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
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.