One of the greatest honors a Mason can receive is to be elected Worshipful Master of their Blue Lodge (Craft Lodge, Symbolic Lodge, etc.) It's called by several names but basically, you're the chief-smoke in the lodge where you live. And of course, the Master of the lodge is the only guy in the lodge that wears a hat. My four-year-old asked me after my installation why I wore a hat. I told her "because I sit in the East, and the sun gets in my eyes."
Masters give some thought to the hat they wear. Some go traditional and wear a top hat, while others wear a more western hat or go with a nice fedora. Some get the priviledge of wearing a hat belonging to a previous Master. Some wear a hat belonging to their father or grandfather. But there's not question about it. Masons like hats. No, that's not completely accurate--Masons LOVE hats!
Hats and Freemasonry have gone together from the very beginning, and it seems like every appendant body has its own hat tradition. You've got the traditional chapeau worn by members of the Knights Templar.
The Scottish Rite wear hats too--caps in a variety of colors each indicating a different thing. The coveted white cap representing the fraternity's highest honor--the 33rd Degree.
Of all the Masonic hats and caps, the Shriner Fez is probably the most famous. You can't really call it a parade if the Shriners aren't there. They are the most visible of all the Freemason appendant bodies, and their philanthropic work in the Shriner's Hospitals the most well known.
Of course, there are other hats too. I got to wear a Roman helmet once. I liked that part in the degree, but I only took it because I got to wear the helmet.
|WB Raymond Van Buskirk|
(1916 - 2010)
My hat is pretty ordinary, but it's also very special. It's a very old hat, a black stingy brim fedora, that belonged to a very old man named Raymond Van Buskirk. In 1949, he was Master of Ogden Lodge. Raymond was my neighbor since I was a little kid, and like a grandfather to me. He signed both my petition for Ogden Lodge, and my petition when I joined the Scottish Rite. He gave me his hat to wear at my installation. He passed away in December, and his daughters told me to keep the hat. Since December, I've worn it every meeting, and will continue to do so until I leave the East in a couple months. Then I'll put it up in my closet, as he did, and perhaps one day a grandson or nephew can wear it in the East as I did.
Now as a Mason, you may live to be a very old man, but as you can see from the picture, even an old Past Master like Raymond, sixty years out of the East, never got over his love of goofy hats--it's part of our Masonic DNA. That hat can only be described one way--that is a humdinger. And this is the same man that once said to me, "did you buy that hat, or did you lose a bet?"
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