“I can't believe this!” Herb Johnson exclaimed. “This is going to destroy Freemasonry!” Mike Bailey smiled, “Aww come on Herb. We all know what happened the day you were raised.” The entire dinner table busted out in laughter. The color in Herb's face turned bright red as he began to wave his arms around in a wild manner. “You mark my words! When this is implemented you are going to see Masons laying on the front steps of the temple drunk as a skunk. The fraternities’ reputation will be shot!” Herb punctuated each point of his argument by pounding his fist on the table.
The usual lodge dinner that always before the stated meeting, was more animated than usual. The members discovered that a resolution was passed at the recent Grand lodge communication repealing the ban on alcohol within a Masonic temple. Masonic lodges within the state were now allowed not only to possess alcohol, but also enjoy a drink before and after a Masonic event.
“I think it's a good thing”, Brad Sloffer said as he cut a piece of meatloaf. As the manager of this building, it gets frustrating showing the building to people who want to rent the hall for a wedding reception and then tell them you can't serve alcohol at the party or even to toast the couple's future of the bride and groom. They look at you like you are from Mars and then you never see them again. I can honestly say we have lost at least a hundred thousand dollars in rental revenue in just the last few years alone by this silly rule!” Mike Bailey retorted, “We need every dime to keep this building going. The temple is falling down around our ears! Makes me wonder how many temples in the state could have been saved from being sold or from the wrecking ball if we wouldn't have had this silly rule.”
“It isn't silly!” Herb said loudly, his voice nearly shrill. “This ruling will ruin us! How many of our Brethren will get pulled over for DUI's on their way home from a meeting? I'm sure there are many members who have been alcoholics in their past. Do we really want to tempt them with alcohol? What would our Masonic forefathers think of all of this?”
The 50 year member put his fork down and snickered. “I think they would ask why it took so long to repeal this rule and then question us why this silliness began in the first place.” Herb looked at the old man dumbfounded. “John I can't believe you support this. You of all people should know what this will do to Freemasonry!”
“I know exactly what it will do for Freemasonry. It will save it.” The 50 year member continued. “If you go and read the minutes of this lodge or any other lodge that was chartered before this silly ban you will read about the fine dinners and celebrations that the lodge held. Fine foods and barrels of cider, beer and yes even hard liquor was purchased by the lodges for the enjoyment of the members. There was a real spirit of fraternity. It wasn't just cold coffee and a frozen lasagna from a big box store. Those gatherings feed the soul as well as the body.”
Herb continued, “You are missing the point John!” Are you not concerned about our members getting
sloshed and giving the Craft a bad name?” “Absolutely not! The 50 year member exclaimed. Herb you go down to the Shrine and you would see many members enjoying a beer on a regular basis. How many Shriners do you see sloppy drunk and passed out in front of the Shrine Center? None! The reason you don't see it is because the members of this fraternity are responsible people. We watch out for each other. If it looks like a brother might be drinking a bit too much you then whisper good council in his ear and find him a ride home. I find it a bit hypocritical of us to say we can drink in this Masonic building, but not the other building just because of the symbol displayed on the front door.”
The old man continued, I also find it hypocritical to say we allow only the finest men to join our exclusive group but then we tell them we do not trust them to drink an alcoholic beverage. Then we preach that we do not convert the purpose of refreshment into intemperance or excess. We say one thing then we practice another. How can we be taken seriously if we speak out of both sides of our mouths?
We are a fraternity that began above taverns. Our Brethren would come to lodge, enjoy a drink or two and then open lodge. When the business was over, they would enjoy a drink and have a large festive board complete with toasts. Do you think George Washington lifted his glass in a toast filled with grape juice? Of course not! It was a glass filled with a fine wine. I doubt if excessive drinking was even considered by these men. They were gentlemen of refinement and knew how to conduct themselves.
The only reason we had this silly rule was because of a few temperance zealots and religious fanatics gained control of our Grand lodge in the Victorian era and forced their will on our members. There was nothing Masonic about it at the time and there is nothing Masonic about it now. In my opinion, this was the first upright step in the destruction of the fraternity. The United States is the only country in the world that denies their Brethren a drink in the building. Tell me Herb, have you heard about rampant alcoholism and alcohol induced car crashes in any other country that involve Masons?
Herb seemed stunned at the 50 year member’s statement. “Well, maybe but times are different now. What about a Brother who is a recovering alcoholic? All we would be doing is tempt him to fall off the wagon.” The old man shook his head. “I've been hearing this old saw for years. This is another example of why we should have been protecting the west gate all these years. It clearly says in the requirements for membership in our Grand Lodge that the petitioner cannot be an alcoholic. He shouldn't have been made a Mason in the first place, but since he is here and obviously he will not be going anywhere; his Brethren will keep an eye on him. They would make sure he stays on the straight and narrow. That is what we do.”
Herb began muttering under his breath. “I better get the lodge ready for opening. I will see you all inside.” He rose from his chair and walked away. Mike Bailey snickered, “Well I guess he isn't happy right now, but to be honest I am.” Mike continued, “I like the sound of having a drink before lodge and enjoying a fine meal after we close.” Brad Sloffer smiled. “I'm happy too! It was frustrating for years to see every other reception hall in town filled most all weekends just because they can serve alcohol. Maybe now I can rent the hall on New Year’s Eve too. We have such a beautiful, ornate ballroom that just sits empty because we could not rent it regardless of the price being offered. Maybe now I can compete with our competition! Our caterer told me this will become THE venue now! Not only will we be able to keep our building, but the profits will go a long way to restore and repairs things that have been neglected for decades.”
Pudge, who stayed silent during the debate finally spoke up. “I like the idea of coming into the social room and having a nice scotch with a cigar as I have a nice Masonic discussion with my Brethren. It sounds like what grown-ups would do.”
“I agree Pudge.” The 50 year member replied. “For years we have been saddled with this rule. Members would leave the lodge as quickly as they could so they could enjoy fellowship somewhere else instead of the building their dues paid for. Now maybe we can restore the fellowship our Fraternity greatly needs to restore. I really think we are on the right track. I bet this place will become a beehive of activity again like it used to be”
Pudge smiled. “Exactly! I don't think anyone looks at this as an opportunity where they can now get hammered at lodge and then go home. This is just another way I can spend time with my brothers in a place that was built by Masons who came before us.” The old man smiled. “I like how you put that Pudge. For years I have had an antique bar in storage that would be perfect in the Social room. I think we need to take a look at it and think of the perfect place to put it.”
WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.