Happy 75th Jerry Lee Lewis: The Killer Is Still "Rockin' His Life Away"

Mean Old Man (released September, 2010)

I've always been a Jerry Lee Lewis fan, and he's the reason I decided from an early age I was going to be a piano player.  I can still rip a pretty good Jerry Lee Lewis tune.  And I celebrate his birthday, September 29th, every year (I call it St. Lewis Day.)  This birthday was especially fun, because I got Jerry's new CD "Mean Old Man" delivered on his birthday Wednesday.  The album was named for the first cut on the album, written by Kris Kristofferson.  It's his first album since "Last Man Standing" in 2006.  Much like the 2006 CD, it's a collection of duets.  It's pretty obvious he's getting older, his voice has got a little more gravel in it, and he seems to prefer slower country songs and gospel pieces to the thumping bar rockers that made him famous.  But there is no question from the first note who is playing that piano--nobody has ever played like that before, nor is anyone ever likely to again.

But Jerry pulled a couple rockers out for this release.  He thumped through a nice remake of an earlier hit "Rockin' My Life Away" with Kid Rock, and rocked through a version of "Roll Over Beethoven" with Ringo Star, John Mayer and John Brion.  Seems like everyone wants to record a song with Jerry Lee these days--on this one you'll find Mick Jagger, John Fogerty, Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Merle Haggard, Keith Richards, and more.

Of course, it's well known that Jerry Lee Lewis is no Saint, and never has been.  He's been in a trouble a few times.  Might have even been arrested for waving a gun outside the gates of Graceland while shouting threats at Elvis (now that was a friendship that endured).  Married six times, the third time to his thirteen year old cousin.  Two of those wives are dead, fueling speculation about whether "The Killer" was aptly nicknamed.  Jerry is as infamous and he is famous.  When he recorded "I'm a Wild One," he wasn't kidding.

Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis (on piano?)
& Johnny Cash.  The Sun Records
Million Dollar Quartet
But he's kept playing, and recording all these years.  He's outlasted all his contemporaries, including the original "million dollar quartet" that started together at Sun Studios back in the 1950s.  Elvis is gone now.  So is Carl Perkins.  Johnny Cash was the most recent member of the exclusive club to pass on.  Only Jerry Lee is left now--as his 2006 album suggested, he's the "Last Man Standing" from Sam Philips' remarkable stable of talent at Sun Studios.  Love him or hate him, Jerry Lee Lewis is one of the greatest musicians in rock's history, and without his influence, music would be very different than it is today.  That's why so many artists today pay homage to Jerry Lee as an important influence, and why so many line up for the chance to record with him.  It's because he's a legend.  One of our last remaining links to that period when rock and roll was in its infancy, and a few guys in Memphis took a little country, a little blues, a little gospel, and a little boogie woogie, put it all together, and rocked the world.  I shudder to think what music might be like if it weren't for Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley (would be still be do-wopping?).

There's rumor that there's a new Hollywood bio-pic "The Killer" in the works, starring Brad Pitt as Jerry Lee and Natalie Portman as Myra.  There's already been one movie "Great Balls of Fire" back in the 80s starring Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder.  I hope this one is a little less campy than the first. 

It's recently been reported that Jerry has been in poor health.  He had to cancel a tour due to a staph infection and phnemonia.  Let's hope he gets better soon. 

I'm On a Break!

No, I'm not dead.  I've been on a break.  I decided that before I jump into the next project, I'm going to do something I haven't done in five years.  Take some time off between projects.  I've shut it all down for awhile, so I can catch my breath.  I've been a little overwhelmed lately.  I haven't worked a midnight shift in nearly a week.  I've been in bed before ten o'clock every night.  I may not start the next project until the snow flies, because I've been likin' it a lot.  Trying to write in September and October is impossible anyway--too much going on.

There's the festivals every weekend we enjoy going to.  Grand Lodge is coming up next week.  I've got two speaking events coming up in October.  A Rite Stuff Rendezvous/Spagetti Dinner at my lodge and a pancake breakfast to boot.  Then, before I know it, the Scottish Rite Reunion will be here.

I'll be back.  Please stand by.

Horrible Tragedy at Air Show

Brace  yourself before looking at the attached image.  A pilot at low level has no  control over his aircraft. It narrowly misses a crowd gathered for the airshow  and slams into four buildings.  One can only imagine the horror of the  occupants inside those buildings.  Oh, the humanity!

Sort of Rejected Again, With a Silver Lining

Well, this rejection wasn't all bad.  I'll be honest, there have been a couple I haven't posted.  This one isn't exactly a crash and burn.:

Dear Mr. Creason,

I actually read your entire novel One Last Shot, and that in itself should tell you something.  It's a very good book for a first time novelist, however, our agency deals in traditional mystery, and this one falls more into the suspense/thriller genre.  It would not a good match for us, and the publishers we work with.  I've sent you the name of an agency, and the name of an agent that I think would be a good match for your novel.  I e-mailed that agent, and told her she'd be hearing from you.  I'd do that as soon as possible.  Send her a query and fifty pages.  Be sure you mention that you have ideas about a follow-up novel, and perhaps go into more detail than you did in your query to me about that second book.  They are very interested in new series writers, and your ideas for that series are very unique.  Good luck. 


Busting into the mainstream fiction market is a little tougher than I thought.  I've gotten a few terse responses, when I didn't do my homework on the agency.  I've gotten some responses that say my book doesn't fall easily into any mainstream category.  And finally, I got this one.  All the rest fade away when I get one like this.  I've never believed that when agents ask for the entire book after a query, they actually read it.  I think they read a few pages past that thirty or fifty pages they asked for originally just to see if the book tanks.  I think this is going to be a tough sell, because my book starts out as one thing, and then quickly turns into something else.  It isn't easily classified and characterized. 

And my ideas for a series are different too.  A minor character in the first book becomes the protagonist in the next, and the major characters become minor.  I haven't even mentioned the fact one story I'm considering takes place in the same setting two generations and eighty years earlier. 

We'll see where it goes.  If nobody wants it, I know one small publisher of a series of books about famous American Freemasons that will publish it. 

Famous Freemason: It's Elementary My Dear Watson . . .

I’d have to admit that one of my favorite writers has always been Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—coincidentally, he was also a Freemason, and if he’d been an American, he would have been one of the first Masons I would have profiled in one of my books. I’ve read and re-read the Sherlock Holmes stories since I was a kid. There are four novels and fifty-six short stories. What you may not know, is that if Doyle had been successful at his chosen profession, we probably wouldn’t have one of the most famous detectives of all time—the world’s first pop icon if you will.

Doyle, a Scotsman, studied to be a doctor at the University of Edinburgh, and then set up a small practice. It was hugely unsuccessful, and it gave him a lot of time to think. And he had a lot of time to write. Much like Sherlock Holmes biographer, it seems like Dr. Doyle, like Dr. Watson, was always working with Sherlock Holmes instead of seeing patients.

A lot of what Doyle wrote about fictionally in his stories have become fact today. He wrote about Sherlock Holmes using fingerprints long before that was actually done. Holmes had a remarkable ability to profile people and could tell a lot about them from their clothing and mannerisms, which is done today too. He was a master at trace evidence as well—studying everything from soil types, to various types of tobacco ash.

Writers still write new Sherlock Holmes stories today, but I haven’t found many I like. I don’t know what it is, but they just aren’t quite right. I’ve always felt maybe it’s just best to leave it alone rather than diminish Doyle’s remarkable work. I did stumble across a couple writers recently that write detective fiction in that same tradition, during that same early-Victorian period London that Doyle wrote about. I particularly like Charles Finch. His first book about detective Charles Lenox, A Beautiful Blue Death, was excellent. His knowledge of early-Victorian London is obvious—he captures that period perfectly. I’m working on his second novel now, The September Society, that is set at Oxford University. It’s kept me up late two nights this week.

Then there are Will Thomas’ novels about Cyrus Barker and his apprentice Thomas Llewelyn. Those books are really different from Doyle’s, but they are a blast to read. There are several novels starting with Some Danger Involved. They are action packed, and quickly paced—they are kind of like Sherlock Holmes meets Indiana Jones if you will. I'd be willing to bet it won’t be long before Barker & Llewelyn find their way to the big screen.

Historic Lodge: Chebanse Lodge No. 429

The Chebanse Railroad Station
I took a trip this evening up north to Chebanse, Illinois for a Scottish Rite Rendezvous, which is an education program for perspective members. Chebanse is just a few miles south of Kankakee, and I’ve passed it many times on my trips back and forth to Chicago, but never stopped before. It’s a town that struck me right off the bat as obviously rich in railroad history. The tracks cut more than a block-wide path through town, and off to the east side of the tracks sat what was obviously an original rail station, which serves as the Village Office now. I arrived very early, so I had a chance to take a long walk. Chebanse is a quiet little community, with some beautiful old homes, and perfectly maintained old churches. So now, Chebanse, you know who that weirdo was walking around taking pictures of the water tower, various churches, and the railroad depot this afternoon.

Stupid amateur photographer forgot
to take picture of the lodge itself. 
Just got the sign.  He's fired.
After my walk, I went back to Chebanse Lodge No. 429, which I learned has a history that stretches back to before the Civil War. It turns out the Masonic lodge is an important part of the town’s railroad history. The first floor was set up as a traveler’s rest. People traveling by train could get a meal there, and rent a cot with a straw mattress to rest between trains as they traveled.

After the presentation, my good friend Brother Cecil Rabourne took me upstairs to the lodge room to show me “the artifact.” I had a feeling they had one. It was even better than I thought. It was a trowel made with the iron tip of a Confederate flag standard taken from the 17th Virginia Confederate Calvary by Sergeant Duckworth of the 8th Illinois Calvary at the Battle of Gettysburg. Not only an artifact from Gettysburg, but a Famous American Freemason to boot! I was very, very happy.

The beautiful Chebanse Lodge No. 429.  Check out that altar!
Cecil let me examine it (big picture below), and photograph it, and then laid out the Gettysburg Battlefield on top of the secretary’s desk to show me exactly where it was captured. And, of course, as a bonus, the Chebanse Lodge has a beautiful lodge room, with rich furnishings and a gorgeous antique marble top altar. The rounded ceiling was especially stunning to me, with the four big lanterns that projected the Masonic square and compasses up onto it (picture below). I wish I’d had more time, but it was getting late, and I had a long drive home.

As I’ve said many times before, history is everywhere, all you have to do is look for it, and you’ll find it. Chebanse is certainly a good example of that. I had a great time this evening, ran into some old friends, met some new friends, and had a great meal (as so many travelers before me have). I’d like to thank Cecil Rabourne for taking me on the behind the scenes tour.

When I published my first book, Cecil called me, and I didn’t know him then, and asked me to come up and speak in Kankakee for the Kankakee Chapter of the Golden Eagles at the Homestead Restaurant. It was one of the first times I'd given an after dinner speech.  The meal was much better than the speech I gave, but Cecil picked up the ticket anyway. I’d like to congratulate Cecil for being selected by the Valley of Danville to received the Meritorious Service Award (the coveted red cap). It’s much deserved, Cecil.

The Chebanse Trowel Engraving:
"Iron Spear Head of Flag Staff
Flag of 17th Virginia Confederate Calvary
Captured By
Sergeant Richard Duckworth
8th Illinois Calvary, Co. K
Presented To
Chebanse Lodge No. 429 A.F. & A.M.
By A. W. & W.A. Duckworth"
The hanging lights cast the Masonic square and
compasses up to the ceiling of Chebanse Lodge.  Stunning!
The creators of this piece cleverly bent the prong of the Confederate
flag standard to create the trowel.  It hangs in their lodge in a display
case of the working tools of Freemasonry.  I failed to ask, but I'd
be willing to bet they use this trowel in their degree work to this day.

How a Free T-shirt Lead to Military's Highest Honor

The Medal of Honor
"If I'm a hero, then every man who stands around me, every woman in the military, every person who defends this country is." 
~Salvatore Giunta

The first living service member to receive the Medal of Honor for action during any war since Vietnam described the experience Wednesday as bittersweet.

"It is such a huge, huge honor," said Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, now 25, of Hiawatha, Iowa. "It's emotional, and all of this is great. But it does bring back a lot of memories of all the people I'd like to share this with who I can't. They gave everything for this country, and because of that, we're not going to be able to share this moment together."

Giunta was chosen to receive the Medal of Honor for his extraordinary valor during a mission in one of the most dangerous areas of rugged eastern Afghanistan in 2007. Giunta, who serves in the Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, will receive his medal at a White House ceremony.

Giunta told of the Oct. 25, 2007, attack, when insurgents ambushed him and his small rifle team of airborne soldiers. He said his platoon was watching over another unit from a ridgeline as it entered a village. Shortly after leaving the area, he said, they were attacked along a trail.

Giunta was knocked flat by the gunfire, but a well-aimed round failed to penetrate his armored chest plate. As the paratroopers scrambled for cover, Giunta reacted instinctively. He ran straight into the heart of the ambush to aid, one by one, three wounded soldiers who had been separated from the others.

Two paratroopers died in the attack, and most of the others suffered serious wounds. But the toll would have been far higher if not for Giunta's bravery, according to members of his unit and Army officials.

Giunta spoke of his actions, saying, "I didn't run up to do anything heroic." He said he thought at the time, "Everybody's been shot at, and I might as well run forward. This was a situation we were put into," he said. "By no means did I do anything that others wouldn't have done."

Ironically, Giunta never planned a career in the military. When asked why he enlisted, he said he was mopping the floors late one night at the Subway sandwich shop he worked at, and heard on the radio that his local Army recruiter was giving away free t-shirts. "I guess I've always been a sucker for a free t-shirt."

Giunta enlisted in the Army in November 2003 and has deployed twice to Afghanistan. He said he hoped his award will bring more recognition for those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and the sacrifices they make in being away from their families and being put in harm's way.

According to Pentagon statistics, six service members have received Medals of Honor, all posthumously, for operations since September 2001.

Editing Is the Most Importunt Part of Righting . . .

I wrote the perfect book!  It won't need
much improvement. Hey! There's a lot
of pencil marks on the first draft of my
lovely manuscript!  What's wrong with
 my editor?
First time writers often have romantic notions about writing. They think they’re going to sit down, write a book or a novel, and when they get done it’s going to be perfect. Well, you’re forgetting one important thing—the editing. Writing a book is the easy part if you have a good idea, or a good story, and the writing will come naturally. If you apply yourself, it won’t be long and you’ll have a finished manuscript on your desk. And then you just have to get it published. Right?

Nope, you’re wrong. It’s the editing process that kills so many writers. I’ve often wondered how many great novels and fascinating books are sitting unread in file cabinets because the writer got bogged down in the editing process and finally decided it wasn’t worth the effort anymore.

Well, this is better, but there's still too
many pencil marks on the second draft. 
It's even got the final chapter title,
but this chapter is far from done.
You better love that book, because you’re not going to write it once. You’re going to write it, rewrite it, correct it, correct it again, trash part of it late in the editing process, maybe add another part to it that will have to be edited and re-editing, and rewritten a few times. It often seems endless, it’s frustrating, and it’s not the fun or creative part of writing, but it’s the most important part if you want to end up with a good book. And I don’t know many writers that don’t want to put out a great book.

There is nothing more important than finding a good editor. Some will disagree, but it is impossible to edit your own book, because you have no objectivity on what has become over long months your little baby. You have to find somebody you trust, somebody that will read your prose and be objective about it. And the hardest part, is the writer has to trust the editor enough to accept the sometimes brutal truth that they aren’t nearly the writer they thought they were. You have to be thick skinned. Remember what Frank used to say on Everybody Loves Raymond? “Suck it up Nancy!” That’s great advice for writers. You have to accept that sometimes what you thought was brilliant when you wrote it is muddy and unclear when somebody else reads it. It’s all about trust.

My mom and dad on vacation visiting my sister, Lockie.
Even on vacation, mom is editing a chapter of my book
with that dreaded damned pencil.
Now I was lucky. I have an editor that lives right up the road from me. My mother. She’s a school teacher that’s spent forty years editing bad papers written by students, and she teaches college rhetoric now. She knows her stuff. I’m a pretty good story teller, but sometimes my punctuation is somewhat, creative? She just finished editing my fourth book. I guarantee she’s spent as much time on these projects as I have. You may have to hire a good editor. They’re out there. If you hire one, send them a few sample chapters and check them out and make sure their changes are agreeable to you.

Don’t get me wrong, editing is a pain in the butt, but there’s nothing that’s given me more pleasure than publishing a book (now three, and hopefully four soon). The second and third book went much smoother than the first, but I knew what I was doing after the first one. Everything gets easier through practice, and you’ll get better at it. In fact, I just finished my fiction book One Last Shot, and I’m thinking about framing page 84 of the very first draft I sent to my mother for editing. Of the more than 260,000 words I’ve published since 2007, and another 60,000 in my new book, it was the first page, the only 200 words or so I’ve managed to put together in a row, punctuation and all, that my editor didn’t find one single fault with. In the five years I’ve been working on these projects, it’s the only perfect page I’ve ever written. And you want to know the part that really sucks? I took that scene out in the last draft. My perfect page will never be read.

It's a long haul between
idea and finished product.
There's only two copies.
This is one of two Galley
Proofs. Isn't that clever
how I had this picture taken?
Like there's a thousand!
So be patient. It will come. Don’t neglect the editing, because that will make or break your book. You have to be dedicated to it. But remember that nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Do it. Don’t stop. And don’t give up. It's a long haul between idea and finished book, but trust me, it’s worth it in the end. Keep at it.

Do it every day.  I do.  I work an 8 to midnight shift on top of my full-time job.  And I'm the editor of our lodge's monthly newsletter, and I write articles for Masonic publications, and blogs . . . and I managed to sneak in writing a fiction book when nobody was looking. 

Always remember that a journey of a million miles begins with that first step.

Welcome to the Valley of Danville

The Scottish Rite got its start in Danville back in 1904, when a Lodge of Perfection was established there.  This beatiful old building is the Scottish Rite Temple in Danville.  It looks the same today as it did when this rendering was done.  This wasn't the original building however.  This building came later and was consecrated in 1917.  The original building was two blocks east of this one, and it no longer exists, but the entry arch of that building still stands at the edge of the park that now occupies that corner of downtown Danville.  Not only home of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the temple is also the home of three lodges, Olive Branch No. 38, Further Light No. 1130, and Anchor Lodge No. 980.  One of Danville's most famous citizens, Uncle Joe Cannon was a member of Olive Branch lodge.

For more than a hundred years, The Valley of Danville has been known for its innovative ideas, important charitable work, and for the excellence of their degree work.  For example, the Valley of Danville was the first valley to stage the new 26th Degree (The Civil War Degree).  And in 2008, the Valley of Danville also opened a Learning Center for Children which provides, free of charge, one-on-one instruction to children with dyslexia in Eastern Illinois. 

And in addition to all the things Scottish Rite Masons do in our Valley, the Danville Temple is also a remarkably beautiful building.  From its mammoth second floor lounge, to the beautiful theater on the third floor, it's adorned with rich woodwork and moldings, stained glass windows, and unique murals.  If you're a Scottish Rite Mason and would like to visit The Valley of Danville, our next reunion is coming up November 12th and 13th. 

The Danville window at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts
 was paid for by donations from the Valley of Danville.

Thursday Funny

A husband and wife are shopping in their local Wal-Mart. The husband picks up a case of Budweiser and puts it in their cart.

"What do you think you're doing?" asks the wife. "They're on sale, only $10 for a case of 24 cans," he replies.

"Put them back, we can't afford it," demands the wife, and so they carry on shopping.

A few aisles further on along the woman picks up a $20 jar of face cream and puts it in the basket. "What do you think you're doing?" asks the husband.

"It's my face cream. It makes me look beautiful," replies the wife. Her husband retorts: "So does the Budweiser and it's half the price."

Famous American Freemason: Harry S Truman

The Illustrious Brother Harry S Truman, 33°

“My choice early in life was either to be a piano-player in a whorehouse
or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference.”

Harry S. Truman was born on May 8, 1884, in Lamar, Missouri, to John and Martha Truman. His parents gave him the middle name “S” after both his paternal grandfather Anderson Shipp Truman and his maternal grandfather Solomon Young. Although using a letter for a name was not an uncommon practice, his middle name often caused confusion. Truman sometimes joked that since S was his middle name and not an initial, it should not have a period. However, Truman himself used a period when he signed his name.

Truman worked on the family farm until 1917. Later, he frequently spoke nostalgically about the years he spent toiling on the farm. His formative years of physically demanding work on the farm and for the railroad gave him a real appreciation for the working classes. It was also during these years that he met Bess Wallace. He even proposed marriage to her in 1911—an offer she declined.

Truman had served in the Missouri National Guard from 1905 – 1911. At the onset of World War in 1917, he rejoined the Guard. Much to his delight, he was chosen to be an officer and later a battery commander in an artillery regiment in France. When the Germans attacked his battery in the Vosges Mountains, the men in the battery started to run away from the fight. Truman got their attention by letting loose with a string of obscenities he later said he learned while working on the Santa Fe Railroad. The men, shocked by the outburst from this usually quiet, reserved officer, resumed their positions—not a single man in the battery was lost.

The events of World War I greatly transformed Truman and brought to light his great leadership skills. His war record would make his later political career possible.

After World War I ended, Truman returned to Missouri as a captain. Truman once said, “In my Sunday School class there was a beautiful little girl with golden curls. I was smitten at once and still am.” Back home, he found the girl with the golden curls and proposed to her a second time. Bess Wallace accepted the second proposal, and they married on June 28, 1919. They had one daughter, Margaret, in 1924.

Truman did not go to college until the early 1920s when he studied for two years towards a law degree at Kansas City Law School. He did not complete the degree. He worked as a judge in Jackson County, Missouri, and as Missouri’s director for the re-employment program, which was part of the Civil Works Administration.

Then in 1934, Truman was elected as a Democratic senator from Missouri. Truman’s ability to work in a bipartisan manner, to pose difficult questions to powerful people, and to be fair-minded earned him a great deal of public acclaim—he became a political celebrity. His reputation as being tough but even-handed led to his nickname, “Give ‘em Hell Harry.” Truman once said, “I never gave anybody hell! I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”

It was undoubtedly his achievements on the Truman Committee that drew the Democratic Party’s attention to him as a possible vice-presidential candidate for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fourth term re-election campaign. In 1944, the Roosevelt-Truman ticket easily won the election.
Truman was to serve only eighty-two days as vice president. During that time, he had few conversations with Roosevelt. He was left completely in the dark about the war, world affairs, and domestic politics. In addition, there was one very big secret—a very large bombshell—he knew nothing about either, a secret that would play a central role in his political future. The bombshell Truman knew nothing about was literally that—a bombshell. America was about to test the world’s first atomic bomb as part of the top secret Manhattan Project.

On April 12, 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died suddenly at his resort in Warm Springs, Georgia. When Truman was urgently summoned by the White House, he assumed he was going for a briefing with the President. Instead, he was informed by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt that the President was dead. When Truman asked if there was anything he could do for her, she responded, “Is there anything we can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now.”

Shortly after Truman assumed the Presidency, Germany surrendered to the allies. Truman was briefed on the existence of the Manhattan Project. Three months after he took office, the first successful atomic test called the Trinity test took place in the desert near Alamogordo, New Mexico. The atomic bomb was a reality. With Germany no longer a threat, the allies were anxious to end the war. Truman approved the use of atomic weapons against the Japanese in order to force their surrender and to quickly bring about the end of World War II. Truman once said, “Carry the battle to them. Don't let them bring it to you. Put them on the defensive and don't ever apologize for anything.” Harry S. Truman never did apologize for his decision to use the atomic bomb.

Although today the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan is considered by many to have been morally wrong, it was not a controversial decision at the time. Neither the United States nor any of the Allied countries had any qualms about using any weapon available to end the war. World War II had cost the allies billions of dollars, had wiped out entire cities, and had destroyed families, cultures, and economies. Even after Adolph Hitler committed suicide and Germany surrendered, it would take decades before Europe recovered from the war. The destruction on the Pacific side of the war was also great. World War II had caused destruction and death on the largest scale the world had ever seen with more than 53 million lives, both military and civilian, lost.

The Allies were anxious to see the end of the war at any cost. A mainland assault of Japan, like the one launched against Germany on D-Day, would have driven the casualty numbers even higher and dragged the war on for possibly years longer. According to Truman, the decision to use the atomic bomb was not a difficult decision; it was a necessary evil to end the war. The technology had been made available, and even though it was known to be a terrible weapon of mass destruction, Truman and the Allied nations saw it as “merely another powerful weapon in the arsenal of righteousness.”

The two bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945, resulting in the deaths of more than 110,000 people. Japan surrendered. For a short time, the first time in a long time, there was peace on Earth. The weapons of war were silent, and while mankind might never completely recover from the carnage of World War II, the rebuilding began.

Truman would go on to serve another term as President. Truman’s administration would see, amongst other things, the end of World War II, the beginning of the Cold War, and a police action in Korea that would not be known until years later as the Korean War. There were countless issues at home to deal with as well, including the beginnings of the civil rights movement, the “communist witch-hunts” of McCarthyism, and charges of corruption in his administration that, in one scandal alone, led to the resignation of 166 of his appointees. He accepted both the credit for the good things he was able to do and the blame for the bad things that happened during his administration. As he was so fond of saying, “The buck stops here.”

After his Presidency ended, Truman remained active in politics from the comfort of the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. There, Harry and Bess Truman received such famous guests as John F. Kennedy (for whom Truman campaigned during the 1960 Presidential election), Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Chief Justice Earl Warren. Harry S. Truman died at the age of eighty-eight on December 26, 1972.

Brother Harry S. Truman was initiated on February 9, 1909, at Belton Lodge No. 450, Belton, Missouri. In 1911, several members of the Belton Lodge separated to establish the Grandview Lodge No. 618, Grandview, Missouri. Brother Truman served as its first master. At the Annual Session of the Grand Lodge of Missouri in September, 1940, Brother Truman was elected by a landslide to be the ninety-seventh Grand Master of Masons of Missouri. He served until October 1, 1941.

While President, Truman was made a Sovereign Grand Inspector General, 33°, and Honorary Member, Supreme Council in1945 at the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite Masons Southern Jurisdiction Headquarters in Washington, D.C. He was also elected an Honorary Grand Master of the International Supreme Council, Order of DeMolay. On May 18, 1959, the Illustrious Brother Truman was presented with the fifty-year award—the only U.S. President to reach that golden anniversary in Freemasonry.

While President of the United States, Brother Truman once said, “The greatest honor that has ever come to me, and that can ever come to me in my life, is to be the Grand Master of Masons in Missouri.”

Selected excerpts from Famous American Freemasons: Volume I  by Todd E. Creason, published by Lulu.com (2007), ISBN: 978-1435703452.  The Famous American Freemasons series is available at major on-line booksellers.

Illustrious? Me? Really? Who Is This?

My friends keep asking me why I haven't made the announcement that I've been elected to receive the 33rd and Last Degree of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite (NJ) .  Actually, I did amongst a smaller group on Facebook, and I made the announcement during our regularly stated lodge meeting last week.  The truth is, I'm just getting to the point now that I actually believe it myself.  I didn't want too many people to know, so that when the Valley of Danville discovered they'd made a horrible mistake and called the wrong guy, it wouldn't be so embarrassing for me.

It was two weeks ago today that I got the call from Philadelphia from our Valley Active, The Illustrious Brother James L. Tungate, 33°, informing me I'd been elected to receive the 33° in Chicago in 2011.  When I got off the phone, and told Valerie, she sat there for a long time with the same blank look on her face I had on mine.  When she finally spoke, all she had to say was, "you better straighten up, Mister." 

It still hasn't completely sunk in yet.  Maybe that's why they give you a year to think about it--maybe it takes that long to get used to the idea.  I've received a flurry of phone calls, text messages, emails, and cards, and each one makes it a little more real to me.  In fact, I haven't looked this forward to going to the mailbox every day, since my "beer of the month club" ran out.

But seriously, I never thought I'd be, nor did I ever expect to be a candidate for consideration.  I've written about many of our famous Illustrious Brothers over the last five years, and I've made friends with many more.  I know the caliber of men that are selected to receive this rare honor.  It is certainly one of the greatest honors I've ever received. 

I'll bet I've said this a hundred times over the last five years--but most of us feel we can never put back into Freemasonry what we take out of it.  I've come a long way, but I'm just getting warmed up.  I've got a long way to go yet, and as always, no matter what I decide to do after I complete the Famous American Freemasons series, I expect they'll be a lot of good Masons that will help me get there.  I'm truly blessed by the friends I've made in life.  Thank you so much.

And I will try and straighten up . . .

Leadership Lesson: Don't Let Your Mouth Write a Check Your Butt Can't Cash

As Master of our lodge, I really wanted to add a few new members to our lodge this year.  I don't know why, and I hadn't planned it, but during my second meeting as Master, I looked down at my calendar and noted a blood drive coming up.  We hold them several times a year.  There are few things that creep me out more than needles, and the idea of giving blood.  I've had some bad experiences.  In fact, there are few events I don't show up to help at our lodge, but I've avoided the blood-drive Saturday's like the plague.  I did go to one.  I lasted ten minutes, hiding out in the kitchen, then ran out the door like a little girl before any of the vampires  could grab me, as everyone laughed.  It's shameful.  My mother (and editor) has even become a regular donor at my lodge's blood drives.   

So for whatever reason, I saw that blood drive on the calendar and got this brilliant idea that seemed golden in that moment, and said during open lodge, that I'd give a pint of blood for every new petition during my tenure as Master.  I was thinking it wouldn't happen.  Actually, I wasn't thinking at all, or I'd have never given my brothers an opportunity to "needle" me back after "needling" them for the last five years.  What comes around goes around eventually.  The very next meeting, to my shock and surprise (and terror), we had a petition.  It was actually suggested that my Brothers would be easy on me.  I wouldn't be required to give blood as we went along, but as the flood of petitions come in, our Secretary would keep track, and then at the end of the year, I'd just go in and give a gallon or two all at once and get it over with.  That's very funny, but it doesn't work that way.  They must think I'm dumber than I look.  I'm starting to get the feeling they don't like me that much.

We voted on the petition Wednesday, nice young man, and nephew our Senior Warden.  He passed, and the very next night, Thursday night, he received his first degree.  Here we go again.  We're going to start rolling again.  I can feel it coming.  I'm just happy I'll be able to attend Our Grand Lodge Convocation one last time in October . . . and I'm been invited to go visit a couple lodges next week I haven't been to before.  I'm preparing myself for the November blood drive, when I become the first blood drive fatality.

Of course, I'm only kidding.  The directive of Freemasonry is to make good men better.  And there is actually one thing I've always been more afraid of than needles.  It was public speaking.  I'm not good at it, and the mere idea of doing it makes me a nervous wreck, but since I've published my books, I've been asked to do it often.  I write a lot better than I speak.  I do get a little better at it each time, and a little less nervous about it.  In another ten years or so, I might even get as good as the speaker we invited to lodge Wednesday night.  A brother, and professor of history, and chairman of Our Grand Lodge's Leadership Committee. 

When I got started in Freemasonry, I didn't like the idea of having to stand up and do ritual.  Recite word for word ritual that hasn't changed much in 300 years.  It's a beautiful tradition to watch, but I couldn't see myself doing it.  Never thought I'd go through the chairs.  Instead, I decided right in the beginning to sit along the sidelines, and work behind the scenes and write.  I can do that!  There was no way I was going to take a chair.  That didn't work out that well.  Our lodge put me right in a damned chair the meeting after I was raised.  And of course, I had no idea at all that my book that I was thinking about then, and later wrote, would get popular, and I'd be asked to do the very thing I was trying to avoid by writing.  I never planned on writing two, let alone a third I'm working on now.  People wanted me to talk about the books!  That never really crossed my mind.  I figured I'd sell fifty copies to my mom (Christmas gifts for family and friends), and donate five or six to the local libaries, and that would be about it.  Scratch one off the bucket list--published a book.  Done!

So if I can go from the Chaplain of our lodge five years ago, that couldn't manage to spit the two prayers out during opening and closing, to a guy that can open and close the lodge as Master, can speak to some very big rooms, throwing up only occasionally before and sometimes after, giving a pint a blood should be a piece of cake.  Bring it on.  I'm going to do it.  I hope we do as well at my lodge as our neighboring lodge did last year.  Actually, I'd like to do one more.  Let's do eleven this year--what is that, a half gallon? 

Oh, wait . . . how many pints are in a quart? 

Back To Work

Now that I'm back to working on the last book in the Famous American Freemasons series, I'd forgotten how much work goes into the research.  Basically, one of my chapters (which aren't very long) takes at least a week to research, and a couple evenings to write.  But it's fascinating.  Try it.

Spend a week learning about a person you admire--read a biography or two about them, look up their famous quotes, read their personal letters and published works.  Get to know them.  Better yet, do the same thing with somebody you don't like--maybe you'll find out something you didn't know. 

There was a Mason in my first book I didn't really want to write about, but I didn't see how I could get around it--if I'd left him out it would have been obvious.  After a week of researching the man, my whole opinion of him changed.   I realized I'd formed an opinion of the man early on, based on just one decision he made, without understanding who he was, or why he made the decision he had.  You can't imagine how stunned I was when I had to admit to myself, that put in the same situation, I'd have probably done the same thing.  The experience has changed the way I look at a lot of things.

Anyway, I'm finally getting my groove back, and I'm having a good time with it.  I've got a great line-up of famous Americans in this one.  I think you'll enjoy it.  I went to the library yesterday at lunch to pick up a few books I'll need over the three day weekend, and the libarian looked at me and said "we thought you were dead."  Then she charged me a 90 cent late fee that had been on my account for over a year.  Nice.  Do you think I can take that off my taxes as a business expense?