"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Catching Up on Masonic News

I had a terrific time in Sioux Falls, SD last weekend at the Midwest Conference of Grand Lodges. Thanks to Grand Master Dean Behrens and his wife Donna, for their warm hospitality. And thanks to all of the brethren who attended. I managed to make it home without the fuel pump failure that hit me on the way out.

Here is a wrap-up of stories on the web that I missed while I was gone.

Dunes Lodge #741 in Portage, Indiana Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Indiana brethren at Dunes Lodge #741 in Portage celebrated the 50th anniversary of their charter on July 31st, and received a nice writeup in the local paper.

See Solemn ceremony marks Masonic lodge's 50th anniversary

Masonic Theatre Backdrops in Winona, Minnesota

The city of Winona, Minnesota took ownership of the town's Masonic lodge in 1979, which contains a set of almost a hundred (presumably Scottish Rite) theater backdrops. Winona Daily News editor Darrell Ehrlick had an editorial on Monday making a passionate plea for the city to find a way to restore the aging backdrops.

From Masonic Temple backdrops worth saving

It doesn't sound bad to say that a rare piece of art more than 100 years old needs about $15,000 worth of restoration.

Heck, it almost sounds reasonable.

Unless, of course, you have about 100 rare, old pieces of art, all in need of restoration.

But that's the case with the Winona's city-owned Masonic Temple backdrops.

The turn-of-the-20th-century backdrops have been a part of the Temple for presumably nearly as long as the building itself. They came with the building when the city bought the property in 1979. But 100 years of literal wear and tear have taken their toll. And now the full restoration of the backdrops will take almost $1.5 million. We'd argue this is art worth saving.

There are almost 100 unique backdrops that have been saved through indifference. That's right, because no one needed the space that badly and no one felt a push for modern backdrops, they remained. And they survived. But continued indifference may mean we continue to lose the backdrops as they deteriorate.

Now is the time to make sure we can keep and showcase these delightful pieces of art.

Winona is, after all, a community that values art. We have two universities with art programs. We are the home of the Minnesota Marine Art Museum as well as the Winona Arts Center.

We are a community that cares about art. So let's turn our focus to these.

The city shouldn't have to go this one alone.

Newberry Lodge in Newberry, Indiana Shows Outdoor Movie

Two weeks ago, members of Newberry Lodge No. 166 and Eastern Star Chapter No. 198 in Greene County, Indiana resurrected a very old tradition in the little town of Newberry. From the 1930s up into the 50s, free outdoor movies were projected onto the side of the downtown lodge building. The lodge first showed an outdoor movie in 1933, and they continued until 1952.

A "Little Rascals" feature was screened, and folks came with their blankets and lawn chairs to see it.

From Outdoor movie night to bring back memories of yesteryear in Newberry:

Wooden benches were constructed adjacent to the Masonic Lodge building for patrons to sit and watch the movie that was projected onto the side of the exterior wall.

Vehicles would also pull in diagonally to provide view of the movie.

"I went to the movies there as a child in the 1930s and 1940s. The town was just full of people. The cars would pull in where they could face it (the screen)," she said with a giggle. "Of course, I wasn't about to sit on those bleachers. I had to walk up and down the street with the kids with ice cream. There really was always a big crowd. They showed a lot of westerns. I remember seeing Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy, Tom Mix and probably Roy Rogers."

Wesner said she's planning to attend on Friday night.

"It think it will be fun," she added.

Newberry resident Dexter "Shorty" York remembers the movie nights of yesteryear very well.

"The seats would all be full and people would sit on the ground. They would sit outside of their cars on the front bumpers," York recalled. "We had a lot of grocery stores and businesses in Newberry then and people would be shopping and buying their groceries. There was never a movie theater in town. This was a free movie. The merchants paid for it (the movie).

"They would sometimes have a double feature. They would have a western and then some of the others. The streets would be full of people shopping. It (the movie) drew a big crowd."

Another Newberry resident, Farol Keller, said, "The movie used to be every Friday night a long time ago. The town was completely filled ... I remember the first cartoon I saw there was Mickey Mouse."

Keller, who said she'll also be in the crowd for this Friday night's movie, added, "It's hard to imagine the town of Newberry with the streets full of people."

Florida Lodge Looking for a Home

The brethren of Cornerstone Lodge in Port St. Lucie, Florida are looking for a permanent home.

From Masonic lodge aims to be cornerstone of the community:

Their altar and other ceremonial regalia are kept in a rented shed behind a Port St. Lucie church.

One night this week, lodge steward David Cartis and other members of the Cornerstone Masonic Lodge were busy pulling the altar out of the shed to set up for a special meeting when they found everything covered in ants.

“That really sums up our predicament,” Cartis said.

Their predicament is that ever since it was founded in 1984, the lodge has never had a permanent home.

For the first 17 years of its existence, the lodge rented space from a Port St. Lucie Methodist church until a new pastor decided he anted no outsdie groups using church property. These days the lodge rents space from First Congregational Church of Port St. Lucie.

It’s not as if members haven’t tried to build their own lodge. You could call Cornerstone a casualty both of the 2004 hurricanes and the subsequent busted property market.

Lodge members bought an undeveloped lot on Dyer Road in hopes of putting a permanent building on it. First there were serious setbacks with providing utilities to the site. The city of Port St. Lucie wanted $400,000 to hook them up. Then the 2004 storms destroyed the metal building intended for the site before it could even be moved to Dyer Road.

As the price of property soared during the boom, the lodge decided to cash in. It accepted an offer of $900,000 from an Orlando megachurch to build a sanctuary there.

Not long after that, the bottom dropped out of the market. The Orlando church pulled out of the deal, and the lodge was left holding land it couldn’t afford to develop.

Yet building problems aside, the 90-plus members have soldiered on. Even with no permanent home, they’ve been recruiting new members and continued to donate to charitable causes within the community.

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