Bohemian Grove


History sparkles with colourful tales surrounding the true mission of secret clubs and societies. From Knights Templar, Freemasons, Friars Club, to Fred Flintstone’s secret water buffalo handshake –  “old boy” clubs always attract whispers.

Precisely why ponders landed squarely at the door of “The Grove”. Bohemian Grove is an exclusive compound just outside San Francisco  Founded in 1872, every Republican and a handful of Democrat presidents since 1923 have been members. We’re talking FDR, Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton to name a few. Toss in CIA directors, heads of  banks, the Federal Reserve, military contractors ( Halliburton ), oil men, railroad men, nuclear and utility CEO’s – you have quite the party.

Best known for a meeting of principals involved in the “Manhattan Project” – hence the atom bomb, it’s the forty foot owl nestled in redwoods that caught my attention. Constructed of concrete and steel, full of audio visual equipment, to this day speaking the voice of former member Walter Cronkite – this mossy old statue is centre stage for the “Cremation of Care” ceremony.

Every July members gather for three weeks of fellowship, bonding, networking, or whatever it is boys do at secret clubs. The “Cremation of Care” ceremony is the grand finale – a performance in the woods, complete with up to 300 participants, pyrotechnics, and over the top production values.The annual gathering concludes with a play written and performed by members in front of the gargantuan owl.

By all accounts; members dubbed Bohos, have a particular fondness for urinating on the old growth redwoods.   So much so that members” freedom to urinate” at will, was taken to court in 1978. Not only has no woman ever become a full member, no woman had ever been employed. When charged with discrimination in hiring, the grove argued in a 1978 court room that female employees would hamper members ability to urinate where and when ever they wanted. Rulings for and against led them to the California Supreme Court in 1985; they lost. Reviews were denied, and it has now become a precedent for tax exempt organizations being excluded from the  “Unruh Civil Rights Act”.

I suppose boys will be boys. These “big boys” happen to like peeing on a forest, in the company of a rather ancient, monolithic owl. I have no problem with that – really no different from blowing off steam at a strip club. Back door deals will always take place – I just wish it didn’t seem so silly. The Knights Templar can have their “Holy Grail”, the “Freemasons” their “all seeing eye”, and the “Bohemian Grove” their musty old owl.