The Caine Mutiny, The Country Girl, Dial M for Murder, On the Waterfront, Rear Window, Sabrina, A Star is Born, and my personal favorite Seven Brides for Seven Brothers were movies that came out that year. The Academy Award for Best Picture was awarded to From Here to Eternity.
Nasser became premier of Egypt. He closed all the Masonic Lodges in Egypt because they were sponsored by England.
The Geneva Conference was convened to bring peace to Vietnam. The country was divided at the 17th parallel, pending democratic elections.
The Army v. McCarthy inquiry was held and Senate voted in Dec. to condemn Sen. McCarthy for misconduct.
In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka the Supreme Court unanimously banned racial segregation in public schools.
The Nobel Prize for Literature went to Ernest Hemingway and the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Office of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees
The first atomic submarine, Nautilus, was launched on Jan. 21. Five U.S. congressmen were shot on floor of House as Puerto Rican nationalists fire from spectators' gallery; all five recovered. Soviet Union granted sovereignty to East Germany
The first children received Dr. Jonas Salk's polio vaccine. Boeing tested the 707, the first jet-powered transport plane.
Some other events were the World Series was broadcast in color for the first time. Revenue for television broadcasters finally surpassed that of radio broadcasters. Gross revenue for television was $593 million.
Bill Haley and the Comets begin writing hit songs. As a white band using black-derived forms, they ventured into rock 'n' roll.
Books that came out in 1954 included
* William F. Buckley, L. Brent Bozell, McCarthy and His Enemies
* William Golding, Lord of the Flies and
* J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
The Kentucky Derby Champion was Determine and in the World Series NY Giants defeated Cleveland (4-0).
A lot happened the year you were raised to the Sublime degree of a Master Mason.
Even more has happened since that time. Our world has changed dramatically. We have been to the moon and back, We are connected via the internet with the entire world. I regularly receive e-mail messages from people in France and Australia and I can access web sites from around the world in an instant.
Things which happen a world away have a major effect on us here in the heart of the United States. When I taught school I used to tell my students that they were better fed, housed, clothed and entertained than Julius Caesar - and he ruled the known world.
Air travel has dramatically changed our world. It used to take months to travel from one place to another. Last fall I flew to Scotland in about 6 hours. (About the time it took to go through airport security.)
Our Fraternity is also undergoing change. I joined the Fraternity in 1966 and I have seen many of those changes myself. We no longer have to memorize long catechisms, you can take a test on the night you get your degree and be declared proficient. There are even opportunities to get all three degrees in one day at the "Grand Master's One-day class." These may be called symptoms of what I refer to as Microwave Mentality. We want it hot, we want it fast and we don't want to have to put any effort into it. Obviously you are not getting a gourmet meal when you do this.
However that is not what makes a Mason, at least not in my opinion. A Mason is not made by some secret ritual or by taking an obligation while kneeling at an altar. A Mason is made by a commitment to the Fraternity, by living the principles it expounds and by working, as a Mason, with the working tools to build a better world, one stone at a time. The title Master Mason still means something in our world. As Masons we give a great deal to our world. Not just in charity - Masonic organizations give over $1,000,000 a day to worthy causes. We also hold up our standards for the world to see. Our moral and ethical principles set us apart from those who do not espouse them. We stand for something and that something changes the world.
Some believe that our Fraternity was founded by the Knights Templars in Scotland after fleeing the persecution of the Church and French government. I personally think there is good evidence for that. Others feel that it grew from medieval stone guilds who began to admit prominent citizens of the community into their ranks. Whatever our origins the Lodge has changed greatly over the years. One thing which has not changed is the fact that a business (stated) meeting is one of the most boring meetings you can attend (usually) - The meetings where degrees are conferred have something special to offer. They are the meat of our organization. It is in them that we learn the lessons, which make us Masons. It is there that the true purpose of our fraternity occurs. That of making good Masons better Masons.
As I mentioned earlier computers and the Internet also have changed our way of living and also have changed things for us as Masons. One thing which they have not changed is the bond of Brotherhood, which we share with our brothers worldwide. In 1976 I wrote to the Recorder of the Chapter in Athens, Greece requesting to meet with him. He invited me to be his houseguest and he and his wife treated me like visiting royalty. In June I will go to Boston and have made contact via the Internet with several Brothers to meet along the way. I am excited about this trip and look forward to meeting new friends and brothers.
On one of the "lists" to which I subscribe a Brother posts notes about "Freemasons Who Have Changed The World." He mentions such Freemasons as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman and James Monroe whose birthday was yesterday. Great men and we can be justly proud of their membership in our great fraternity. Modern day Masons include Earnest Borgnine who was a star of the film, On The Waterfront, that I mentioned earlier. I once heard John Huston speaking of Orson Wells and when he mentioned that they had both "heard the chimes at midnight" I knew they were both Masons. These were and are important people who have done important things. I maintain, however, that the "Freemasons Who Have Changed the World" were not necessarily the Washingtons and the Franklins but rather the men like yourselves who quietly work to make the world a better place because of the lives which they live as Masons.
Perhaps Masonry appeals to the type of person who would have lived that kind of life any way but the fraternity does make a difference in our lives. Brother Sabin Nichols from my Lodge was such a man. At his Masonic Funeral service I stated: "There are those who would criticize our Gentle Craft. To those, I say look upon our Brother Sabin and know that he was a Mason. He was an exemplar of our craft. I know of no one who lived the lessons learned in Freemasonry better than Sabin. His example will long remain with us and silence those who would criticize the principles and tenets of our order."
I could go on to list hundreds of men I have known because I asked to join the Masons 38 years ago. Men like Hugh Hossle from my lodge. John Harris Watts from Grand Junction, two of the finest men I have ever had the privilege of knowing and who I would probably have never known if not for my becoming a Mason. Men such as yourselves and the others in attendance here to honor you as you attain the goal of Fifty Years a Mason.
Tonight I salute each of you as exemplars of our gentle craft. Your lives as Masons have made a difference in our world over the past 50 years. You have seen much change over your lives as Masons both in the world and in our Fraternity. Whether or not you embrace that change it is a fact that change does and will occur. As I think back over my life I remember the ancient Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times." We do live in interesting times and I for one am glad that I have lived through these times. The times they are a changing. I like to dabble in poetry and like to describe myself as the trite poet laureate of Ames, Iowa Recently I wrote this poem - it is entitled A Mason's Working Tools and it is about the use to which we put the tools of our craft.
A tool resting upon a shelf
Can do nothing by itself.
But if taken up with purpose pure
It can build and shape for sure
The Mason's tool will help him grow
If he looks inside to learn and know
The tool has a greater message for each
As life's important lessons it does teach.
That tool in his hands can change his life.
Raise him above mortal strife
Used with purpose and with care
He can build a temple fair.
Some tools give a standard true,
To measure our lives through and through
While others shape a character fair
As we learn their lessons there.
The compass around us a circle draws
In which we overlook our flaws
With the plumb line and the level we meet others.
Upright and true we travel with our brothers
The gavel governs and teaches all alike
That our rough edges from us we should strike
Smoothing and shaping as a block of stone
Ready to stand before God's holy throne.
With a twenty-four inch gauge
time is divided into work and rest,
Service to God and to our fellow man -
measured and laid out - drawn by the best.
A trowel binding into a sacred group
spreads the cement of brotherly love
Masons building, learning and growing -
guided with light from above.
We use our tools most sublime.
And take them up our lives to shape
Tools for learning - tools for growing
Tools for building - tools for knowing.
And when at last our journey ends
And from our hands the tools fall
When tis time to "Part upon the square"
May it be said of each and of all
They knew the lessons which were taught
And with those lessons hard they fought
To build a character so sublime
One noble, upright, pure and fine.
The French philosopher Chateaubriand stated, "Change the law of life." I challenge each of you to pick up your working tools and work to build the Temple of our world. I salute you on your accomplishment and wish you many more years to work for our beloved fraternity.
Jay Cole Simser
April 29, 2004