Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Who Was this "Dad" Land Guy, Anyway?

I am sitting in the basement of the Harrisburg Consistory building waiting for Pilgrim Chapter to finish having one of their marathon member "discussions" so I can show them a video about the history of the Founding of the Order of DeMolay and "Dad" Frank S. Land, and it struck me that there isn't anyone left that I know of who can really talk about "Dad" Land from personal experience. Oh, sure, there are some who met him on one of his tours around the country. As much as I like to tease "Dad" Williamson about his age, he was a young pup when he met "Dad" Land in the early 1950's. What I mean is that there isn't anyone who worked closely with "Dad" Land as a co-worker, an advisor, or even as a young man in a Chapter, who can talk about who he was, what he was like, how he acted in public and in private.

We have the book, "HI, DAD!" written by Rev. Herbert E. Duncan in 1970, a slide show (newly available on DVD) created in 1977, a few audio recollections, a few magazine and newspaper articles, an unpublished memoir by Charlie Boyce who worked at the Headquarters office, somewhere there is film of a TV appearance, and perhaps a few more publications, plus the materials in his office, preserved at the DeMolay Service and Leadership Center in Kansas City, MO, but that doesn't do much to give us a sense of what made "Dad" Land tick.

He has been gone since 1959, and in that time the man has turned to legend, and, in some cases, to myth. So, now it is up to the historians to sift through the accumulated "stuff" to analyze and present an accurate interpretation of the driving force behind the Order of DeMolay for it's first 40 years, and whose memory informed and guided the Order well into the 1980's. But it seems that his influence has diminished greatly over the past 25-30 years such that, today, he is a name that is barely known by most of our members and advisors.

I am not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, because sometimes groups that start as a result of a strong personality cannot sustain themselves, left to themselves. With "Dad" Land and the Order of DeMolay, I think it was more that just charisma. I think the sustainability of the DeMolay program came from the force of "Dad" Land's personal moral code. He was above reproach, and was known for his piety (if you don't know the word, look it up-- it is an SAT word, for sure!) and his strong sense of right and wrong. Even more, he was known for expecting others, especially Masons and DeMolays, to live up to the code of conduct he believed was right for all people.

Do you know anyone like this today? Do you follow anyone like this? Is there anyone you like to be around who, by their very presence, makes you want to behave a little better, speak a little more intelligently, dress a little sharper, be a better person? Well, if you do, then you have an insight into what "Dad" Land was like, and why DeMolays and Masons cared about what he thought about them. If you don't know someone like that, perhaps you ought to find someone who can make you strive to be a better person than you have ever been before.

DeMolay's ability to survive the passing of its Founder is assuredly tied to the bigger ideas for which he stood. While it may have grown and thrived under his personal leadership, it has been sustained by the character-building virtues and the leadership training it offers to young men of every community. Its continuance is now up to us, as members and as advisors, and will succeed as long as we deliver the personal growth and development opportunities that "Dad" Land first offered to Louis Lower and his friends. Who was this "Dad" Land guy, anyway? I didn't know him, but I'd say he was a regular guy, like you and me, who had great faith in the young men of his community and looked to provide them with skills and a code of ethics to sustain THEM beyond his passing.


"Dad" Tom Labagh

POSTBLOG: Oh, by the way, the Pilgrim guys finally got out of their meeting, and we watched the video program, without much of a reaction. Alex noted that "he was in everything!" because the video spends a lot of time highlighting his Masonic credentials, honors, memberships, and regalia. We talked about... I talked about Harry Truman's "campaign" for Land's election to the Imperial Shrine Divan, and the pink Cadillac, and some of what I speculated on above, but in general, it was a dull program about ancient history that is barely relevant to them anymore. Making "Dad" Land relevant-- now that's a challenge that the ISC can debate to death! All of a sudden, I am ready to go to Dallas this year! - TRL

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