What is a Hoo-Hoo?
By Sandy McKellar, Club #48, 100468
The International Order of Hoo-Hoo: The Fraternal Order of the Forest Products Industry, is one of the longest standing industry service clubs in the world. Professional associations may provide valuable networks, but the men and women of this historic fraternal order share a bond that goes far deeper.
If you work in the forest and lumber sector, you’ve likely heard of this enigmatic club. Perhaps you’re a member. But do you know the history of the club and the origin of its name?
Hoo-Hoo got its start in 1892 in the small town of Gurdon, Arkansas. The founders, stranded by a delayed train, decided to form a nationwide lumberman’s association with a twist – its single aim would be to foster the health, happiness and long life of its members. To do this, they would bring together the diverse aspects of the lumber industry in a common group guided by goodwill and fellowship. With a focus on personal contact and communication—across all aspects of forest sector business—Hoo-Hoos would abide by the “Golden Rule”—nine fundamental values for day-to-day personal and business interactions.
Nine is a magic number for Hoo-Hoo. Why? Because cats have nine lives. Why cats? Because the ceremony whereby new members are initiated into the club is called a conCATenation, derived from the Latin concatenare, which means to link together and treat individual entities as one. The second syllable of this word became the symbol of Hoo-Hoo. As such, the Hoo-Hoo emblem is a black cat with a tail curled into the number nine!
From six founders in 1892—the organization has expanded to more than 99,999 members with clubs in six countries around the world. One of the six infamous founding Hoo-Hoos was a journalist and a wordsmith. William Barnes wanted club directors to have “eerie and peculiar” names. For inspiration, he turned to a contemporary at the time – author Lewis Carroll –and his nonsense poem “The Hunting of the Snark”. He also coined names from his own vivid imagination! As such, in Whistler, BC at the 2019 annual convention of Hoo-Hoo, members will witness the election of such dignitaries as The Snark of the Universe, The Seer of the House of Ancients, a Jabberwock, a Bojum and even an Arcanoper! Of course, in honour of the town in which Hoo-Hoo was born, we can’t forget the Gurdon!
Finally – let’s get back to the curious Hoo-Hoo. What is it exactly? Some guess an owl, others imagine something ‘unmentionable’. In both cases they’d be wrong. The name Hoo-Hoo came from a nickname given to a lumberman back in the late 1800’s due to an unruly tuft of his hair! Coined by founder Bolling Johnson, it became a word used at the time to describe anything out-of-the-usual. And so, when asked to “place your hand on your Hoo-Hoo”, please remember that it is, in fact, on the top of your head!
What do Hoo-Hoos do? Members of each club have their own projects that support local charitable organizations, education programs and the community. But, the biggest benefit of membership is fun and fellowship. In place of boring, endless meetings, Hoo-Hoos gather on golf courses, ski hills and local pubs to network and socialize.
If this odd little tale has piqued your interest in joining the ranks of the Hoo-Hoo, please note that membership is by invitation, therefore, if you are brave enough to endure the trials of initiation, find a member in your local area to sponsor you. Fledgling Hoo-Hoos are called Kittens. Put yourself forth as a kitten at the next conCATenation in your jurisdiction and find out why so many men and women in the lumber sector are dedicated to this International Order.
Thanks to Colin Mason, 88205, for his “History and Culture of the International Order of Hoo-Hoo” from which valuable insights were gleaned for this article.
In the words of Lewis Carroll’s poem:
In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away--
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.