The 50 Year Member - Talkin' Bout My Obligations

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM

Pudge was sitting comfortably in one of the newly restored leather wingback chairs in a quiet corner of the Temple’s Social room. Pudge seems quite happy while looking at a pad of drawings with a group of the lodge’s younger Brethren. The group was talking and laughing with cigars in their hands as the 50 Year member walked into the room. A smile came across the old man’s face as the sound of young men laughing took him to an earlier time on a cloud of cigar smoke. “It’s just like old times.", the old man thought to himself.

As the 50 Year member approached the men, he could begin to hear some of their conversations. “I like that one.” Said one young man “Have you seen the Superman I have on my calf with the Square and Compass on his chest in place of the letter "S"? I finally got the coloring finished on it.” The 50-year member laughed and said, “It must be hard coloring something on your calf. I hope you stayed within the lines.” the old man said with a laugh in his voice. The group checked. “Pudge looked up and saw the 50-year member. “Hi,John! Hey, do you have any tattoos?” The old man smiled. “Nah, back in my day the only guys who got tattoos were either servicemen, while they were away from home or prisoners who got them while they were in prison. Neither of which I would have been, my mother would have killed me.” The crowd laughed as the old man slipped quietly into a leather chair. The group continued to discuss various kinds of tattoos and showing each other pictures of Masonic tattoos that they found on Google while doing their research on the topic.

Hearing the laughter while walking down the hallway on the way to the lodge room, Past Master Herb Johnson ventured into the Social room and began to listen silently to the young men’s conversation. Herb piped in after he heard the 50-year member's response to the younger guys. “No John wouldn’t have a Masonic tattoo. John remembers the obligations that he took!” Herb said in a gruff voice.

The young men sat silent for a second and lookedat each other. They all seemed confused. One young man said hesitantly in a quiet voice “It’s unMasonic to get a tattoo?" Herb stood up and arched his back and said in the know-it-all authoritarian voice, “It is if you get a Masonic tattoo!” Herb said, matter-of-factly. “You kids have already forgotten, "I will not print, paint…” Each with an uneasy feeling, the entire group of men began to steal glances at each other, worried and questioning if they were all going to be in a great deal of trouble. Herb continued “Yep. If you got one of those tattoos, the lodge might have to file charges on you for expulsion.” The group started talking to each other in quiet scared voices.

The 50-year member began to laugh so hard he began to shake in glee, as he slapped his knee. The old man eventually gained his composure again as he wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes, “John this is no laughing matter. This is serious business!” Herb said. The 50-year member began laughing again and said to Herb through his laughter, in a mocking tone, “Oh yes it is Herb. You have them quaking in their boots at the thought of a Masonic trial. I hope you are as equally prepared as these young men will be when the un-Masonic charges are filed against you.” The old man was laughing so hard he could barely stand up from his chair.

Herbert, who began to sputter while his face reddened with anger looked at the old man and said in the high nasal tone, "File charges against me!? Why I never! I have been a member of this lodge almost as long as you have! I have never done anything that can be considered un-Masonic in my entire adult life! I served this lodge as Master four times! I served on several Grand Lodge committees-- I have been a model…” The 50-year member interrupted Herb’s tirade “Oh Herb, I know! That’s why it will be a sad day when I walk into the lodge room and see the Tyler using his sword to keep you from gaining admittance. It will be a downright shame.” Sweat began to drip down Herb's forehead as his fists were balled up in anger. “So what is the evidence against me that you are going to use?” Herb said in a quiet voice, trying to calm his anger.

The 50-year member said, "Basically the same evidence you are planning on using against these “kids”, as you call them. Violating their obligations to keep secrets. Herb,you know as well as I do the only real secrets this Fraternity are its words and grips, and you know as well as I do you can pick up a hundred books or get on the internet and find those. These young men aren’t going to tattoo those words on their bodies. That’s stupid. If you ever bothered to talk to these young men before acting all high and mighty, you'd discover they are going to tattoo Masonic symbols like the square and compass, symbols from the York Rite or the Scottish Rite. Just like the ones you have on the back of your car and if I am honest, I've seen on the mailbox at your house, and I know we as a lodge have contributed to your guilt by giving you plaques and certificates through the years with those incriminating symbols on them. So I think if these young men are guilty of a Masonic crime then sadly Brother, you are guilty, nay, more guilty than the rest, because you have been in the Craft long enough to know better.

The 50-year member got quiet. The sound of the silence in the room was deafening. The old man said, in a quieter, more calm voice “I’m sorry if you think I'm rough on you Herb, but dang it! I feel like you have it coming. You might know our ritual front to back, but you haven’t bothered to learn the meaning of one single word in which you've memorized. But that doesn’t stop you from spouting off pieces of ritual, trying to act like an expert on the matter when you haven’t the slightest clue what you are talking about."

The old man continues “Sadly you aren’t the only one with this particular notion. Think back to last month when the lodge was discussing men, for goodness sake, policemen, to carry their legally owned pistols to a lodge meeting. Sadly, I knew as soon as the discussion began, some poor, uneducated Brother would stand up and utter the phrase “I will carry nothing offensive or defensive into the lodge room with me.” And I was surely not disappointed, because it didn’t take long for the phrase to be uttered. You know what gets me? I bet that poor ignorant Brother and every man who grunted his agreement to that phrase was nodding his head while he was carrying a pocket knife in his pants pocket. Should we have the Tyler frisk each brother before he enters the room? Or better yet make them pass through a metal detector to ensure he isn’t carrying anything metallic into the lodge? If we are going to misquote ritual, we might as well go all the way with this silliness."

“Brother we both know that line is about a candidate, not for a Master Mason attending a stated meeting. It’s just one of my pet peeves that we either use pieces of our ritual wrong, or worse yet, we purposely twist a bit of the ritual, out of context in order to further our argument or to prove a point to someone who is as equally ignorant into the meaning of those words we've all memorized, but we can’t call them on it because it will cause “Disharmony” within the lodge.”

The 50-year member paused for a moment as Herb’s head began to lower “Brother all I am saying is we are either going to hold all members to the same standards, or we will continue to see this Fraternity further erode. The days of saying one thing but meaning another have to stop before we drive off every new member. If we are going to make good men better, we need to do it through education and teaching actual Masonic education, not through twisted, bastardized ritual which has lost it meaning through the years because we have misapplied it." The old man smiled. “OK I am now going to step down from my soap box and get ready for the lodge meeting. Herb go in and gets us some good seats, will you?”

Herb slowly backed away. “Honest John. I think I am going to head home. I don’t feel so good right now. I think I am going to take one of my Nitro pills and head for the house.” One of the younger men of the group stepped out of the crowd and said to Herb. “Brother, my name is Tim. I am a paramedic by trade. Why don’t you sit down here and let me examine you? You look a little flushed. If you are feeling that bad, I don’t want you traveling home by yourself." He continued,  "After I look you over if you still don’t feel well, I’ll take you home, or if need be to the Emergency Room. You shouldn’t be left on your own if you feel that bad.” Herb looked up at Tim and said in a weak voice. You are going to help me even after how bad I was talking about you kids? Are you sure?” Tim just smiled, took Herb and sat him in one of the wingback chairs and said ,“Of course! I may not know all the ritual as well as some of the guys here, but one part I do know and remember quite well is “I will help, aid and assist.” It’s not only my obligation, but I live it every day of my life." Tim took Herb's hand, “Now just be still, let me have a look at you.” He looked to the crowd and said as he threw his car keys in the air, “Hey Pudge go to my trunk and get my paramedic bag out of the trunk please.” Tim then looked back to Herb and started his usual questions “So tell me Brother are you having any pains? Nausea?” …


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.


  1. It will be interesting to see how many comments are generated with this post.

  2. This story speaks to me as something similar happened during my Entered Apprentice Degree. I was sitting in the lodge for the first time, a new Freemason when our Worshipful Master (Who knew full well I was a ceramic artist) said to me, "You know that Obligation applies to clay and glaze too right?" At the time I was aghast because I had already been making ceramic mugs for brothers who asked for them. I remember how disheartened I felt for a few days until I started doing research about what truly represented a "Secret" in Freemasonry. Now being a Master Mason I look back on my terror of that moment and realize how silly it was but in my own defense as a new initiate, I think our former WM should have known better.