The 50 Year Member: Part Thirteen - To the Place of Whence We Came

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


As the sun filled the bedroom to welcome the new day the 50 year member was laying in his bed, staring at the ceiling ending a night of sleeplessness. The old man sat up on the edge of his bed and rubbed his eyes. He quietly rose and put on his bathrobe over his pajamas. Quietly, he put on his bedroom slippers and left the room doing his best not to wake his sleeping wife, who was still curled up in their bed.

As he shuffled to the kitchen, the same nagging thought kept running through his head. The same thoughts that kept him awake all night. When did things change?  Why were these young kids joining lodge and never returning or not even bothering to join the Fraternity at all? These questions must have stemmed from his recent conversation he had with Pudge about Randy; the Brother Pudge had ran into at lunch the other day.  He and Pudge discussed how Randy made the decision to quit the lodge even though he had once been so excited to join.  

The 50 year member thought on all the changes that he had seen through the years. The membership had been doing its best over the years to gain interest from the young men to join Freemasonry. The lodge had kept dues low, loosened the requirements to join, and even started having one day classes so that a new Brother wouldn't have to wait to become a member!  He could come into the temple in the morning take his degrees, join the Scottish Rite, and even join the Shrine all in one afternoon!  What were they missing?

The Grand Lodge had come up with many new ideas to entice these kids. We had heard these young men wanted to work with charity so we set up charities to cure all kinds of diseases, help kids and even send them to college. What more do they want?  

 As the old man entered the kitchen he began to search all of the kitchen cabinets until he finally found where his wife kept the coffee. His mind began to wander on how long it had been since the last time he had made coffee. “Must have been thirty years,” he thought.

As he placed the water on the stove to boil he began to think about all the years he had made coffee for the pancake breakfasts at the lodge. For years it had been a great form of bonding for the Brethren. The same men who came every month to help who had the same jokes to tell; a good time was had by all. The best part of the breakfast was the money raised from this enterprise that helped keep the lodge going. Every dollar earned made paying the bills a little easier.

He never understood why his father refused to attend the breakfasts or help the lodge with the fundraisers. When he was young, he had asked his father why he wouldn't help. He remembered his response so clearly. “If we charged enough for dues we wouldn't have to do such silly things…”, was always his answer. This always confused the 50 year member. His dad explained, “Back in my day we used to charge at least a week’s wage for dues every year. When prices went up, so did the dues. What you kids are charging now a man can make in a half a day of work.” His father continued, “Do you realize when I petitioned the lodge, I had to save for months before I could actually submit my request? The initiation fees were the amount of a month’s wage for me! I couldn't just sign the paper and go through the degrees.  I had to work hard and save so that I could be a part of the Fraternity. In my mind it was worth every penny, but I had to work for it!”

The smell of coffee brewing filled the quiet kitchen. The sound of every movement the old man made seemed deafening. Only the sounds of birds chirping in the backyard broke the silence of his thoughts. He poured himself a cup of coffee and let it cool. He walked slowly to the front door to pick up the morning paper that was laying on his doorstep. 

With paper in hand, he then picked up his coffee cup and opened the backdoor of the house to the sun room. The morning sun greeted him from his restless night.  It warmed the glass of his sun room and created a pleasant venue to relax and think about the issues which were weighing so heavily on his mind.

The 50 year member began to reflect about how his father, after so many years of dedicated service, quit attending degree work and all the lodge meetings. At the time he had thought it was his age that kept him from coming. He remembered when he had asked his dad about his nonattendance.  He had been driving his father to a doctor's appointment. “The reason is simple,” his father grumbled. “The last few years you young guys let every Tom, Dick, and Harry in through the West gate just for the sake of numbers. When I joined the lodge back during the depression, we had about 40 members in the lodge. The number of men on a membership wasn't important. It was Brotherhood and the quality of the men that were in lodge that was important.” 

His father continued, “I also don’t like the way you young guys conduct meetings these days. When I was a young man I looked forward to lodge meetings. I would go to see my Brothers. We would get together in the social room before we opened lodge, have a cigar, talk about the week, and enjoy each other’s company. We also enjoyed a fine meal on white table cloths and china plates.  Far from the now accepted baloney sandwich on a paper plate. To me that is just plain cheap and lazy. I could go to a fast food restaurant and get a better meal than you kids serve these days. When lodge was opened we would discuss matters of the day and have a discussion about something we read about. It was a celebration! When I would leave after a meeting I would feel happy, fulfilled. Now days all you guys do is bicker about costs and how to conduct the next fundraiser or worse yet, another scheme so you can get the lodge's name in the papers in hopes of getting more members. All of this after sitting through the Secretary reading minutes of meetings, degree work, communications, voting on paying bills the treasurer already paid. The whole thing is ridiculous! Your generation has squeezed every bit of joy that was once a wonderful evening. I love my Craft and that is why I still pay my dues, but I refuse to contribute to its cheapening.”

As the 50 Year member drank his coffee a thought hit him like he had been struck by lightning. Everything he had remembered his father saying so many years ago, he had heard nearly word for word recently by Pudge and many of the younger guys. Pudge and the younger Brethren of his lodge wanted the Freemasonry his father had known! They wanted a lodge experience not just a meeting.

It's amazing to think! All the answers the Grand Lodges around the country have been searching nearly a half century for was in front of his face the entire time. The entire Fraternity had been searching out in the world for answers instead of looking within. They had been cheapening things. They went to outside marketing groups who tried to entice them with what they deemed as what young men wanted.  The answers had been locked in the temple the entire time.  Sitting on a shelf covered with dust. They want Freemasonry!! 

These young men wanted the Freemasonry his father had known! They didn't want baloney sandwiches, pancakes, or to take the easy route. These young men wanted to learn and actually better themselves like we have preached for years. No wonder these young men have been leaving us in such large numbers!

We have to find a way to make these young men come back to the lodge. We have to live up to the promises we made to these men and give them the experience they have been clamoring for. It won't be easy, but it has to be done.  If not, the Craft might just die with our generation.

I can't believe it took me so long to see this. I guess I couldn't see the forest for the trees the old man thought. I need to get a pad of paper and a pen, while this is still fresh in my head. As the old man rose slowly from his chair he paused and looked to the sky with a smile on his face.  He said, “Thank you Dad for the inspiration. I promise to do my best to restore the Fraternity you loved so much for these kids. I hope I make you proud.”

~BH

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.

4 comments:

  1. You are very welcome! Glad you enjoyed it!

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  2. Excellent passage I thoroughly enjoyed reading it Thank you

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  3. Thank you Neil! I hope you will share it with your friends and Brothers! :)

    ReplyDelete