The Caretaker: The Apron

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson, PM

In my short time as a Freemason, I have amassed quite a few items of a fraternal kind and they litter my study like dusty museum pieces. Strewn about in various corners and all vying for space on the crowded shelves, ledges and walls are items that all have a unique story. While contemplating on what to write next, I frequently look around the room for inspiration and while the items frequently play the role of muse, it’s time I gave those muses some respect and attempt to tell their story as best I can. 

One such item, tucked away on a hanging basket shelf in my office closet is a rolled up apron. It sits among a few throwing knives and some all weather matches, probably not the best place for it. Ever since I have had it, I have wanted to put it in a shadow box frame and display it. I just haven’t yet. It’s been years. 

Shortly after I became a Master Mason, my father-in-law gave me the apron. It turns out it belonged to his father. My father-in-law, Steve, never joined. He did however, hold on to all the family Masonic items. Some belonging to his great grandfather, his grandfather and of course his father. Having no sons of his own who had joined the fraternity, he passed it to me. 

The apron itself is in a material sense, nothing spectacular, just what you’d expect of a 60 year old apron. The lambskin was still soft, the canvas worked and malleable, the ropes or ties were still soft, white and well braided. There were a few cracks in the lambskin but I think that's the only thing that assigns it "real" age. Under the flap it reads : 

Presented by 
Arcana Lodge No. 187
To Brother Robert Ross Salmon Jones Jr.
Initiated March 28th, 1956   Passed April 11th, 1956   Raised May 12th, 1956

*It was also signed by the Secretary and Worshipful Master, but alas, I can not read the writing.*

Arcana Lodge 187 is still in operation and doing well. They operate out of Minneapolis Minnesota. They celebrated their 125th year on Saturday, September 27, 2014. While the website doesn't seem to be current, their Facebook page is current and looks great. Seeing as they had a Facebook page, I went ahead and contacted them. I was delighted when the Worshipful Master, M. Justin Thompson  got back to me within two hours. 

His first word back to me was "Wow!" When I saw that responded so quickly, that was also my first response. He expressed that he had read a few of the articles posted on the Midnight Freemasons blog before. He gave me a brief history, which was amazing. It seems the lodge burned down on November 22nd, 1957. That's just one year and a couple months after My father-in-law's dad had been raised. The lodge had been rebuilt in 1959. Arcana had a volunteer core. The Minutemen paid of a 20 year mortgage in just 8 years by running a pancake breakfast that served over 5,000 people. 

Their lodge room contains an Italian marble checkered floor, a mural of King Solomon's Temple, which was painted by a fellow brother of the lodge in 1973. They even have one of those awesome 3rd degree features...You know what I'm talking about. I have to say, this apron sparked some research and that research led right to the virtual doors of Arcana #187. 

I can’t imagine what stories the apron could tell but I am sure they'd be amazing. Of course I have one secret regarding the apron. My father-in-law had two sons and neither joined the fraternity…as of yet. I had hoped that one day, one of them would join and at that time, I would be able to pass the apron on to a just and upright brother who truly has every right to receive it. I am merely the caretaker as of now. Should he never join, I will pass it along to which ever of my three sons joins first. 

In the meantime, I suppose I should go ahead and take a better measure to preserve and protect this piece. It is of course, the distinguished badge of a Mason and perhaps more importantly, a piece of my family history. 

While reflecting on this apron at the time of my writing this very article, I thought of how many brothers out there are in a similar situation. Caretakers of these aprons, some of which are tied to us, some not. How many Brothers were buried or cremated without their aprons? Until the next time my Brothers,  I’ll have another remarkable item and story for you. 


Bro. Robert Johnson, PM is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois. He is the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 and Education officer for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois as well as a member on the Grand Lodge Education Committee. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies, AMD, The Illinois Lodge of Research and a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago as well as a charter member of the Society of King Solomon, a charity organization run by the Grand Lodge of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatrewhich focus 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 also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four. He works full time in the executive medical industry and is also a photographer on the side as well as an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays.

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