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Posted By Paula Morris, Thursday, November 29, 2012

I have always been fascinated with the concept of memory – how it works, what triggers memories, who has excellent retention, and why.  In school I seemed to do just fine with remembering words, spellings, dates as a symbol of important events – but when it came to algebraic equations or chemical formulas, not so much. Really! Not much at all!

It is amazing to me how smells and music can so easily evoke memories – the scent of Cinnabon© makes me think of Saturday mornings in the kitchen with Grandma Foster, and just five notes of "Light My Fire”, and I am back in the auditorium of Olympus Jr. High School, with the other 9th grade girls, screaming over Jim Morrison and the Doors.

But I was really surprised and bemused in Chicago at the OPS Annual meeting when, walking through the meeting hotel, I was suddenly drawn to thinking of events from high school.  What the heck?  I graduated in 19… um, sometime during the Nixon administration, and it had been some time since my mind had wandered back down that lane to the past.  

I didn’t arrive in Chicago until Friday evening, so my first introduction to the Intercontinental Chicago Hotel was after the first day of courses and the awards ceremony had ended. I entered the front door and immediately tried to find my way up to the Camelot Room for the reception, not even bothering to take the time to check in.  There was nothing predictable about the layout of the various meeting room floors, and as I wandered hesitantly, making my way up to the event, I noticed the "heavy” wall décor which seemed almost Gothic in nature.  My colleague, Paul Bernstein, had mentioned being in the hotel before, saying it was "very different”, as it was first built as something other than a hotel.  He couldn’t remember what it had been - a bank, maybe?  But the Moorish archways and ornate painted walls didn’t seem like any bank I had ever been in, or any US hotel for that matter.

The next morning, after racing around to meetings and lectures, I finally took a break on the 5th floor close to OPS meeting registration, and stumbled upon a wall covered with pictures of the historic Medinah Men’s Athletic Club.  This was my "Aha” moment!  Suddenly I was transported back to when I was a member of Job’s Daughters Bethel 13, at the Salt Lake Masonic Temple!  It all clicked!  No wonder it felt so familiar – the décor was similar to the Gothic and Middle Eastern styles found in Masonic temple rooms that are symbolic of the various types of free masonry: Gothic and Colonial for the Scottish Rite and York Rite lodges, and North African for the Shriners!  And there the history of the building was in black and white –photos of the men’s club features including a picture of the Potentates of the Medinah Shrine Lodge of Chicago, circa 1929!  So cool!  What a charming bit of history it was that really made the unusual layout and design come to life and make sense.  (For those of you not steeped in Masonic lore, Job’s Daughters is an organization of young women who are related to Master Masons.  (Thanks, Grandpa Bruner).

After that it was a fun diversion to check out the various levels of the hotel; to revel in the décor of the Empire Room and realize it was originally a mini golf course, or the elegant Renaissance Ballroom which was previously a banquet room and one of the few areas where women were allowed in that "sacred” space, a men’s athletic club.  Reportedly, there was even a firing range in addition to the rooms that could be rented out to "gentlemen” who needed lodging.  The building was a classic icon of the era when men’s clubs were popular among wealthy, upper class gents.  Let the bankers have their men’s clubs, the freemasons had their own!


One evening, Barb McCalley and I wandered around, checking out surprising little nooks, including small staircases that led to unexpected tiny rooms only big enough to seat groups of 6 or 8. Finally we made our way to the elegant swimming pool that looks like something out of a 1930’s Florida resort, complete with bright ceramic tiles and terraces filled with wicker furniture.  Truly, the pool area could have been a set for the film, "Some Like it Hot”!

When the hotel was remodeled, special effort was made to try to recapture the feel and reproduce the original décor based on a club year book from 1930 called the Scimitar.  Some may have noticed that the cards provided by the hotel‘s turndown service with weather forecasts for the next day were photos of areas of the original Medinah Men’s Athletic club.


We never know what hotel the OPS will be assigned to by the AAO for our annual meeting and the Intercontinental was not our initial assignment.   But Bob Cavicchi, Dennis Thayer, and Barb McCalley did their best to run our complicated educational program as efficiently as possible in the space we were given.  That made for not the most convenient layout for this year’s program, but I believe that those of us who were there can agree that the Intercontinental Chicago Hotel provided a very unique setting -   one that supplied fond new memories for me as I bounced back and forth between memories of the late 60’s and today.

Part of the delight of attending our annual meetings is getting to see new places in big cities.  The International Chicago Hotel is now on my list of interesting sites, making the OPS 2012 Annual meeting all the more memorable.

Tags:  blog  cute  education  Educational Meeting  funny  Ice Breakers  New Life  PDC  Travel 

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Comments on this post...

Timothy J. Bennett CRA OCT-C says...
Posted Friday, November 30, 2012
Nice post Paula! I have to take exception however to your assertion that you can't immediately recall what year you graduated high school. I've never met someone with a better memory of date & place as you. I'm constantly amazed when you'll say something like, " the 1987 board meeting of the BOE, we went to dinner at this Italian place called (insert Italian restaurant name here) and I was sitting between Emery Billings and Larry Merin, when Emery told this joke....", and then you'll retell the joke or story & rattle off the names of everyone who was there. Sometimes I was at the dinner or meeting you are recalling and I'm amazed you know the date & location like it was yesterday, yet I barely remember it until you fill in the details. Then I'm embarrassed I didn't remember from the start. But then again it's only 9 am as I write this and I can't remember what I had for breakfast this morning. You on the other hand, have a mind like a steel trap! Once again, nice blog post!
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Robert W. Cavicchi, CRA, FOPS says...
Posted Friday, November 30, 2012

What a nice piece! I too have often wondered what kind of things sights, scents and feelings) trigger memories. Thanks for the brief visit down your personal "memory lane".

The Intercontinental was indeed a unique space. Although the hotel layout and meetings were a bit convoluted and serpentine I enjoyed navigating all the nooks 'n crannies of the space.

The historical perspective of the building was an added bonus for me.

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Stuart B. Alfred, CRA, OCT-C says...
Posted Saturday, December 29, 2012
Paula, I too enjoyed the post a great deal-the photo is priceless.
When I worked in downtown Philly, I would spend my lunch break looking at the National Headquarters for the Masons. What a truly awesome building. Both my father and grandfathers were Mason.
I also enjoyed learning about your youth. We have such a diverse and wonderful group of leaders in the OPS.
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Michael R. Turano, Jr. CRA OCT-C says...
Posted Friday, February 1, 2013
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