Ronald Reagan: Freemason Or Not?

"Going to college offered me the chance to play
football for four more years."

~Ronald Reagan

Over Ronald Reagan's long career as both an actor and a politician, he had been involved with events and charitable causes supported by Freemasonry and the Shriners.  He is often listed as a Freemason, or a member of the Shrine.  Now Freemasons thought a great deal of Ronald Reagan without question, but President Reagan was never a Freemason himself.

Now here's where people get confused.  On February 11, 1988, the Grand Master of Washington, D.C. presented President Reagan with a "Certificate of Honor" which said that President Reagan's life was a testament to his firm belief in brotherly love, relief, and truth, and his service to the public has broadened the applications of temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice to the benefit of all mankind. But the certificate was given to Reagan to acknowledge his life's work--he was not made a Mason by the Grand Master of Washington, D.C.

Freemasons present Reagan with certificate in Oval Office in 1988
 A little later, both the Scottish Rite and Shriners followed suit and honored Reagan for his contributions.  The two Scottish Rite Grand Commanders (Northern Jurisdiction and Southern Jurisdiction) jointly gave President Reagan a Scottish Rite Certificate, and the Imperial Potentate gave him a Shrine certificate giving him "honorary membership" in both organizations--but again, he was not made a Mason.

Great American?  Yes.  Freemason?  Unfortunately, no.


Tilley Hats: Something Even I Can't Tear Up

Before and After--I've aged more than the Tilley has . . .

Some months ago I bought a new hat for summer--I bought a Tilley Endurables TH4. I bought it on the recommendation of my friend and Brother Master Mason, Terry Tillis (a true "hat guy"). He didn't recommend the hat I finally selected, he just recommended the hat company. I wrote about it at the time here

There was a lot to like about that hat as soon as I took it out of the box. It had a really nice wide brim (and for us guys with big noses, that's always a plus). Another thing I like right out of the box was the angle of the brim in back. It's one of the few brimmed hats I own that I can drive in comfortably--I'm not always knocking it off with the head rest. And while it looked heavy and stiff at first, the hemp fabric was actually very light and extremely comfortable the first time I wore it--and the more I've worn it and washed it, the softer it's gotten. There was no "breaking-in" period like with most hats.

Idiot swimming in the Tilley hat? That me!
 So early on, I knew I was going to like this hat. But there was part of that story I wasn't completely buying--the idea that this hat I'd purchased was virtually indestructible. There was even a story that one had been digested by an elephant (twice!) and had been recovered. I'd have to admit, I took that as a challenge. I was looking forward to sending that hat back to Tilley in a very short number of months for a replacement (they have a lifetime guarantee). So that's what I set out at the beginning of the summer to do--to destroy that hat as quickly as possible.

Me and the Tilley at Festival #3
I've put that poor hat through hell over the last few months. I've fished wearing it. I've done yard work wearing it. It's been on my head when I've gone swimming in the family pond--I even wore it into a swimming pool (there was a little alcohol involved that time). Oh yeah, that reminds me, it's beer proof also--I believe I'm the first one to mention that as a selling point. That hat has even survived a half dozen fall festivals, long walks, windy days, and a brief exposure to a campfire (I should have been wearing the chin strap that breezy afternoon). It's also been harshly washed a number of times. It's been exposed to a lot: dirt, mud, sweat, pond water, wood smoke, ash, grass clippings, worm guts, chicken blood, chlorine, stink bait, gasoline, BBQ sauce. You name it. I even got white spray paint mist all over it, and had to use hot water, dish detergent, and a stiff brush to get it off. I've indeed been unnecessarily cruel to that hat, and I feel bad for what I've done. 

Can you guess, in the end, who finally won that contest? The Tilley hat did.

Despite the horrible treatment I've given it, it looks nearly as good as it did when I took it out of the box--but it's even better now. Every time I've washed it, it gets softer and even more comfortable. It's been years since anyone had to remind me to remove my hat, but this one has gotten so comfortable I forget I'm wearing it. I don't think I've ever owned a hat I enjoy wearing more--whether I'm mowing the yard or going to the grocery store. I don't think I've worn a baseball cap all summer. In the beginning I wore it with the purpose of tearing it apart, but it wasn't long before I was wearing it because it's comfortable, and I love it! What a great hat!

He's not as handsome as me,
but it gives you an idea...
But the Tilley TH4 has one drawback. It is a little casual for wearing to work in an office, and probably isn't the best choice for winter--so guess what I did today? Yeah, I'm sold. I ordered another one. The Tilley winter hat--toasty warm for winter and stylish enough for work. I'm going to try to be kinder to this hat. It's predecessor pretty much proved the Tilley reputation for endurance is well-earned. Sure, they're a little more of an investment than a baseball cap, but it very well might be the last hat you ever have to buy.

So check out the Tilley website--they offer an amazing range of styles and fabrics. It's good to know in a world that can't seem to make a pair of jeans that can survive a year of wear that there still exists at least one thing that is made to last.


Great Read: Killing Lincoln

This is a great read whether you enjoy history or not.  In Killing Lincoln, Bill O'Reilly has reconstructed the last two weeks of Lincoln's life.  It reads much like fiction, and in fact, much like good fiction it's difficult to put down.  We see the world of 1865 from several perspectives--Abraham Lincoln's, John Wilkes Booth's, Ulysses S. Grant's, Robert E. Lee's.  It was an interesting way to put it together, and it was very well done.  But I will tell you, it was difficult to read at times, because we all know how it ends--with the tragic death of one of America's greatest Presidents.

Now there isn't much new here for the history aficionado, but for the armchair history buff, there is no question you'll learn a thing or two as you're enjoying this story.  I wish more books were written like this one--history needs a vehicle in which to get out of the college classroom and into the mainstream again.  It's shocking how little the average American knows today about their history. 

But if you read this, at least you'll know a little something about Abraham Lincoln, and the final days of the American Civil War.


Bill O'Reilly is arguably the best known, most written about, and most discussed news personality on television. "The O'Reilly Factor" on the Fox News Channel is certainly the most watched by a wide margin, and is seen in more than thirty countries.  He's also the best-selling author of several books.


Trivia: A Few More Fun Facts About Famous Freemasons

Everyone seemed to enjoy the last trivia post, so here's a few more fun facts about famous Freemasons.

Burl Ives
-Burl Ives was once jailed in Utah for vagrancy, and for singing a lewd song while entertaining a group on a public street with his banjo.  He later recorded the song "Foggy Foggy Dew" and it became one of his most popular songs. 

Douglas MacArthur
-Douglas MacArthur's mother was known to be somewhat overprotective of him.  When he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1898, his mother accompanied him.  She stayed in a hotel so close to her son that she could check on him with her telescope to make sure he was studying in his room as he should be.

Roy Rogers
-During the depression, Roy Rogers (then Leonard Slyes) and his father found themselves among the economic refugees who traveled from job to job, picking fruit and living in worker campsites--some of the the same campsites John Steinbeck described in his famous novel The Grapes of Wrath.

Harry Houdini
-As a boy, Harry Houdini had a natural aptitude for locks.  He used to unlock and relock all the cabinets in his family's home with a buttonhook.  In fact, he was later somewhat notorious as the little boy who had unlocked all doors of the shops in his hometown one evening.

Colonel Harlan Sanders
-Before he became famous for his eleven herbs and spices, Colonel Sanders had worked as a soldier, a streetcar conductor, a lawyer, and a gas station owner.  He learned to cook at a young age out of necessity.  He took care of his brothers and sisters while his mother worked in a canning factory.

If you enjoyed these, there are a few more here.  And of course these and many more stories and interesting facts about famous Freemasons can be found in my Famous American Freemasons series.


Walt Disney: Freemason Or Not?

"You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you."

~Walt Disney

He was a great man, a great animator, he loved children, and he had an imagination that knew few limits.  He often been cited as a Freemason, in fact, often he's listed as a 33rd Degree.  I've read a lot about Walt Disney, and he was widely admired and respected.  He's many things to many people, but one thing he was not, was a Freemason.

Now part of what may have cause the confusion is that during the 1950s, Disneyland sponsored various clubs for its employees, including a knitting club, a shooting club, a skiing club, bowling and softball teams.  There was also a Masonic club at Disney, presumably for the employees who were Freemasons.

However, even though Disney wasn't a Freemason, he did belong to Demolay as a boy, which is a fraternal organization sponsored by Masonry.  While many Demolay do go on to become Freemasons, Walt Disney never joined a Masonic Lodge.  Walt Disney was kind of a big deal in Demolay--he was only the 107th member to join the organization, and a member of the Mother Chapter.  He was later inducted into Demolay's Legion of Honor, and the Hall of Fame.  He was very fond of the Demolay organization, and spoke out favorably about it often.  In fact, he made his creation, Mickey Mouse, a member of Demolay!

Without a doubt, Walt Disney's contributions has changed the world in many wonderful ways.  He's brought happiness, wonder, and imagination to millions throughout the world.  He was never afraid to push the boundaries, to try something new, and to find new ways to entertain his guests both in the theater, and in his famous park.  

It's really too bad Walt Disney wasn't a Freemason--I'd have loved to profile him in one of my books. 


Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754.  He is a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR) and a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282.  You can contact him at:

Rolling Rock Beer: Elixir Of Illustrious Freemasons?

There has always been speculation that there is some connection between Latrobe's Rolling Rock Beer and the Freemasons--I mean, it's obvious, there's a '33' right on the bottle!  And the 33rd degree is the highest degree that can be attained by Freemasons.  Is it possible the Latrobe's were Freemasons?

It's one of those great beer controversies--where did the '33' come from?  Everyone seems to have a theory, and nobody has the definitive answer. 

And there are many theories:

-One common theory is that it was to celebrate the repeal of prohibition in 1933.  That was an important year for brewers and beer drinkers alike!

-Another legend is that the Rolling Rock brewery was started with money won at the horse track. The winning bet was placed on #33, "Old Latrobe," and that is why there is a horse and the '33' on the bottle.

-Another has it that brewers in those early days belonged to the local union #33.

-Another claims the reservoir the brewery got its water from was fed by 33 streams.

And the theories go on and on and on . . .

Sadly, the most likely version is the least exciting.  It may have simply been a printers mistake in the beginning.  This version of the story comes from a very reliable source--the former CEO of the company.  He was also very interested in where that '33' had come from--his name was James Tito.  What he discovered is actually very simple.

The slogan on the back of the bottle read originally:
"Rolling Rock – From the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe, we tender this premium beer for your enjoyment as a tribute to your good taste. It comes from the mountain springs to you."
That's 33 words.  There were a number of different versions of those slogan in the beginning, but the Latrobe family finally settled on the shortest one--the one that ran only 33 words.  Somebody noted that in the margin, and when it went to the printers, the printers didn't realize that the 33 wasn't part of the text and included it. The mistake wasn't discovered until a large batch of bottles had been produced, and back in those days, the labels were painted right onto the bottles, and those bottles were reused, which explains why the mistake wasn't immediately corrected

And just maybe it wasn't corrected later because of the stir it had created when those bottles reached the public.  Everyone talking about and debating what that '33' meant and speculating about where it had come from.  Perhaps Latrobe saw that controversy as a good thing.  Here it is more than seventy years later, and people are still talking about it.  I guess you'd call that 'beer buzz'.

So it's unlikely Rolling Rock has anything to do with the Freemasons. Not to propagate a myth, but I can tell you, I do have it on good authority that at least one 33rd Degree Mason approves of the product. It's not his favorite by any means, but he finds it crisp and refreshing with a easy-to-drink flavor.


Odd History Trivia: Stonewall Jackson's Arm

"Duty is ours; consequences are God's."

~Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson

Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson (1824-1863) lost his arm in a battle at Chancellorsville, when Jackson and his staff were returning to camp and were mistaken for a Union Calvary division.  Jackson's chaplain, conducted a funeral for his arm, with full military honors, and buried it where it remains today.  But Jackson's wound ultimately proved fatal, and he died several days later and was buried in Lexington, Virginia--more than a hundred miles from his arm.

As one of the most successful and popular Confederate generals, his death was a serious setback for the Confederacy, not only from the standpoint of its military ability, but it also deeply affected the morale of the Rebel Army and supporters of the southern cause. 

It is likely Stonewall Jackson was a Freemason based on correspondence, actions and eyewitness reports.  It has long been speculated that he may have been a member of a traveling military Lodge, but no records exist to confirm the fact. It's unlikley we'll ever know for sure.


Thomas Jefferson: Freemason or Not?

"I believe that every human mind feels pleasure in doing good to another."

~Thomas Jefferson

The question of whether or not Thomas Jefferson was a Mason has been argued for two hundred years. Most Masonic scholars take the position that he was not a Mason because there is no contemporary evidence that he ever belonged to a lodge of Freemasons. Most of the claims of his membership are based on his close associations with so many other Masons: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Paul Jones, James Monroe, Lewis Meriwether, William Clark, and Voltaire.

However, there is some evidence that indicates he may have been a Mason and that he attended Masonic meetings. Dr. Joseph Guillotin reported that he attended meetings at the prestigious Lodge of Nine Muses in Paris, France—the same lodge attended by Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, and John Paul Jones. He marched in a Masonic procession with Widow’s Son Lodge No. 60 and Charlottesville Lodge No. 90 on October 6, 1817, and participated in laying the cornerstone for Central College (now known as the University of Virginia.) In 1801, twenty-five years prior to his death, a lodge was chartered in Surry Court House, Virginia—it was named Jefferson Lodge No. 65. And most notably, upon his death on July 4, 1826, both the Grand Lodge of South Carolina and the Grand Lodge of Louisiana held Masonic funeral rites and processions for him.

I've had the opportunity over the last few years to ask a few well-respected Masonic scholars about Thomas Jefferson, and every time, they fall back on that same line "there is no contemporary evidence that Thomas Jefferson was a Mason."  But at least one I spoke to, when I asked him what he thought, admitted he believed Thomas Jefferson was a Mason.

I caught some flack for it, and I knew I would, but I decided to include him in my second book Famous American Freemasons: Volume II because my books are not just about famous Freemasons; they are also about the larger story of American history. And no story of America would be complete without including the contributions of Thomas Jefferson.

If he wasn’t a Mason, he clearly possessed all the prerequisites for membership, and his beliefs, his philosophies, and his great skill in architecture were certainly indicative of Masonic affiliation.  But he took the answer to that question to his grave--a big obelisk he designed himself.  Odd, huh? 

Was he a Mason, or not? I’ll leave the question for you to decide.


Freemason Wisdom: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

“[T]o talk well and eloquently is a very great art, but that an equally great one is to know the right moment to stop.”

~Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Zur Wohltätigkeit Lodge, Vienna

Haven't we all had that experience?  That realization that we should have stopped talking two or three sentences sooner, and now we've put our foot in our mouth.  Haven't we all have that sensation that perhaps we dominated a conversation instead of listening to other ideas?  Have you ever been so busy thinking about some point you want to jump in and make next, you don't hear what the person who is currently speaking is saying? 

Today, instead of focusing on what you can contribute by speaking, focus on what you can learn by listening.  Just try it.  It might just surprise you the things you'll hear today for the first time if you just give somebody else the chance to contribute, and actually hear what they are saying.


You'll find more of Todd E. Creason's favorite quotes in A Freemason Said That?  Great Quotes of Famous Freemasons

Abraham Lincoln: Freemason Or Not?

It is often said (incorrectly) that Abraham Lincoln was a Freemason.  The records are very clear--Lincoln was not a Freemason.

Now don't get the idea that it wasn't Abraham Lincoln's intention to be a Freemason--because it was.  He applied for membership in Tyrian Lodge, in Springfield, Illinois, shortly after his nomination for the presidency in 1860.  However, he withdrew his petition because he didn't want his motives for joining to be misconstrued as an attempt to garner favor in order to obtain votes. He advised the lodge that he would resubmit his application again when he returned from the presidency.  It was a decision that gained him a great deal of respect from the members of Tyrian Lodge. 

As we know, he never had a chance to fulfill that promise to join Tyrian Lodge in Springfield--he was assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865.

On the death of the president, Tyrian Lodge adopted a resolution that said "that the decision of President Lincoln to postpone his application for the honours of Freemasonry, lest his motives be misconstrued, is the highest degree honourable to his memory."

Tyrian Lodge still exists today, and those original documents are still around.  Most Freemasons agree that Abraham Lincoln would have made a good Freemason, as he demonstrated throughout his life those principles and ideals that the fraternity holds in such high regards.

So now you know.


Todd E. Creason is the author of Famous American Freemasons: Volumes I & II where you'll find many other great stories about famous Freemasons.

Trivia: A Few Fun Facts About Famous Freemasons

Here's a few interesting facts you may not know about famous Freemasons: 

General George Washington
-Although George Washington seemed reluctant to accept the commission as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, he had done very little to try and stop the nomination, and had taken to wearing his buff and blue military uniform every day when the Second Continental Congress met.

John Philips Sousa
-As a boy, John Philips Sousa accompanied his father to Gettysburg with the Marine Marching Band, where he witnessed Abraham Lincoln give his famous speech. He would later grow up to conduct that same band, and would spend his life writing patriotic marches.

Roy Rogers & Trigger
-Roy Roger's famous horse Trigger had a job even before he met Roy.  He was horse ridden by Olivia de Haviland in the Errol Flynn classic film Robin Hood.  Back then, Trigger's name was "Golden Cloud."

Harry S Truman
-Harry S Truman cheated on his eye exam in order to qualify for military service. He once joked that his weak eyesight had always been a problem, in fact, he was unable to play baseball as a boy until his teammates found him a job he could do that didn't require good vision--umpire.

John Wayne
-John Wayne's nickname "Duke" came from his boyhood when he used to run around around town with the family dog--a giant Airedale.  The local firemen used to call the two "Big Duke" (the dog) and "Little Duke" (the boy).

Now wasn't that interesting?


If you enjoyed these, many more little known facts about famous Freemasons can be found in Famous American Freemasons: Volumes I & II

Booksigning Event: Danville (IL) Public Library October 15, 2011

Jane S. Creason

On Saturday, October 15th, 2011 between 2 PM - 4PM, I'll being doing a very unique booksigning event at the Danville (IL) Public Library.  I'll be there with my mother, who is also a published writer.  She's published two books now--When the War Came to Hannah and The Heron Stayed.  Actually, I come from a long line of writers, which is the theme of the book event at the library--the event is called A Family of Writers

Dr. Edwin "Mac" Swengel
My Grandma Betty was the first to publish in the family in 1982.  She was a poet, and published a collection called To Mount a Wind.  Unfortunately, that one is out of print now. It took twenty-five years, but I was next in line with Famous American Freemasons: Volume I (2007) & Famous American Freemasons: Volume II (2009).  Not to be outdone by his grandson, Grandpa Mac published a novel he'd written years earlier in 2010 called The Plainston Chronicles in two volumes. 

Elizabeth "Betsy" Swengel
Then mom published two books she'd been working on for years this spring (2011).  Of course these books are family projects--mom has edited all my books (along with my Aunt Marcia at times).  And my dad often chips in too--he finds these old books about famous Freemasons for my research.  Then I help mom on the technical side--designing fliers, picking book cover concepts, etc.  Of course my wife Valerie gets involved too--she actually designed the cover of A Freemason Said That?

Sadly both of my grandparents are gone now, but we'll have their books at the library.  Should be a fun day.  And Grandpa Mac still has another unpublished book, which should be out at some point in the near future.  Now that's a really neat trick--to continue to publish books posthumously.  We're kind of competitive in this family, and not to be outdone by my grandfather, I'm going to try and publish two books after I go.

If you're in the Danville (IL) area Saturday, drop in.


Whence Came You? Podcast - Episode 14

Lastest podcast from Whence Came You? posted earlier this week.

Whence Came You?: Whence Came You? - Episode 14: This week we discuss the church VS the lodge, we have a paper from Illinois Knight Templar Magazine entitled "The Search for the Grail and ...


Freemason Wisdom: Voltaire On Living Well

"God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well."

Lodge of Nine Sisters, Paris, France

We all possess the ability to live well. The problem is, so many people really don't know what they want, don't appreciate the things they have, and look to others to fulfill their needs. If you're looking for happiness and contentment through another person, or from external sources, you'll only know disappointment. Being content comes from within. Living well isn't about money, mansions, or expensive cars--look no further than Hollywood to see examples of that. It starts with who you are as a person.


Excerpted from A Freemason Said That? Great Quotes of Famous Freemasons edited by Todd E. Creason (2009)

This Day In History: Before Treachery, There Was Valor

General Benedict Arnold
On this day in 1776, during the American Revolution, a British fleet engaged and after considerable effort finally defeated fiftteen American gunboats under the command of Brigadier General Benedict Arnold at the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain, New York. Although nearly all of Arnold's ship were destroyed, it took the British more than two days to subdue Arnold's naval force.  The delay of the British gleet gave the Patriot ground forces adequate time to prepare a crucial defense of New York.  General Arnold was willing to make that sacrifice in order to buy that time the defense forces needed to protect New York.

It was four years later, when Benedict Arnold, as commander of West Point, agreed to surrender West Point to the British for $20,000. The plot was discovered after British spy John André was captured, forcing Arnold to flee to British protection, where he joined in their fight against the country that he once so valiantly served. No one understands all the reasons that lead this once valiant solider and trusted General under George Washingon to such a shameless act of treachery, but his name has since become synonymous with the word "traitor" in America.

He paid for his crime for the rest of his life--never able to return to the United States, the country he had once loved.  And he was never accepted or trusted by the British. He died in London in 1801.


Joint Booksigning: Our Grand Lodge of Illinois

Grand Master Richard Swaney finished his term as Grand Master of Illinois over the weekend. I'd like to thank him on behalf of myself and fellow author Brian "Rooster" Cox for the opportunity of having a booth at Grand Lodge this year.  We had a blast, and it was a great opportunity for us to showcase our work, and talk to a lot of Masons about our books, about writing, and about publishing.  There are a lot of would-be authors out there, and I'm sure after this weekend, I'll be reading a few manuscripts over the next couple months. Ever since I published my first book in 2007, Our Grand Lodge of Illinois has been nothing but supportive of my books, and Grand Master Swaney in particular--in fact, if it weren't for them, and the appendant bodies of Freemasonry, I doubt anyone today would even know I wrote a book at all.  And that same consideration has been extended to Brian Cox, whose excellent novel Seven Knights was published earlier this year.  I have no doubt we'll see Brian's book one day on the big screen. That's the wonderful thing about Freemasonry--it doesn't matter what you want to do or what you're good at, they'll find a way for you to use it, and you are going to find all the help you'll ever need in doing it.  Thank you!
We had a lot of help today. I'll bet when Kevin Wurster
sees this picture, he wishes he'd taken two steps back

We did have fun.  It was said our corner table in the foyer was the noisiest one there--in the entire 172 year history of the Illinois Grand Lodge.  And I have to believe that--there were a couple guys there who were in attendance at that first meeting. Our booth served not only as the writer's area, but also as a daycare center, a place you could leave a hat or apron case, and a gathering place for some of Illinois' most entertaining members (at least they thought so).  I'd like to thank Judy Gordon in particular for bringing over so many people for Rooster and I to meet. And William J. Hussey for taking on the role of carnival barker for our booth.  I do want to make it very clear he is not a paid employee or representive of either author, and regardless of his repeated claims, the cup Rooster's business cards were in wasn't actually the silver chalice of Richard the Lion Hearted and the pen we were signing books with didn't actually belong to Mark Twain.  Thanks to an unfortunate misspelling on the sign marking our booth Friday morning, we repeatedly heard his booming voice announce throughout the foyer "come over here and meet my favorite arthurs!"  He worked cheap though.  He worked both days for a bag of peanut M&M's (well, half a bag. I found them in the men's room).  But he did such a good job, we tipped him. We gave him a pen that once belonged to Mark Twain, but only after he carried all the books to the car, paid our parking, picked up and paid for our sandwiches, and drove the cars around to the door. 

Unfortunately, a few Masonic secrets were inadvertently revealed.  I hope I don't get into trouble for this. If you look at the photograph carefully you'll see something few Freemasons have ever seen--in fact it's been an object of myth and legend.  You've probably seen shows about it on History Channel or Discovery. That's right, clutched tightly in his hand, is the wallet of Sean McBride.  He was a little annoyed when he had to pay cash for our books--we don't accept Royal Arch chapter pennies as currency. As you can see, the appearance of such a mythic relic cause quite a stir with some of the most senior members of our fraternity. Truly a remarkable moment captured on film.

Like fathers, like daughters . . . the next generation of writers?
It was also really fun for Brian and I when our wives and the kids joined us this afternoon for the last couple hours.  The girls had their own coloring station (prime real estate across from the York Rite).  The girls had a great time sitting at their own table.  It was a very fun weekend for all of us.  Thanks again to Our Grand Lodge of Illinois and Past Grand Master Richard Swaney for setting this up for us.


Freemason Podcast: Whence Came You

Well here's a first for me--one of my blog articles Freemasons and Beer was featured on the Freemasonry podcast Whence Came You in Episode 13. A podcast, in case you don't know, is an independent radio program you can listen to online or download to your iPod, PDA, smartphone, etc., and this particular podcast is produced and hosted by Bro. Robert Johnson.   

Bro. Johnson has stumbled on a formula in his podcast that works very well, and they are fun to listen to. I've listened to several of them today. He'll talk a bit about an item of interest to Freemasons (in one I listened to, he discussed some of the appendant bodies of Freemasonry), then he'll read an interesting article or paper he's run across, and more often than not, he'll also feature a discussion about a famous Freemason (which as you can imagine, is the part I most enjoy). It looks like he adds a new podcast every week or ten days. 

So check it out.  He's got an application on his blog page where you can listen to the podcasts without having to downloading them.  I think you'll enjoy it. I've got Whence Came You bookmarked as a favorite now, and I'm sure I'll be checking it out on a regular basis from now on. 


In Thirty Seconds: What Is Freemasonry?

I wrote a piece a few weeks ago about some advice a friend of mine gave me—to always have that thirty second elevator conversation every Freemason should have ready in the event someone asks us that difficult question. I’ve never been very successful at doing that, which is why I write books instead of greeting cards. But I’ve been thinking about it. And every once in a while, I stumble on a theme that I think should be included in that short description of what Freemasonry is.

I write a monthly newsletter (that isn’t always monthly) for my lodge called The Master’s Gavel. In every edition, I ask somebody in the lodge to write the opening piece, and I ask them to write something that means something to them about the fraternity. In the last newsletter, our new Master shared his thoughts. He joined Ogden Lodge shortly after I did, and in the years since he joined, he’s gone through some adversity in his life, and he’s not only reinvented himself, but he’s rebuilt a life that is better than the one he had before. He wrote about that. He said:

“I’ve gone through my share of difficult times since I’ve joined, but after a few hours with the members of this lodge, I always leave our meetings and events feeling inspired. No matter how I’m feeling when I arrive, I always leave feeling better—filled with a desire to become a better man.”

We make a lot of friends. Freemasonry is unique because it removes all the things that usually divide us, and leaves us to work with just those things we all share in common—our values. Freemasonry is a collection of men from all walks of life, and once those barriers are gone, Freemasons find friends, and mentors, in men they would have never had the opportunity to meet or know in their everyday lives. Much of the inspiration doesn’t necessarily come from the ancient rituals we use to open and close our lodges, or the ceremonies of initiating new members—it comes from the friendships we make during our journey afterwards, sharing with and learning from each other. We learn a lot from each other. And for many Freemasons, the thing we value the most are the friends and brothers we’ve made along the way—that’s the thing we enjoy the most, and the source of much of the inspiration our Master spoke about in his opening piece. True brotherhood.



Fun For The Whole Family: Ansar Shrine Circus!

Mark your calendars--the Ansar Shrine Circus is coming right up.  It's November 11th, 12th, and 13th at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, Illinois.  There are six performances:

Friday November 11th--  7 PM
Saturday November 12th-- 11 AM, 3 PM, and 7:30 PM
Sunday November 13th--  11:30 AM and 3:30 PM

You can get tickets from any Ansar Shrine member, or by contacting the Prairie Capital Convention Center box office.  You can also pay online by credit card through Ticketmaster

We've never been before, so we're looking forward to it--I haven't been to the circus since I was a kid.  We hope to see you there!