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Saturday, July 09, 2016

Former Masonic Home Kids Visit Indiana Masonic Museum & Library


Between 1916 and 1972, over 800 children came to live at the Indiana Masonic Home (recently renamed Compass Park) in Franklin, Indiana. Most were orphans, but some were sent to the Home simply because of tough economic times that forced their parents to seek desperate help they couldn't provide themselves. The children lived and attended school on the campus up through high school. While kids remained at the Home through 1972, the Masonic Home High School closed in 1944 due to a lack of enough students. The kids in those classes that year transferred to Franklin High School to finish out their four year requirement, graduating from FHS in 1950.

Several of the kids from that year's class live today, and recently made a visit to the Indiana Masonic Library and Museum in Indiana Freemason's Hall in Indianapolis for their 66th reunion to see the exhibits dedicated to telling the story of their lives at the Home.

Over the years, I've spoken to people who were raised in "orphanages" and not many look fondly on their experience. That's not so with the "Home kids."  When they tell their stories, they have wonderful memories. Over the years, they have held reunions at the Home and walk the grounds and point to a building that's no longer there, or wistfully describe an activity. There aren't sad faces among these folks.

From a very long story on the Franklin's Daily Journal website by Ryan Trares:
For the men and women who had grown up at the home, the experience walking through the Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana was riveting. They had been brought together when their parents died, abandoned them or no longer could afford to care for them. 
That shared experience is one that the resident cherish, and they forged friendships that would last for a lifetime.
“I had three brothers and no sisters, but when I came to the home, I gained a lot of brothers and sisters. We felt that way; we were a very close-knit group of people,” said Dorothy Howard, who came to the home in 1937. “The same thing happened to all of us.”
The trip to the museum had been planned as part of Franklin High School Class of 1950’s yearly reunion. Some members of that class had lived at the home.
After a breakfast together June 18 in Franklin, they traveled to the museum, located in downtown Indianapolis. Organizers had arranged for the museum to be opened up, a rarity for the space, which is closed on the weekends.
The museum included a large component looking at the Masonic Home and the lives of the children who lived there. That was what the group wanted to see.
“It had artifacts, some stories, toys we played with, basketball jerseys,” said Morgan McCandless, a former Indiana Masonic Home kid.
The museum had been in existence since the early 1900s, but an added emphasis was made in the mid-1990s to add more displays and properly take care of the items in storage it had collected.
Originally, it has been housed in Franklin on the grounds of the Indiana Masonic Home. Only in 2008 did it move to the Grand Masonic Lodge in Indianapolis to gain more attention, said Mike Brumback, director of the museum.
The museum contains artifacts from throughout Indiana Masonic history, including bricks from the White House found with Masonic symbols and an apron worn by Battle of Tippecanoe commander Major Joseph Hamilton Daveiss. But it’s the items related to the Masonic Home kids that get the most attention.
“The kids had a nice life, and it’s an important story for our fraternity and for our guests. Those items probably attract as much emotion as any other story we have to tell,” Brumback said.
The Indiana Masonic Home opened in 1916, with the intention of being a self-sustaining home for widows and orphans of Indiana Masons and Eastern Star members.
“One of our missions in Masonry is to help our fellow man, so the Indiana Masonic Home was one of our major statements,” Brumback said. “It was founded at a time when there was no welfare, no social security, nothing. So the Masons started talking about doing something to help others.”
During the next 60 years, it would house 812 children. They were provided with rooms, clothing and regular meals. At Christmas, members of Masonic lodges helped provide money for gifts for the kids to open, and on Easter, they were served a feast.
“We couldn’t have had a better life than we had as children,” Howard said. “It was during the Depression, and that was a hard time for everybody. But we always had good food, and we had more clothes than most other children.”
Howard came to live at the home in 1937, at age 6. Her mother had died, and her father, after losing his business in the Great Depression, had to find other work and was unable to care for his children.
She was often upset and homesick, and would call her dad to come get her. But at the same time, she grew close with the other kids. Looking back, it was a blessing to be able to go to the home, she said.
“I feel like he did the right thing to send me down here,” she said.
Every child who lived at the home was given an education, both in the classroom and in the value of hard work.
The home contained an elementary, junior high and high school. When the children at the home weren’t in class, they were doing chores to support the home.
The home had its own farm, vegetable garden, print shop and powerhouse. Children helped staff the kitchen that cooked all of their food, tended crops, hooked horses to the wagon each morning for the trash route, milked cows and loaded coal.
“My buddy Billy and I, our job was to shovel the coal bins ever morning,” said Morgan McCandless, a former Masonic Home resident. “We became tough guys doing that.”
For the rest of the article, CLICK HERE

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