The Stories Behind 4 More Civic Organizations

On Wednesday, we told you about the history of four civic organizations. But as we all know, there are plenty more groups doing great work. Here are the stories of four more civic organizations you've surely heard of, but probably don't know much about.

1. Rotary International

Founded: Rotary International was established in 1905 by four Chicago businessmen looking to recapture the small town spirit of community they remembered from their youth. They called themselves the Rotary Club because their meeting places rotated from one man's office to the next.

Mission: Local Rotary Clubs offer many kinds of services for their communities, like food drives, vocational skills seminars, grants and scholarships, and much more. One of the primary focuses of Rotary as an organization, though, is the elimination of Polio through their PolioPlus program. Since starting the program in 1985, Rotarians have donated over $600 million and countless volunteer hours to vaccinate over 2 billion kids. Their efforts helped drop the number of cases of polio by 99% between 1988 and 2007.

Members: More than 1.2 million members in 33,000 clubs in over 200 countries.

Fun Fact: The cog that makes up the Rotary logo is adapted from the original symbol, a simple wagon wheel. The wheel was meant to symbolize "Civilization and Movement." As time went on, the more modern symbol of those concepts, a mechanical gear, was adopted.

2. Moose International

mooseFounded: Moose International was originally founded in 1888 as a simple social organization for men. However, in 1906, a member by the name of James Davis suggested that Moose should try to offer some kind of financial safety net for their members' families in case the primary breadwinner died or became ill. To support this program, annual dues were assessed, a practice which continues today.

Mission: The primary focus of Moose today is helping children. Part of this commitment is the Mooseheart Child City and School, a 1,000-acre campus near Chicago where kids in need can live and get an education. Meanwhile, local chapters are especially well known for sponsoring youth programs like summer sports leagues and after-school activities.

Members: Currently there are over 1 million male members of Moose International in about 2,000 lodges throughout the U.S., Canada, Bermuda, and Great Britain. There are around 500,000 Women of the Moose members in 1,600 lodges.

Notable Members: Both Abbott and Costello, Larry Bird, Ernest Borgnine, Charlie Chaplin, Henry Ford, Jean Davidson (granddaughter of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle co-founder), and Erik "Ponch" Estrada. Just the fact that Ernest Borgnine and Ponch are members makes me want to go sign up right now.

Fun Fact: If you are a member of Moose, you have the option of someday living at Moosehaven, a retirement village built and operated by the organization. Currently, about 300 members live at the 70-acre complex near Jacksonville, Florida. Amenities include an indoor swimming pool, bowling lanes, game rooms, a church, and a medical facility.

3. The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks

elksFounded: The Elks were founded as a social club in 1868 by a group of theatrical performers calling themselves The Jolly Corks. Their membership dues were used to buy kegs of beer for parties. They were content being a drinker's club until one of their members died, leaving his wife and children penniless. The Jolly Corks decided they could do more with their beer money (blasphemy, I know) and became a form of insurance for their members. They soon changed their name to pay homage to the Order of the Buffaloes, an English social group of the time.

Mission: Today, the Elks support projects that assist retired and current military veterans, as well as numerous programs and competitions aimed at school children. One of their biggest competitions is the Hoop Shoot, a free throw contest for over 3 million kids between the ages of 8-13. But the Elks are best known for their scholarship programs, handing out $3.64 million every year to graduating high school seniors.

Members: More than 1.3 million men and women in 2,300 local lodges throughout all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Notable Members: The Elks membership boasts five U.S. Presidents (Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and Ford), entertainers like Lawrence Welk, Will Rogers, Jack Benny, and Clint Eastwood, as well as sports personalities like Mickey Mantle, Casey Stengel, and Whitey Ford.

Fun Fact: There is a tradition that a toast to deceased members be given at 11:00PM during Elk lodge meetings. Because the organization started out as a bunch of actors and performers, these toasts are often lengthy monologues or poems and have become legendary for their eloquence. As a way of preserving their history, the Elks have many of these speeches recorded and archived for future members to admire and gain inspiration from for their own 11 O'Clock Toasts.

4. Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (AKA Shriners)

shrinersFounded: The Shriners were established in 1870 as a separate, fun-filled branch of the Freemasonry organization. Their Arabian theme, including their signature red fez hats, was suggested by Billy Florence, a world-renowned actor, who recalled a party he attended thrown by an Arabian diplomat. The group's ridiculously long acronym—A.A.O.N.M.S.—can be rearranged to spell "A MASON."

Mission: The Shriners run 22 children's hospitals throughout America, providing care for burn victims, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic conditions, and speech conditions like cleft lip and palate. Since the first hospital opened in 1922, the Shriners have helped more than 800,000 kids and their families at no charge.

Members: Currently there are around 350,000 men in 191 chapters (known as Temples) throughout North America. To become a member, you must first reach the level of Master Mason in Freemasonry.

Notable Members: Astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, golfer Arnold Palmer, Looney Tunes voice actor Mel Blanc, President Ford, "The Duke" John Wayne, and, proving his commitment to community service once again, actor Ernest Borgnine.

Fun Fact: If you've ever been to a Memorial Day parade, you've probably asked, "What's with the little cars the Shriners drive around?" Apparently it's a pretty well-kept secret, because there seems to be no official word on how this Shriner tradition began. However, one group, the Kena 500, out of the Kena Temple in Fairfax, Virginia, admits to driving mini Corvettes since 1972. The little cars were built as promotional items for the release of the Corvette Stingray and purchased by the members as a fun way to participate in local parades.

Today there are companies that specialize in making cars for Shriners, giving them the option of tooling around in cars, trucks, vans, fire engines, and even replica NASCAR racers. While they might be mini Corvettes, most of these little cars only have a 5HP engine and a top speed of 35MPH.

See Also: What Does 'Kiwanis' Mean? The Stories Behind 4 Civic Groups




Michael Campanella/Getty Images
10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios

"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.


If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).


Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.


Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother


When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."


A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:


In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:


Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.


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