This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Friday, October 21, 2005

October 14, 2005 - Masons value private and public sector

My grandfather spent all this life as a business man. He dropped out of 10th grade to support his disabled mother. For awhile, Granddad worked through a correspondence course to become an attorney. Then the Depression hit.

So though he never became a lawyer, he got a taste for self-education. He remained a voracious reader.

Most of his working life, he drove a pastry truck, and considered himself lucky to have the job. Eventually, he wound up in appliance sales at a big department store, where he worked until his death at 72.

I tried to visit him every summer. Sometimes, I talked my folks into leaving me there for an extra week. I was crazy about Granddad.

For one thing, he would take me with him to meet his friends. He taught me the importance of a handshake. I got to practice it with the local police chief, the fire chief, the mayor, and even the library director. Granddad knew them all, and made a point of taking me to their offices.

Once, while walking together down the street, Granddad stopped me in front of a fire hydrant. "How do you think that got there?" he asked me. I admitted I didn't really know.

Then he talked me through all the things it took to have a working hydrant: a water supply, installation and maintenance, regular checking. It was a complex system that existed for a reason, he said: to help save lives and property in the event of an emergency.

"Whenever you walk past a hydrant, or a streetlight, or even a mailbox, just stop and think about all the thought, effort and purpose behind it."

I realize now that Granddad was giving me practical civics lesson. He put a face on politics, talking about the people that held office, and how much work it was to get it. He talked about the many people, of many skills and backgrounds, necessary to translate plans into working systems.

He was a business man who understood the value of the public sector.

Here's another thing not often noticed. On occasion, I run across building cornerstones and plaques placed by the Masonic Lodge in Castle Rock. I like seeing those plaques -- they communicate a sense of continuity and tradition, of consecration to a use.

There is a plaque at the Chamber of Commerce. There's one on the police station. There's one on the Philip S. Miller Library. There are others.

The Masons also occupy one of my favorite buildings in the county, the former First National Bank, located on the corner of 3rd and Wilcox. It was originally built in 1904, faced with rhyolite, and designed by former Denver architect George Louis Bettcher.

Along with developer Brad Brown, I was a guest there recently. We each had the unexpected privilege of being recognized as the "Man of the Year" -- Mr. Brown in the private sector, and me in the public.

There are many traditions in our culture. But I think the idea of an interdependence between private and public sector, each with its distinct, but important roles, is something that today's society doesn't "get" very well.

I'm grateful to my Granddad for being the first to clue me in, and to the Masons, both for their kindness to me, and their dignified acknowledgment of the civic significance of key buildings in our county.

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