The 50 Year Member - Masonry: A Cut Above

by Midinght Freemason Conributor
Bill Hosler, PM


The little shop on Main Street seemed to be lost in time. The place hadn't changed since it was opened in 1946. The turquoise colored walls which were adorned with photographs, stuffed animal heads, and fish from various hunting and fishing trips had watched thousands of customers walk through the glass door over the decades. Each one with a smile and a greeting on their lips to the barber who was busy cutting the hair of another customer.

After he placed his hat on the rack near the door and took his place in one of the chairs in the waiting area. Some of the men would have a good chat with the other waiting customers or read the paper or an old fishing magazine lying next to the ashtray on the end table. They would laugh and joke and talk about their day to the nearby sound of the hair clippers. Once the customer paid for the cut to the tune of the bell ringing in an ancient cash register, the barber would sweep up the clippings of hair. After he put his broom and dustpan away, he would yell "NEXT," and the next man would step up while the barber cleans off his leather and chrome chair, each man knowing his place in the first-come, first-served line. Once the man had taken his seat in the old weathered barber chair, the barber would snap his cloth before draping over the customer and would start the process all over again.

Many times the barber wouldn't have to ask his customer how he wanted his hair cut. Chances are the man had been coming to the shop for decades and each time he got his haircut the same way he always had. It was sort of an unspoken agreement between the two men of "If it ain't broke don't fix it." As the barber picked up his clippers the conversation began. Usually about a recent ball game or a vacation or sometimes the discussion of current events. It is believed by man men who patronized this shop over the years that if the politicians had any sense they would come by and listen to what was said here since they had solved all over the world's problems many times over.

The turn of the doorknob sounded a bell on the door as the 50-year member opened the door of this time capsule to the past. The aging barber was alone in the shop and had fallen asleep in his barber chair while reading the newspaper. The peeling of the bell awakened him with a startle.

"Well, Hello, John! Come on in. Today's your lucky day, no wait today. Come on in and have a seat!" as he vacated his chair and motioned to him to come in.

As the old man made his way into the shop, he began to smile. The smell of hot shaving cream and hair tonics took him back to his childhood as he walked across the old creaking linoleum floor. If you tried hard, you could still detect the faint smell of the cigars that used to be smoked by the waiting customers. The old familiar smells of this place never failed his mind back to his childhood when his father took him into the shop for his first haircut.

After placing his hat on the metal hat rack, the old man took his place in the barber chair. He smiled, thinking about when he was a small boy, and the barber would place a wooden board across the armrests of the chair for the boy to sit on to be high enough to get his haircut.

The 50-year member knew the barber, Norm Becker, his whole life. The two men had gone to school together and after graduation both went their separate ways. Norm went to barber college and began to work with his father, who had started the shop after he returned from the war. Norm worked with his dad until the end of the 1980s when the elder barber passed away. Then the shop became Norms shop. The 50 year member went off to college and upon graduation came home and started a family. The two men joined the local lodge about the same time, and thanks to their time at the lodge together had rekindled their life long friendship.

Over the years, both men were active in Masonry. Both went through the chairs of the lodge and served "their year" as the lodge's Master". Since they left the East, both men continued to be active in the blue lodge and various other Masonic bodies. The two men could now joke how once they were once the young kids the old Past Masters would complain about and in a blink of an eye now they were the old crotchety ones sitting in the North of the lodge during the meetings.

"Same old cut as always, John, or are you going to mix things up a bit?" Norm said with a smirk. "Nah. Like you always say Norm. If it ain't broke don't fix it." "Well I wasn't sure." Norm said "Probably not a good idea anyway. You start changing your looks, the missus is gonna think you are like a Tomcat out on the prowl." They both laughed. Norm continued: "And we both know your heart or the rest of your body couldn't handle that." The old man smiled. "I think you are just trying to show me some of those fancy new haircuts you have been learning about for the kids that are coming in."

Norm continued to cut the silver hair of the 50-year member. "It's amazing isn't it! A few years ago I was thinking about retiring. The shop was getting just like lodge. I had fewer and fewer customers each year as they began to pass away. Then all of a sudden. These young kids.. well, I shouldn't call them kids. I remember how mad it used to make me when my dad used to do that when I was younger. But all of a sudden, these younger fellas started leaving the beauty shops and started to look for barbershops. They wanted to learn thing like their grandfathers did. That's about the same time the lodge started to get busy." The 50-year member smoked and was genuinely glad for his Brother's good fortune. "I have been surprised at how much these young men have enriched my life since they started joining the lodge. I have begun fond of several of them. They have taught me so much. They even make me feel a bit younger." Norm laughed, "Lord knows you needed that, you old fuddy-duddy." "Just by using the term fuddy-duddy shows you aren't no spring chicken yourself." The 50-year member said, with that type of sarcasm, that one can only get away with when talking with an old friend.

Norm continued, "They have really made me step up my game. I've had to start looking at all the barber magazines and learn all the new and trendy haircuts. I even started giving shaves again! I hadn't given a man an actual shave since the seventies. And they want it done with a straight razor, not a throwaway razor. I was scared to death the first couple of times. I really had to sharpen my skills again. Only one thing troubles me about the whole thing." "What's that?" The 50-year member asked.

Norm said, "Well like you said, I ain't no spring chicken. There is a young fella starting here next month when he finishes barber college. If he does a good job and he likes the work in a couple of years, I'm going to sell the shop to him and retire. So I'm set financially. But what I'm worried about is the lodge."

Norm continued, "For a long time, I have worried whether Masonry was gonna die with us. When these young fellas began joining a few years back, I breathed a sigh of relief. I thought for sure Masonry was gonna be fine, and the lodge and all the other groups were going to be fine, so fellas like you and I could take a step back and let them have their turn. But it seems like after we raise them, they never come back."

The barber further explained, "I'm working harder for the lodge than ever, but it doesn't seem like we are getting anywhere. I'm still worried about the Fraternity."

The 50-year member listened to his friend's concerns and asked him "Norm if one of those young men walked into this shop and asked for a certain type of haircut, and you told him the only haircuts you give was the cuts the guys liked in the '50s when your dad ran the shop, like flat tops and crew cuts, would they come back here?" Norm laughed. "I doubt it. Shoot I wouldn't even come in!"

The 50-year member then asked Norm "Well, if the guy came in and wanted a straight razor shave, would you tell him you wouldn't do it because you used to do it in the old days and then stopped and you won't do it now, even though so many guys came in and asked for it?"

" That would be financial suicide."

The 50-year member said: "Well, if it doesn't make sense here in your place of business, then why in the devil's name do we do it in Freemasonry? These young men come into the lodge and ask, or better yet beg for what we say in public Freemasonry delivers, and we either tell them no. We don't do that anymore, or we have been doing it this way since Brother Harry Truman was president. It doesn't matter what you want; it's what you're gonna get. Sit down and be quiet."

The 50-year member continued, "If we want Freemasonry to continue on after we're gone, we need to deliver what these young men expect and are begging for, or better yet what we tell these young people what Freemasonry does. If we do that, we're gonna be fine."

There was since in the shop. The background sound of a Frank Sinatra was almost drowned out by the buzz of the building's fluorescent lightning was almost deafening as the barber's hands dropped to his side as a stunned look came across his face. Norm, in astonishment said in a quiet voice, "You know. I never thought of it that way. We keep hearing them going on about how they want education or how they want fancy dinners or an elegant lodge room. I thought they were kinda like my kids were in their teens when they were always bellyaching about something. I never thought of them like young men who were voting with their feet, or like you said with their wallets. Why hasn't anyone else ever thought of this before?"

The 50-year member explained, "Oh, some have. There was even a book written by some young Masons who explained how if the Craft was run more like a business, we might be better off. But most of us old guys and many of us who wear the gold collars hear business and the automatic thing "profit" and think we are talking about running the Masons like General Motors and they shut their minds off. If they would bother to listen to their "customers," which are the due paying members

We wouldn't have a membership shortage. As a matter of fact, the numbers might even look like when we were youngsters."

Norm smiled as he looks the began to take the drape from his customer. "Well John, you convinced me. Well your done. That will be fifteen bucks please." The 50 year member looked at Norm "Fifteen? It's been ten bucks for years." Norm laughed. "Yep, and it's like you said we have to keep up with the times. Oh yeah, these young fellas tend to tip me along with the payment these days. "

The 50-year member reached into his wallet and handed Norm the money. As for your tip, How about I buy you a beer after lodge next week? I figure that's a safe bet. At your age you will have forgotten all about it but then." Norm laughed "Or you will and I will remind you that you said you would buy me two of them! Get out of here you tightwad!" The men were laughing as the 50-year member took his hat from the rack and walked into the street.

~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 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.

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