Tara Richelle Hopkins, Thinking Too Much
Recently I was made a honorary turtle. Interesting, right?
At first I had no clue what it meant, until my fiancé’s best friend (also my friend) fully informed me exactly what it is and made me a turtle.
The Ancient and Honorable Turtles or “Turtles International Association”, started as an informal “drinking club” between World War II pilots, self-described as “an honorable drinking fraternity composed of ladies and gentlemen of the highest morals and good character, who are never vulgar.”
To gain admission, I had to answer four from a list of about twenty-five qualifying questions.
Once the person answers the question correctly they are now officially a honorary Turtle.
The initiation normally takes place in some sort of social setting or post after the organization’s business meeting has been conducted.
The Turtles go up to the prospective candidate and solemnly ask him (or her) if they wish to join the “Ancient Order of Turtles,” “International Turtles Association,” “Turtle Club,” “Ancient and Honorable Order of Turtles,” or any other title that the local branch is affiliated with.
There are at least 12 different branches of Turtles in America, but all adhere to the same sign, passwords, grip and initiation format.
After I was made a member, Randy told me that if I was ever asked “Are you a turtle?” and didn’t respond with the appropriate key phrase I would have to buy or make the questioner a drink of their choice (I would like a Diet Coke please). If the member is unable or unwilling to provide the correct answer, he or she owes to all turtles to present a drink of the recipient’s choice. The best part of this club is there are no dues or initiation fee. The Turtles simply ask new members to go out and recruit other new members.
This club fascinated me so much, not because I drink (because I don’t), but because it just felt like a fun club and something I could be excited to be a part of. I decided to do a little more research on it.
According to online sources, the Order of Turtles began among World War II pilots as a way to amuse themselves while relaxing with a cool drink between missions.
The late Captain Hugh P. McGowan, U.S. Army Air Corps/U.S. Air Force Reserve (Ret.) and several pilots of the U.S. Army Air Corps 8th Air Force founded the Ancient and Honorable Order of Turtles in an officers’ club while stationed in England during the Second World War.
McGowan stated, “We were flying daytime bombing missions over Hitler’s Third Reich. We just wanted a little fun. We had seen a sign showing that the ‘Ancient Order of Foresters’ and the ‘Royal Antedeluvian Order of Buffalos’ would meet in the local pub, so I devised the name ‘Ancient and Honorable Order of Turtles’ for the fun of it.
“It was not meant to be serious, it had no constitution or by-laws, and was a relief from the horrors and dangers we saw every day on our missions. It spread after the War through the VFW and American Legion posts, and eventually, to Masonic groups, colleges and even to the high schools of the U.S.A.”
Even though my friend Randy is probably the only turtle I know and probably the only person I know with a turtle tattoo on his hip, being a part of this club is such a fascinating experience .
So tell me, are you a turtle? If so, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org ) telling me. I would love to hear your stories about being a turtle! Also, I found all this information at http://www.phoenixmasonry.org/masonicmuseum/fraternalism/turtles.htm  (check it out)!