The Birth of Blue Goose
An Eyewitness Account
by Lloyd Wallace
Reprinted from the Texas Pond Honker
Then reedited from original recording by PMLGG George Harwood
In 2004, DMLGG Linda Meik of the Southern Region chaired the Grand Nest Education Committee. While preparing her committee report, she came across a fascinating speech delivered by Lloyd Wallace at the 1949 Grand Nest Convention in Seattle. Mr. Wallace described how in 1906, he was one of the six original participants in the chain of events that led to the creation of the organization you belong to today. His speech described the very origins of Blue Goose. Here is Mr. Wallace’s address:
The year 1906 was outstanding. In one way a disaster; and in another way an event. The disaster was the San Francisco earthquake. The event was the birth of the Blue Goose. I am told that you wanted to get a low down on the Blue Goose, and the dope as to why and how this Order came into being. You asked for it, and you’re going to get it, with no punches pulled!
It was the custom of the Wisconsin Fieldman’s Club to hold its Annual Meeting the third week of June; and this year of 1906 was true to form. The first night, as you know at a convention, is usually a pretty stormy one. Someone’s always there to rock the boat, and the morning after was just one of those days. It was cold and rainy, and we were assembled on the porch of the Oakwoods Hotel at Green Lake, Wisconsin. It was the morning of June 21st. To be frank, all the boys had one of their proverbial hangovers, and I think you Ganders know just what I am talking about!
We were cussing each other and the weather. When, like a bolt from the blue, Walter Atwater jumped up and said, "Fellows, I have just had a brain storm!” He said, "I think it would be a good idea to organize a fake lodge for tonight for the benefit and pleasure of all the insurance men here, and put on an initiation and take in the newest member of the Field Club as a candidate." So someone spoke up and said, "Well, we ought to have a name for this lodge." And Carl Halbrick said, "Well, I’ve got a name, but I’d probably be thrown out of the place for even suggesting it." So we said, "Well, let it come on. It’s only for a joke, any how, what’s in a name?" Well, it seemed that there was plenty in this name!
Carl said, "You all remember that famous roadhouse, or saloon, if you please, located just outside of Madison and frequented by the male student body of the University? It’s known as the Blue Goose." Well, then the riot was on. But, we had concluded what’s the difference. It’s only for fun and the funnier it sounds to everybody, the more pleasure we’ll all get out of it. So it was agreed, we would call it the Blue Goose Lodge and set the meeting for eight o’clock that night in the hall adjacent to the main hotel building.
Walter Atwater said, "Well, you’ve got to have some kind of ritual." So, I was appointed with one of the other boys to work out a ritual. And, Ganders, today there are some of the same thoughts expressed word for word that was in that original ritual forty-three years ago last June. Those boys on the porch were Walter Atwater, Carl Halbrick, George Heller Jr., Billy Golden, George Roberts and yours truly.
The meeting was announced at the luncheon, and at the evening dinner that there’d be a surprise meeting held in the hall at eight o’clock that night, with all women barred. Naturally, the women put up a howl! But they were told they would be invited for refreshments after the meeting. The hall was all set up in due form. The same as it is today, with the American flag on the right hand of the presiding officer. And incidentally, we appointed Walter Atwater to be the first chairman of that memorable meeting.
At eight o’clock, Atwater called the meeting to order and he said, "Men of the insurance fraternity, we’ve decided to have a fake lodge meeting tonight, so we might all enjoy what we think will be a surprise." And he said, "I’m going to name the men to act as officers," He named Carl Halbrick as Junior Guide, George Heller as Senior Guide, Billy Golden as Inner Guard, George Roberts as Outer Guard and referring to me, he says, "Lloyd Wallace, you take the usual place at the piano." And before he proceeded, he said, "I want to tell you men present that I declare you now, one and all, charter members."
We had elected then to take in George Wright, who hailed from Monroe, Wisconsin and was a new special agent for the Great American. George didn’t like the idea he had been barred from the meeting, and he put up quite a roar. So at the first outbreak, Walter Atwater asked the Outer Guard to proceed to the door and find out who was making all the racket! Well, it was George Wright; and the Guard returned to explain to Atwater that George Wright was out there and wondered why he couldn’t come in. "Well," he said, "We’ll take him in!" And the Guard was instructed to conduct George Wright three times around the hall and present him in front of Atwater. At the piano, I played the usual funeral march, which, of course, made Wright feel all the more wondering what was going to happen to him. So Wright was finally brought up to Atwater, and a few questions were put to him. And, incidentally, the men present were all informed that when Atwater gave the downbeat, as to what we should do to the new candidate, the men were all to cry out in unison, "SHAVE HIM!" Which was done! And George Wright got the shave of his life. In fact, he has often said that he never knew that shaving cream or lather tasted so good.
After the initiation, George Wright was then conducted three times around the hall to the tune of There'll Be A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight! George Wright was then given the obligation and told what the Principles of this new lodge were; in fact none of us knew, but was all for the benefit of the evening of good fellowship.
After the initiation was over, George Wright was taken to the sidelines and Atwater addressed all the members present and he said, "Now we’ve organized this fake lodge tonight. We’ve all had a good time. It has been a wonderful party. And I think we’ve got something. Maybe you boys would like to have something to say about it?" One of the men got up, I think his name was Frank Green, and he says "I move you, Mr. Atwater, that this lodge be made permanent in Wisconsin, and I beg to nominate you, and the other officers, that they be elected unanimously to serve for one year." Well, several jumped up to second the motion. And boys, the Blue Goose came into being and was born then and there!
Perhaps some of you men visited Wisconsin on the twenty-fifth anniversary. If you did so, you will recall that we took a special train to Green Lake, and while all the visiting men milled around on the lawn, those six same fellows sat on the porch and went through the pantomime of trying, and in fact, organizing the lodge as it was done twenty-five years before. We then proceeded to the hall, put on the same initiation, initiated the same gosling, George Wright, for the benefit of the visiting fieldmen and a good time was had by all.
I wish to go back again for a moment. At the time that this meeting was held at Green Lake, Charlie Cartwright of the Northwestern Underwriter was there and he telephoned the whole story in so that the paper would have it in next week’s issue. And low and behold, Monday morning, we had a letter from John Stafford of Minneapolis asking for a charter for the Blue Goose Lodge. Well, you should have seen the charter. It was a crude homemade affair with a crude seal in the corner, which we sent to John Stafford with a bill for ten bucks. I have a letter in my file now from John received a short time ago reciting how he had collected the ten. Twenty-five cents here, fifty cents there, from the fellows that same Monday upon receipt of our letter and finally sent us a check for ten dollars. We also had a letter from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois; and I think I have then in the right order, but I won’t swear to it.
We got so many letters within the week or two after our return from Green Lake that it was a challenge. A challenge to Wisconsin. We had something on our hands and didn’t know what to do with it! We said, the name Blue Goose sounded like hell to the people of Wisconsin, because it was named after a saloon. So, we went to the public library. We went into the records of the Blue Goose, and we found more about the Blue Goose that we ever thought existed. It’s a noble bird, flies high and straight. It’s true to its mate, and, incidentally, comes from Canada. So, we decided then and there to change the name of the Blue Goose Lodge to the Ancient and Honorable Order of the Blue Goose, which has in recent years been changed to the Honorable Order of the Blue Goose, International.
It seems to me, men, that the Blue Goose has thrived, and it’s nothing short of fantastic. When we stop and think that a meeting called, and a lodge organized, should prosper and do so much good for the insurance fraternity. It has brought about more harmony and better understanding and good fellowship among the insurance fraternity. And I have always said, and always will say, that once a Blue Goose, always a Blue Goose.
I feel sad and humble at this time, because the five other Ganders associated with me in the formation of this illustrious Order have passed on, and may God rest their souls in peace. It was my sad duty to pay my last respects to George Wright in September last. And damn it, I feel like a lone wolf! But we must carry on. There is much to be done and continuing the fine cooperation, which all the Nests have accorded, and all the Ganders have accorded to each Nest. I know that the Blue Goose will go on to gain greater heights and greater accomplishments. I am very happy to have been here, and may God be with you, until we meet again!
Note: A copy of this recording (several 78 rpm albums) is located in the Florida Pond Office of PMLGG George Harwood.