Peter Sellars is the 2016-2017 Grand Master of California and he is the first in hopefully a series of member interviews with the aim of capturing a diverse group of experiences and ideas about the Order. Enjoy! -Ainslie
Your name, and a little about yourself/who are you outside of Odd Fellows?
Peter V. Sellars. I am a retired Marine, a college graduate, and now a property manager and an author (novelist and history books).
(You can find his book “The History of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows of San Francisco” on Amazon.)
Lodge and Location?
My lodge is Yerba Buena Lodge No. 15 (in San Francisco, CA) July 8, 1853.
Why did you join and when were you initiated?
I was in the Marines when I joined. I joined because my grandfather asked me to join when I was on leave in the Marines. These old guys just ran me through in one evening (not the proper way, but I didn’t know that at the time). That was 27 years ago.
Do you belong to any other fraternal organizations?
I belong to other organizations – military organizations: VFW, American Legion, Disabled American Vets, Marines Memorial Assn in SF. These are close knit fraternal groups.
What is your lodge membership like and have you held any positions?
I’ve held every elected office in the lodge. I have done just about everything on the lodge level and the state level. I have been a Grand Patriarch of the Grand Encampment. I am about to wrap up my term as Grand Master in about 10 days (May 21).
My lodge has 250 Members. It is made up of all different people: cultural backgrounds, gender, gay and lesbian, Muslims, Jews, Christians, witches, etc.
My lodge has poor and rich members. Educated and non educated members. We come together before each meeting and enjoy and learn from one another. It is an inclusive lodge, unlike the majority of the lodges we see across this country.
What does being an Odd Fellow mean to you?
Being an Odd Fellow means finding a common ground in which people of all different backgrounds may come together and find the humanity in all “groups” of peoples. This is the basic philosophy of the IOOF. It is an avenue for people to meet and function for the sake of humanity.
What is the worst thing about Odd Fellows and what is the best?
The worse thing about Odd Fellows are the code books. Not the Rituals. The code books. Throw those things out! Supporting “old folks” homes and the arthritis foundation and visual research is all great endeavors but these hurt our goals of finding new younger members, as none of the aforementioned attract anyone youthful – period! We need modern attractions and causes.
Since we are stuck with Code Books and outdated programs, the biggest disaster to the organization is the slow process it takes to change code or effect change at the SGL level. It must first be approved (and that is a mountain to climb) and then it must lay over for another year, then it gets argued against and then voted upon. Very few positive changes occur when brought up by the youthful Members of the Order.
What direction would you like to see your lodge or the whole Order go in the future?
The Direction of our Order? I would like to see this Order support a cause on a national level (lodges would still support their local functions); we need a single national cause to support. For me it could be supplying hospitals with “Odd Fellow Labeled Water – Vitamin Bottles” for health purposes. Finland has two rescue boats they support, Norway has teddy bears it gives to anyone who is taken by ambulance. We need a simple cause to give us national recognition. I always thought the IOOF could also sister up with local historical societies and redefine their purpose to include preservation of local fraternal organizations of a given town, etc.
You’re a Grand Master. What problems in the order keep you up at night?
As Grand Master, there are several things that keep me up at night. I will mention one of those things: Disharmony that occurs in some of the lodges. Members argue and fight. They battle month after month. In some lodges true fraternal spirit lacks. The principles we teach were not followed. Oaths are not kept. I worked very hard to bring all of the issues amongst members to the surface and to try and allow them to work things out (with the help of a special deputy). I resisted the urge to simply punish a lodge and arrest the charter by pushing them to resolve their own lodge issues. Disharmony keeps me up. There are other matters, but this is not the forum.
When riding the lodge goat. Do you prefer sitting frontwards backwards or sidesaddle?
If I ride the goat, I prefer facing forward. I can pretend I am in the rodeo. LOL
Any good stories or any thoughts you would like to share?
I always have stories and thoughts. I encourage all brothers and sisters of the IOOF to write and share their Lodges’ histories with each respective community. Every lodge has a story. Those are my stories. I write IOOF books for the preservation of this Order. My lodge also participates in the Pride Parade, St Patrick’s Day Parade, Chinese New Year Parade, the Pistahon Parade and other largely popular parades in San Francisco. We do not discriminate. We push ourselves to be inclusive and have an IOOF representation in all we can. We hold an annual art show at our building in downtown San Francisco, as well. The lodge is about “community” and not secrecy.