You're One Of Those Freemasons . . . I Never Knew!

Well nobody should be surprised to learn that somebody they know has been keeping a secret--the secret that they are a Freemason.  It is, afterall, an ancient and secretive society, and over hundreds of years Masons have learned to be very subtle.  We blend in, invisible to all but other Masons, who are able to decipher the ingenious hidden signs.  It is indeed a sharp  non-Mason that manages to recognize one of these nearly invisible clues that someone they know may be a Freemason.  It would be a nearly impossible feat for the uninitiated to pick one of us out of a crowd without knowing the hidden mysteries.  We're like the wind--there but completely invisible.

You have to look sharp . . . it's easy to miss the ring.  The hat.  The lapel pin.  The belt buckle.  The coffee mug.  The square and compass tie (with matching tie clip, cufflinks, and Past Master's watch).  The six emblems on his car, the license plate frame, and the tail light emblems--and in most states the license plate itself.  The apron case in the backseat of his car is no clue either.  Or the clown wig hanging on his coat rack. Nor can the untrained eye get much of a clue from his computer screensaver, the mousepad, the pen he's using that commerated his lodge's 100th anniversary, or his 2B1ASK1 keychain.  And what's up with all the pictures of him wearing a red, green, or purple jacket?  Was he an extra in that Batman movie?  One of Joker's henchmen maybe? 

We're definitely subtle, elusive, and secretive individuals, huh?  It should be pretty obvious that we're enthusiastic about our fraternity.  We do a lot of good things in the world, and we're proud of being a part of it.  Masons in America donate more than a million dollars a day to charities--the majority of which are children's charities.  The Shriner's Hospitals and the Scottish Rite Learning Centers are two good examples. 

There is no other organization quite like the Freemasons.  And those symbols are on everything.  Over the last five years, I've put together a large collection of antique Masonic memorabilia.  Everything from books and artwork, to York Rite chapter pennies and Masonic jewelry.  I even have a Past Masters whiskey decanter.  Bookends, pens, hats, commemorative coins, letter openers.  Just name it.  In fact, I've often wondered if there is anything a Mason won't put a square and compass on.  I know my wife gives me grief at times--especially over putting the Scottish Rite emblem on my riding lawn mower...I had an extra one!  Oh, and there's the square and compass hanging over the garage door, too. 

So back to the question if there's anything a Mason won't put a square and compass on.  I think this just might answer that question beyond any doubt.  This item is available in a variety of colors and sizes.  So no, there is absolutely nothing a Mason won't put a square and compass on!

And as a bonus, you now know why Masons are fascinated in finding out what lies behind the hidden symbols. 

I'll go ahead and apologize for that remark in advance.  I'm sorry (but it's still funny). 

The World Looks A Lot Different To A Mason

Last August, on a beautiful afternoon, I decided to take the day off and enjoy it. It was a nice day to take a long drive, but I didn’t have any errands to run, so I decided to drive around a photograph as many Masonic symbols as I could find in an afternoon. I drove over two-hundred miles, and took over a hundred pictures. I knew where to find some of the symbols I wanted to photograph, but others I stumbled upon completely by accident.  Photo right: window detail, Danville Masonic Temple, Danville, IL

It’s amazing how much different the world looks after you become a Mason—you can’t really go anywhere without seeing the signs of Freemasonry everywhere. It’s been said that a Mason can see a ring or a pin at a hundred yards. I believe it.  I know I can.  Every time I drive through a small town, I look up to the second story on Main Street, and more often than not, there will be a Masonic Lodge there. Photo left: St. Joseph Lodge No. 970, St. Joseph, IL

The symbols are everywhere in cemeteries—old stones and new. You’ll find the square & compass symbol often as you’re walking.  Those are nearly impossible to miss, but sometimes those cemetery stones are engraved very subtly—only another Mason would recognize it for what it is.  This one is a good example of that--I found this in an overgrown area of a local cemetery.  I nearly missed that this man was a Mason.  The globes at the tops of the columns are gone now and only the iron posts remain, but if you look closely at the top of the left column . . . pretty subtle huh?

I took pictures of grave stones, I took pictures of lodge halls, I took pictures of doorway arches, I took pictures of car bumpers—I even ran into a Mason in a gas station and took a picture of his ring.  Photo left: taken in downtown Urbana, IL.  This building was the former home of Urbana Lodge No. 157.

This is a beautiful granite Masonic alter in a cemetery in North Danville.   You can also see the Master's chair in the East.  There are also officer's stations in the West, and South.  This enormous lodge room in granite is surrounded by the graves of Master Masons.

It was a fun exercise, and a great way to get a little exercise on a beautiful afternoon. Try it sometime!  Send me your pictures, and I'll put them up.

A Few More Photos . . .

Found in Stearn's Cemetery, Fithian, IL
If you click and enlarge this one, some of you
may note he wasn't just a Freemason.  Anybody
know what else he was?

The Temple Arch of the original Scottish Rite Temple
at the entrance of a corner park in downtown Danville, IL.

Scottish Rite Temple
Danville, IL

Any Mason would know the owner of
this truck is a Master Mason, a 32nd
Degree Mason, and a patriotic American. 
I know it because it's my truck.

Special Grand Lodge of Illinois Edition

Grand Lodge Special Edition of A Freemason Said That?
featuring the official Grand Lodge of Illinois Seal

Towards the end of October, I was asked to speak at a Past Master's Dinner in Mattoon, and was fortunate enough to have dinner with the Grand Master of Illinois, Richard L. Swaney.  It was the same day my quote book A Freemason Said That?  Great Quotes of Famous Freemasons was released, and I brought the only copy I had along to show to people as I hawked books in the lobby afterwards.  Grand Master Swaney told me he was a fan of great quotes, he liked my book, and loved the cover.  I sent him home with the book, and later we got talking about doing a special edition just for the Grand Lodge of Illinois.  Four months later, it's a reality! 

This will indeed be a very rare book--there are a very limited number.  It features the Grand Lodge Gold Seal on the cover, the autograph of Grand Master Swaney on the title page (and mine too on the second title page).  Grand Master Swaney also wrote a brief preface for the special edition.  But the only place this book is available is from Grand Master Swaney himself.  He intends to use these as presentation gifts during his travels. 

It was a great priviledge to be asked to do this, and I'm certainly proud of the finished product. 

Library Archives of Ogden Past Master Lost in Tragic Blaze!

Secretary and ADDGM Wor. Bro. Denver Phelps makes the sad announcement . . .

As I reported earlier, Ogden held a Past Master's Dinner to thank the PM's of Ogden Lodge for their past service and to celebrate the long history of the lodge.  It was an event of laughter and celebration, but it was obvious to some that two things were out of wack...  first of all, one of the more recent Past Masters of Ogden Lodge, and current Master of Homer Lodge, Steve Hooper was missing.  Secondly, the Secretary of the Lodge, Denver Phelps, seemed to be carrying a dark secret, the details of which would soon be announced.

After a delicious dinner, and a presentation in which all the PM's of Ogden were announced and their ladies were presented with roses, Worshipful Bro. Denver Phelps confirmed what most of us had sensed--there was sad news to be announced. . .

He said, and I quote to the best of my recollection:

"I don't know if you all knew it, but there was a bad fire in Royal last night.  Some of you may have noticed that Worshipful Brother Steve Hooper isn't here today.  He had a bad fire at his house last night . . . in his library.  He lost all his books.  All three of them.  Two of them he hadn't even colored in yet. . ."

Of course Worshipful Brother Hooper was actually vacationing in Florida, and there was no fire at his house, but it hasn't stopped his dedicated friends and brothers from taking up a collection of coloring books and crayons.  If you'd like to donate, just mail those coloring books to Ogden Lodge, and we'll make sure he gets them--we're running a little heavy on Disney, so SpongeBob or Scooby-Do would be good choices.  We know it's expensive at nearly $5, but we're also trying to raise money for a 64-color box of Crayola crayons with the sharpener in the back. 

Of course, one lesson that Masons can take away from this. . . well, practical joke . . . is that if you miss a meeting, a pancake breakfast, a dinner, or a degree... you open yourself up for all kinds of mischief. 


Here We Go Again: Famous American Freemasons Volume III

I had a very productive weekend . . . I finished what is the hardest part of writing one of these books.  Coming up with the list of names of famous Freemasons I'm going to include.  My biggest concern with writing a third volume was that I thought I'd covered all the best Freemasons in the first two.  But I was wrong about that, and now that I have the list finished, I'm pretty excited about it. 

In the final volume, we'll take a trip to the moon, visit Hollywood during its heyday, peek in on the signers of the Declaration of Indepedence, and take in a show under the big top.  We'll visit Pennsylvania Avenue and Yankee Stadium.  Meet men that made their careers in the boxing ring, the recording studio and the golf course.  We'll even meet a giant from Virginia who weilded an enormous sword given to him by General George Washington himself.

So here we go again, another journey through the lives of thirty famous American Freemasons.  As one of the famous Freemasons on my list once said, "Damn the torpedoes . . . full speed ahead!"

Ogden Lodge No. 260 Past Master's Dinner a Great Success 2/29/2010!

The Past Masters of Ogden Lodge in attendance left to right:  Donald Hawkins, Brandon Lewis
Carl W. Lewis, Michael Tucker, John Harrison, Loyal "Doc" Davis, Kent Nelson,
Denver Phelps, Robert Vilven, and current Master Clark Timothy Nichols.

Current Worshipful Master of Ogden Lodge Tim Nichols opens the after dinner program.

Ogden Lodge held a very successful Past Master's Dinner on Sunday.  We had a great dinner provided by Bro. Doug Behrens (I know my friends at Pekin Lodge know this, but it's a great thing for a lodge when they manage to raise a great cook in their lodge).  We had ten Past Master's of Ogden Lodge in attendance, and several more for other area lodges. 

Bro. Secretary (ADDGM) Denver Phelps reads the names of the Past Masters in attendance.

Brother Denver Phelps announced the names of our Past Masters while our current Master, Tim Nichols, passed out roses to their wives.  I gave a short talk about the history of the lodge, and American history since the lodge was founded.  Bro. Greg Knott managed to record the whole thing and put it on YouTube.  I thought he was kidding.  I wish I'd practiced more now.

General George Washington (portrayed by Bob Blacketeer)

General Washington and his slackey Sean McBride

Of course, the only thing anyone is going to remember about the event was the surprise visit from Bro. George Washington.  He gave a riveting account of his life, the Revolutionary War, and his Masonic affliation. It was a memorable talk punctuated by the presentation of the American flag--according to legend, General Washington presented the first flag to a Masonic Lodge, and to this day, you'll find one in every Masonic Lodge in the United States, and every meeting begins with the pledge. 

Good time was had by all.