings on or near parish property. He believed that councils thus formed would (correctly) see their primary mission as support of the parish and its activities.

Of course, many older councils remain, continuing the use of the older model. But the trend of the Order has been away from the "drinking club" atmosphere and towards a true Catholic, family, fraternal, service organization.

I know your comment was not intended to get as much of a detailed response as this is... but I am convinced that this change in emphasis is one reason the K of C continues to grow and prosper even as other fraternal organizations fight declining enrollment.
I think this bit of history supports, rather than contradicts, the OP's thesis. You're saying the K of C turned its decline around by changing into something very different than the traditional fraternal organization.

As an organization that sees "their primary mission as support of the parish and its activities," it would appear to be a closer fit with groups such at the PTA, the Friends of the Library, and other organizations that exist to provide outside support to community institutions that are directly run by professionals of one sort or another, but can greatly benefit from the help of interested community members.
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Old 01-12-2010, 11:34 AM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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Two things:

1. The decline in society's segregation by sex. The fraternal organizations were an artifact of a time when men and women lived, worked, and socialized in much more separate worlds. Yes, a man occasionally had to go to parties as a couple, but he couldn't relax around women, because they were just so different. In today's world, with women established in the workplace and men expected to participate in keeping the home and raising the children, the opposite sex is no longer so alien, and it's not necessary to flee from them to have a good time.

2. ESPN. Fundamentally, the fraternal organizations gave men something to do with their time. Now, there is a ton of sports accessible at any time, either at home or in a sports bar. The idea of sitting through a men's meeting led by a guy in a water buffalo hat suffers by comparison.
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  #32  
Old 01-12-2010, 11:38 AM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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Not only ESPN but all the other sports channels too.

My dad's K of C always gets together to watch college FB. And of course Notre Dame is the team they watch the most.
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  #33  
Old 01-12-2010, 11:41 AM
Bricker Bricker is online now
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Except Catholic church attendance overall is declining. IIRC. And they are having more trouble getting priests.
Well, yes. According to this story about a Gallup poll, Roman Catholic Church attendance has fallen since 1955, but Protestant church attendance is rising. Still, the falling Catholic numbers have generally been higher than the rising Protestant numbers until now:
Quote:
Church attendance among Protestants in the United States has been increasing for six decades, reaching 45 percent this decade, poll results indicate.

The Gallup Poll said Thursday its surveys of an unspecified number of people between 2005 and 2008 found that 45 percent of U.S. Protestants attend church, tying the Christian movement with Roman Catholics
.

Results of the 2005-2008 surveys indicate that 45 percent of Roman Catholics nationwide are regular churchgoers, a significant decline from 1955.

In 1955, Gallup results indicated 75 percent of U.S. Roman Catholics attended church regularly.
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Old 01-12-2010, 11:45 AM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
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Baby Boomers en masse kind of rejected tradition for some reason. In my experience in Masonry there was a bit of a generation gap between the oldsters and my generation. My parents' generation is less represented amongst Masons. The rate of decline is declining, but it's still in decline.
The men-only thing that gang green mentions probably had something to do with it: in my g-g-generation, the guys and girls wanted to hang out with each other rather than separately. And by the time the time the fraternal organizations admitted women, the damage had been done.

But mostly, I think it was about the suburbs. Back when the fraternal organizations were important, the suburbs barely existed. All those lodges were where their members were, in small towns, in larger towns, in cities.

Then after the war, the suburbs came along, and the lodges were fairly slow in following. AFAICT, for those of us who grew up in suburbia in the 1950s and 60s (i.e. most of us baby boomers!), the fraternal orders simply were somewhere else, off our cultural map. And they didn't seem to be on our fathers' maps either - they may have been a part of the life of the small-town professional, but the guy commuting in to his job in the city, then driving back out to his suburban split-level in the evening, didn't really interact with the lodges.

Go a few years down the road, and the geographical division becomes a cultural division, and there you go.
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Old 01-12-2010, 12:14 PM
MsRobyn MsRobyn is offline
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Nothing personal, but here's hoping that the VFW someday ceases to exist because nobody qualifies for membership.

Around here, membership seems to be growing a bit lately, as more and more younger people discover that Lions, Elks, etc. make very good networking sites for business. I know that when my students speak before the Lions, there have been a greater percentage of non-ancients in the last few years.
I came in to say this. Many of my business-minded college classmates ended up joining these organizations as a way of making contacts, and the parents of one or two actually pay for their memberships so their kids can get jobs.
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  #36  
Old 01-12-2010, 02:07 PM
butler1850 butler1850 is offline
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My WAG is that a lot of it has to do with changes in the role of men in modern family. Those that I know who are members of this sort of club are looking for an escape from their women, and home responsibilities, or simply don't have them yet (still single). My grandfather, and one uncle are great examples of this, along with a few of my friends.

The good family men that I know tend to want to go home and interact with their families, rather than heading over to "The club," and putting down a few pints. My father, and most uncles would represent this crew.

Now, this is only my observation, from my relatively small circle of friends and family, but it seems that it holds fairly true. Also, I do recognize the good works that a great many of these clubs do, and respect that effort. I also recognize that there are a great number of members who the above analysis does not apply to in any way.
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  #37  
Old 01-12-2010, 03:05 PM
Baracus Baracus is offline
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Originally Posted by Tom Tildrum View Post
In today's world, with women established in the workplace and men expected to participate in keeping the home and raising the children, the opposite sex is no longer so alien, and it's not necessary to flee from them to have a good time.
This is what I was thinking especially the raising the children part. With a wife that works and a kid, I don't really have a ton of free time to go hang out at the lodge, at least not on a weekly basis. It seems like it would be more the norm fifty years ago than today for dad to come home pat the kids on the head, eat the dinner that his wife had waiting for him, and then do whatever the heck he wanted the rest of the evening.
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Old 01-12-2010, 03:12 PM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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College frats were down in the 60s and 70s but 1 thing helped them rebound - Animal House which came out in 78.
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  #39  
Old 01-12-2010, 03:37 PM
astorian astorian is offline
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Originally Posted by Bricker View Post
I would like to carefully exempt my own order, the Knights of Columbus, from the charge of dying. The K of C is growing, with a current all-time high membership of over 1.8 million men.
Things may vary by region. Here in Austin, all the Knights I know are elderly men, as are all the Kiwanis. They TRY hard to recruit younger people, but haven't had much success.

Sadly, at 48, I'd be one of the "younger" people, if I had any interest in joining.
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  #40  
Old 01-12-2010, 03:44 PM
astorian astorian is offline
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One other note on the Knights of Columbus: back in the early/mid-Sixties, I had some rich cousins who moved from New Jersey to Tennessee. They became VERY active members of the local Knghts of Columbus, for a reason that probably wouldn't exist today: they were Catholic, and Catholics weren't welcome at a lot of leading Southern country clubs in those days.

I'm pretty sure a similarly affluent Catholic family moving to that same area today WOULD get into the local country club without a problem, which would mean one less family joining the K of C.
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  #41  
Old 01-12-2010, 04:33 PM
Argent Towers Argent Towers is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2005
I've been going to dinners at the Freemasons lodge here (and also handed in my petition to join yesterday) and I have seen other guys my age (mid-20s.) Not that many, but this is a small lodge, and they always have news clippings with photos posted on the walls and stuff that seem to show lots of younger guys involved with the Masons. The majority of them are definitely older, like 50+, but there are 4 or 5 guys there in their 30s. I actually read an article in the newsletter of the George Washington Masonic Memorial that credited movies like National Treasure with raising interest among young people about the Masons. Normally that would make me but I guess anything helps, and people do (unfortunately) get all of their knowledge of history from the movies.
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  #42  
Old 01-12-2010, 04:57 PM
2ply 2ply is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gang green View Post
Oh, and as for the VFW in particular, they came under fire for not recognizing the veterans of Vietnam. It's taking them a long time to overcome that stigma, and I understand that many veterans still won't join because of it.
King of the Hill had an episode about Cotton Hill's VFW post running out of funds and being forced to reach out to Vietnam vets after rejecting them for several decades. All I know about the VFW, I learned from that cartoon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Nothing personal, but here's hoping that the VFW someday ceases to exist because nobody qualifies for membership.
In 2000, I remember seeing a segment on the Nightly News with Tom Brokaw which was about the decline of veteran's organizations due to their not being any major wars for a generation. This was presented as an overall good thing, even if it meant the VFW disappeared. Of course, this would no longer be a concern a year later.
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  #43  
Old 01-12-2010, 05:21 PM
The Devil's Grandmother The Devil's Grandmother is offline
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Around here, membership seems to be growing a bit lately, as more and more younger people discover that Lions, Elks, etc. make very good networking sites for business. I know that when my students speak before the Lions, there have been a greater percentage of non-ancients in the last few years.
Some of the old lodges probably benefited from the social pressure that used to prevent men in the "gentlemen's" professions (doctors and lawyers) from advertising. The modern changes in attitude that allow law firms and clinics to advertise on local television stations may reduce the need for personal networking.
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  #44  
Old 01-12-2010, 05:48 PM
Katriona Katriona is offline
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Originally Posted by Argent Towers View Post
I actually read an article in the newsletter of the George Washington Masonic Memorial that credited movies like National Treasure with raising interest among young people about the Masons. Normally that would make me but I guess anything helps, and people do (unfortunately) get all of their knowledge of history from the movies.
It's not a fraternal organization, but my Scottish group saw the same thing after Braveheart and Rob Roy came out. And age does seem to be a factor; after something like those movies, we'll get a spike in younger members, but they don't stay active very long. It's a "gray" group - at 41, I often feel like a 12-year-old peeking at the adult table.

It sounds tacky to say, but we're just kind of waiting for the Old Guard to die off, since right now they hold all the power and while they enjoy complaining about membership dropping off, they're not interested in changing things to appeal to a younger crowd.
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  #45  
Old 01-13-2010, 10:37 PM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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Originally Posted by Mr. Moto View Post
Actually, the VFW has always recognized Vietnam veterans as an organization - this recognition, though, didn't always percolate down to individual posts or members who often made Vietnam vets feel unwelcome. Those days seem to be long gone, though - Vietnam vets dominate leadership positions in my post and the national commander is a Vietnam vet.
My uncle, a WWII vet, was very active in the local VFW club. He mentioned that there was a tremendous generational difference between the older, white, conservative WWII 'regulars' and the new, younger Vietnam vets.

They were trying to get some of those young guys to join, but there were constant, irritating differences between the groups. Like the music played on jukebox -- each group disliked the music the others played. (One of the first times they brought some young guys in, they complained about the lack of choices on the jukebox -- "do you have any songs on this thing from after Kennedy was killed?" -- and actually, they didn't have many. That required changing the song mix, and of course, some of the songs they removed were somebodys favorites.) There were even differences in the drinks the groups liked. And the WWII guys were upset that the Vietnam guys asked about a non-smoking section -- to object to smoke seemed unmanly to them.

Plus there were big differences in their feelings about their wars. The WWII guys were proud of their service, absolutely convinced that WWII was justified, and (despite a lot of bitching) generally thought the higher-ups knew what they were doing. The Vietnam guys were far more questioning on these points. Many of the Vietnam guys came back almost anti-war, the WWII guys were strongly in favor of it. There was a memorable dispute one time when a WWII guy made a pro-war comment, and a Vietnam guy said that was easy to say when it wasn't your ass at risk in some damn jungle.

There was quite a clash of cultures, and anything the leaders did to accommodate one group tended to alienate some of the others. It took quite awhile, a fair amount of adjustment, and starting to bring some of the younger guys onto the board before they got along. Now, most of the WWII guys are long gone, and even the Vietnam guys are getting older, and facing new, younger vets coming along. But they seem to be having an easier time welcoming the newer guys (and gals), possibly remembering when they were the new ones.
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  #46  
Old 01-13-2010, 11:04 PM
Spoke Spoke is offline
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Join Date: Dec 1999
I have often thought that these sorts of lodges could be successfully resurrected in an ironic hipster form.
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  #47  
Old 01-14-2010, 07:48 AM
rbroome rbroome is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor View Post
This thread...
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=547024
...got me thinking. Here was an organization with thousands of members, meeting halls, awards & etc, & it has vanished so thoroughly that even we are hard-pressed to scrape up a single fact about it. And it existed, & throve, less that 100 years ago.

Fraternal organizations are dying. Masons, Moose, Elks, Odd Fellows...there are a tiny scrap of what was once a vast social network. There were many others. From my youth, I remember a few old men who belonged to a Scandanavian Fraternal order, dedicated to Saint Olaf. And any careful inspection of the Lost New York site will uncover photos of lodge halls, whose founding organizations are utterly lost to living memory.

Millions belonged to these groups. They were effective charitable fundraisers. They provided structure, ritual, & companionship. Booze & food were served (if the Moose Halls are anything to go by).

Why did these groups die? What happened to the American Fraternal Orders?
I blame the Red Cross.
Seriously, one of the major functions of these organizations is to provide help to members in need. Think of it as an early form of insurance. With the rise of commercial insurance for people of modest means, government social programs, big charities, and last but not least the tremendous expansion of evening activities, there simply isn't the need for this type of organization. I am a member of Rotary. It has been pointed out that there hasn't been a large volunteer organization formed (in the US) like the Rotary since the early 1900s. It is simply life moving on.
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  #48  
Old 01-14-2010, 08:42 AM
Paul in Qatar Paul in Qatar is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2002
Television.

We used to have an active Lodge hereabouts, but when English-language television came in, the membership dwindled and aged.

What do the Masons do? We preserve our ancient ceremonies and teachings. It is way cool to recite the words once recited by George Washington. Anything that pissed off Hitler. Stalin, Mao and Franco is OK by me.
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  #49  
Old 01-14-2010, 11:44 AM
Pábitel Pábitel is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2000
Others brushed against another reason that these organizations are losing their influence but I haven't seen it stated bluntly.

Membership in many of these institutions was required to get a job in many towns up to about 1970. The country was much more parochial then. We didn't have the "move away once you get out of school" culture we have now. If you wanted to get along in the community you found yourself in you did your best to fit in. You joined the club where the mayor and the factory owner and the head of the chamber of commerce were all officers.

If you were unlucky enough to be a protestant in a catholic town, or even an Italian in a Norwegian town then you worked as a laborer or a shop hand or something because the front office was closed to you. Those jobs went to the guys who could join the club where the power brokers were.

These institutions were the basis for the "old boys network" you have heard so much about. As we have become a more mobile society and talent has become more important than who you know, at least in finding a first job out of school, these organizations have lost their power. You no longer to HAVE to join to get ahead and they never really had much else to offer their members.
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  #50  
Old 01-14-2010, 06:47 PM
davey77 davey77 is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2009
My grandfather was an Oddfellow (and also a member of a fraternal organization.)

Can anybody tell me anything about this organization? I see the remains of IOOF halls around SE Ohio and I wonder what was going on in there. Thought they were working class employees of the Masons, but don't know much more.
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