Forrest Adair: I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles

by Midnight Freemasons Guest Contributor
Steve Harrison, PM, FMLR

How a fun-loving group undertook a very serious mission . . .

Past Potentate Forrest Adair
Forrest Adair,  Past Potentate of Yaarab Temple, Atlanta, was an attendee at the June, 1920, Imperial Session in Portland, Oregon, which was considering the establishment of a Shrine Hospital for Children.  Delegates had suggested funding the hospital with a $2 assessment to each member, but support for the project was unenthusiastic.  Brother Adair was somewhat resigned to the fact that the delegates would scrub the proposal. 

Early on the morning of the vote, however, a minstrel, possibly inebriated, stood beneath his hotel room window playing "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" on his horn.  The song, about wasting time with frivolity, woke Adair and its meaning stuck with him.  He related it to the activities of the Shrine which, although it had its various charities at the time, was more about having fun. 

That afternoon at the session, as the delegates wrangled and the idea of a hospital seemed lost, Brother Adair arose and spoke passionately about his experience early that morning, “I am reminded of that wandering minstrel, and I wonder if there is not a deep significance for the Shriners in the tune that he was playing, ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.’  While we have spent money for songs and spent money for bands, it’s time for the Shrine to spend money for humanity. I want to see this thing started. Let’s get rid of all the technical objections. And if there is a Shriner in North America who objects to having paid the two dollars after he has seen the first crippled child helped, I will give him a check back for it myself.”   

After Adair's speech, not only did the resolution pass unanimously but it also spawned a committee whose research indicated the Shrine should build not one, but a nationwide network of Hospitals.


W.B. Steve Harrison is a Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri.  He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason Magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Junior Warden.

The Craftman's Journey: Part XV

by Midnight Freemasons contributor
Michael H. Shirley

Joe came back from Uncle Pen Days with the Master Mason Mandolin intact, having put it in the hands of many very fine pickers, including Danny Roberts, who said, “you’ve figured out the two hardest things.” Joe was so struck by that compliment that he still isn’t sure what those things are. He’d found the festival crawling with Masons, one of whom took the time to drive him around in a golf cart and introduce him to Brothers he hadn’t met in all his years spent at the festival grounds. And he played that mandolin a lot. He got home, polished it, and brought it over to my house. “Here,” he said. “I figure I’d better give this to you before I get too attached to it. I think I’ll make another one for myself, now that I know what I’m doing. Maybe make it better. But this one’s pretty good.” I took it from him and he went back to his shop.

I’d been watching the Master Mason Mandolin being built for months now, seeing and hearing about everything that Joe learned as he slowly brought it into being. I’d been imagining how it might play once it was done and he had it set up to his satisfaction. And I’d been worried that it might not live up to my hopes. So I was excited and nervous when I got out a pick and began to play. It was more than I’d hoped for. It was beautiful to look at, certainly, but the tone, the action, the sound were better than anything I’d ever heard in person. I could only hope that my playing would someday match it. And as I sat there trying to remember how to play “Fisher’s Hornpipe,” I thought back to how this had begun. One man, my Brother, decided to achieve something he’d long dreamed of, and through determination, mistakes, and talent he’d done it. What mattered was not the mandolin I held, but the journey it represented. Operative Freemasonry began in lodges where men were concerned with achieving mastery over their craft. Speculative Freemasonry is concerned with teaching men how to achieve mastery over themselves. But every now and then, a Brother like Joe Hardwick will reach back to tap into the spirit of our ancient Brethren and show what craft mastery is. And like the ancient Masters, Joe understands that he has learned enough to start learning. So mote it be for all of us.

This is the fifteenth and FINAL installment of Michael H. Shirley's Mandolin Series.  


R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley is the Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master for the Eastern Area for the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F. & A.M.  He is the Past Master of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and Leadership Development Chairman for the Grand Lodge of Illinois. He's also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. He's also a member of the newly-chartered, Illini High Twelve No. 768 in Urbana-Champaign. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.

The New Valley of Chicago Scottish Rite Temple

by Midnight Freemasons contributor
Sir Knight Robert Johnson

Main Hall at the Valley of Chicago Temple
About a month ago, my home lodge, Waukegan 78 of Waukegan, Illinois got an invite to visit the new Scottish Rite building in Bloomingdale, Illinois for a tour and a “thank you” dinner for being a lodge in the early days and helping build the Rite in the Chicago-Land area. Back then there were actually two Valley of Chicago Scottish Rite bodies—one eventually giving out to the other and merging I believe.  Anyway, we chartered a bus and about 25 of us went down to see this new building. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Brother Paul Scheeler, the membership chairman. He gave us some history, some good stories and a tour that I would not soon forget. I had up to this point, been involved with the Royal Arch, Cryptic Council the Commandery, and of course the Blue Lodge, where I am now a Senior Deacon and in November a Junior Warden.

I had taken my time to check this out, meaning the Scottish Rite. In fact most recently I had a small exchange of emails from Brother Todd Creason, about how his whole “33rd thing” went. He of course couldn’t tell me much, but he had me intrigued. I decided that I would wait until this tour before I decided one way or the other. That night, after seeing the private library and the museum, I stopped my friend and companion Brother Frank for a petition, he too was recently honored with receiving his 33rd--he's the 4th or 5th from my lodge to receive that honor if you can believe that.

The Tour
I have to say, the extreme craftsmanship to which everything had been put into place was amazing. The sconces and chandeliers all had the double headed eagle, embossed and in gold. It was incredible. Items around the lodge had even been salvaged from the previous building including this chair on the right which cost about five-thousand to restore. It’s a strange piece too, in fact the cushioning is made from horsehair.

The huge blue lodge room at Valley of Chicago Temple
The Lodge Room
The lodge room was huge! The floor had a very nice wood checkered pavement which gave off the high gloss of a basketball court. The lighting was perfect and all with the most state of the art electronics in lighting and sound, including a monitoring system so one can watch the proceedings in any room of the building, including the billiards room, green room, or any other room for that matter. The is even some history behind the masters chair, being used in Illinois public office.

At first I asked a few of the brothers who were with me, how they managed to get this building built, I was use to some of the struggling lodges in the area and around the country which have next to nothing in the bank for operational costs. Brother Paul Scheeler opened my eyes to a rather elementary reason to which I had not even thought of.

Waukegan group at new Chicago Scottish Rite Temple
The Valley of Chicago is the only Scottish Rite facility in the area, so of course they have anyone in the area who wants to be affiliated join there Chapter or Valley. It became obvious then why and how they accomplished this most breathtaking of buildings. However I am told that there are many other Scottish Rite buildings that are also magnificent, including some amazing ones down south. This was my first visit so I was awestruck.  The museum was home to many artifacts that were acquired by brother Paul Scheeler himself. He is a self described protector of treasures.

Treasures like this large portrait you see to the right, which is 3 scenes from the bible which were then bordered in a tin sculpture which is also embossed through out.  Above it is a fire wall which will drop down to protect it from fire or water. 

The Theatre
The theatre was also quite amazing. It can seat a few hundred and whats more was the huge production/back stage area. It was home to backdrops that were completely three-dimensional,  so much so in fact that even up close they fooled my eyes.  I can only imagine what they will look like in November for the Reunion  of which I am happy to report will be my first degrees into the Scottish Rite.

A special thanks to the VOC and to Paul Scheeler for the hospitality in making the visit so special.


Sir Knight Robert Johnson is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois. He belongs to Waukegan Lodge No. 78. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies Royal Arch, Cryptic Council and Knights Templar. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts a weekly Podcast (internet radio program) Whence Came You? which focuses on topics relating to Freemasonry. In addition, he produces video shorts focusing on driving interest in the Fraternity and writes original Masonic papers from time to time. He is a husband and father of three. He works full time in the safety industry and is also a photographer on the side as well as an avid home brewer. He is also working on two books, one is of a Masonic nature.

Andy Griffith: Freemason Or Not?

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason
(originally posted on From Labor To Refreshment)

Andy Griffith (1926 - 2012)
"Mornin' ladies, my goodness don't you look happy! 
Must be cuttin' somebody up pretty good."

~Sheriff of Mayberry, Andy Taylor

I wrote this back in July on my From Labor To Refreshment author blog when our nation lost an American icon--Andy Griffith.  I thought I'd share it here as well.

As Americans everywhere were celebrating the Fourth of July weekend in 2012, some very sad news arrived.  Andy Griffith passed away at the age of 86.  And just about everyone from the very young, to the very old knew exactly who this man was, and was saddened by the news.  He was Sheriff Andy Taylor--he was Ben Matlock.  If you were too young to remember the shows when they were first on television, you remember watching reruns of The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock (and still can just about any time day or night).  I saw an interview with Andy Griffith, and in it, he said he saw himself as a storyteller.  He certainly was. And he surrounded himself with a cast of some of the most unique actors, who portrayed some of the most interesting characters in television history to tell those stories.  There had never been prior, nor is there ever likely to be another cast quite like the one that populated the fictional town of Mayberry. It seems like everyone took a moment over the weekend to pause, and remember all the hours we've spent with him in our living rooms watching him on television, and feeling as if we knew him.

Recieving Medal of Freedom from President Bush--
still think he should have worn the grey Matlock suit
Andy said every once in awhile, he'd be out in public, and somebody behind him would recognize him and instead of bothering him, they would just start whistling the theme to the Andy Griffith Show.  And he'd turn and smile at them, and give them a wave.  Few may be surprised to hear this, but Andy Griffith was also a Grammy Award Winning musician.  He sang and played gospel music.  I'm not very familiar with his music, but music was always a part of both his life in Mayberry, and later as Ben Matlock in Atlanta.  He'd sing and play with Barney on the porch.  He played and sang with James Best (known for his later role as Rosco P. Coltraine) at the jail.  Played and sang with Denver Pyle and his hillbilly jug band.  He even sang and played with Randy Travis when he defended him on Matlock.  We know Andy mostly through the characters he portrayed during his lifetime, but I can't help but think that art imitated life when it came to Andy Griffith. 

Was he a Freemason?  Andy Griffith was one of those individuals that when I was writing my Famous American Freemasons series I checked on--along with Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, Don Knotts, Peter Falk, etc.  That was my "wish list" when I was looking for Freemasons to profile in my books. His name did appear on a few lists at the time, and I had very much hoped he would be somebody I could include in my books.  However, Andy Griffith was not a Freemason.  Although as I've said about others in the past, he certainly possessed all the prerequisites.  Freemason or not, what a great legacy he left behind, that I'm sure Americans will continue to enjoy for generations to come.

Goodbye Andy.  You will be missed. 


What was your favorite episode of The Andy Griffith Show?  Mine has to be (and I think my dad would agree) the one where the goat ate a box of dynamite . . . what's yours?

The Craftman's Journey: Part XIV

by Midnight Freemasons contributor
Michael H. Shirley

I’d been waiting for a week for the Master Mason Mandolin to get used to being strung. Work had gotten pressing, and I had put the wait mostly out of my mind, when Joe called and said, “Want to play it?” 

His house is about five minutes away, and I made it in three. As I walked in the door, he handed me what I now knew was the last mandolin I’d ever own. It looked vintage, but new, which was exactly what we both wanted. I’d had a strap custom made by Bill Bailey (really) of The Bailey Strap Company, and so I put it on and started trying to remember how to play. 

The action was perfect, the volume louder than a new mandolin has a right to, and the tone like a beautiful wooden bell. What amazed me was how playable it was. The neck was perfect, with a slight arch to the fingerboard, and the strings were perfectly spaced. It was wonderful. But it wasn’t quite mine yet. Joe had a trip to make the next day: to Uncle Pen Days, a six-day bluegrass festival at Bean Blossom, Indiana. I’d told Joe he needed to market his skills, and the best evidence he had of those skills was the mandolin I was holding. So I handed it back and said goodnight. 

The next evening he texted me: “Your mando is being played on stage right now.” It turned out that Travers Chandler, an excellent player whose band, Avery County, plays traditional bluegrass, was playing that day for James King. Joe showed him the mandolin, and Travers played it a bit. “Mind if I play it on stage?” he said. Joe didn’t mind at all, and the Master Mason Mandolin turned professional. At the end of the set, Travers said to the crowd, “This beautiful mandolin I’m playing was made by Joey Hardwick, who’s sitting right in front of me.” 

I’m not sure it gets better than that. To judge from the picture Joe took, Travers enjoyed himself. And the festival was only one day old.

This is the fourteenth installment in Michael Shirley's Mandolin Series.  To be continued... 


W.B. Michael H. Shirley is Past Master of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and Leadership Development Chairman for the Grand Lodge of Illinois. He's also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. He's also a member of the newly-chartered, Illini High Twelve No. 768 in Urbana-Champaign. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.