A Very Unique Thing

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°, FMLR



Jackson County, Missouri is named for Andrew Jackson, who served as the seventh President of the United States, from 1829–37.  The Jackson County Courthouse sits on the town square in Independence, Missouri, the famous home of Harry Truman, the thirty-third President, serving from 1945–53.  When Truman was a county judge from 1922–24 and again from 1926–34, he had an office in the iconic building.

Statues of the two men flank the courthouse.  On the west side, Jackson's statue shows him astride his horse in full military regalia as he might have appeared as a major-general in the Battle of New Orleans.

On the east side of the courthouse, Truman's statue depicts him, cane in hand, taking his morning constitutional, as was his custom in Independence in the days after his presidency.

Together, the placement of these two statues inadvertently makes the courthouse grounds a memorial to a very unique thing: Andrew Jackson and Harry Truman are the only two men who have served both as President of the United States and Grand Master of their respective Masonic Grand Lodges.  Most Worshipful Brother Jackson  was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee from 1822–24; Most Worshipful Brother Truman was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Missouri from 1940–41.



~SLH

Steve Harrison, 33° KCCH, is a Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Senior Warden. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and is a member of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. 

The 50 Year Member: Part Ten - From Darkness to Light

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Bill Holser, PM





“I'm not sure we should do this” Herb Johnson said as the sound of a large clap of thunder filled the lodge room. “Grand lodge might get upset about this!” Mike Bailey laughed “Grand lodge will never find out about this and even if they did I really doubt if they would care!” “Herb continued “It isn't very safe. One of them could catch fire!” Bailey shook his head “Come on Herb. We are all grown men! The church down the road has hundreds of candles lit at all times and it has not burned to the ground.”



The debate was fast and furious in the darkened lodge room. A large thunderstorm covered the area and the wind and rain of the storm caused a local blackout just as the lodge was to open for degree work. The Master of the lodge not one to shirk his duties because of a little darkness ordered candles to be lit and placed in the lodge room. Candle sticks from the Demolay chapter were brought in and placed in the East, south and west.  The usual electric light bulbs which represents the lesser lights at the altar were replaced by actual burning tapers. The senior Deacon was given a small candle to carry when he conducted the candidate through the degree work.  “Its just not right guys!” Herb pleaded “I've been a member of this lodge for a long time and we have never done anything like this before.”



A voice came out of the darkness “Herb I was Master of this lodge when you became a member. Nothing will come of this other than we have a new member of this lodge. What else are you going to do? Go home and sit in the darkness and listen to the storm? Our Brethren from centuries past didn't have electricity and the Masonry grew in spite of it!” The 50 year member continued to speak “We tell the world we are the premier Fraternity in the world, comprised of the best men who come to our door and you are saying we can't trust them with a candle? You make it sound like we are children who shouldn't be allowed to play with matches! The Master has said we are going to illuminate the lodge with candles and that is what we are going to do!” Herb muttered “OK. But if something bad happens don't say I didn't try to warn you.” Herb shook his head as he walked to his usual seat among the Past Masters.



Pudge walked into the room, shaking the rain off his trench coat as he walked in. “This is really impressive!” Pudge said as he looked around the room. “This must have been what it was like in the old days when lodge was held.” The 50 year member laughed “Well don't ask me about it. I'm not that old! We had electricity here when I joined!” Pudge laughed “I know that but I am sure it had just been installed! Seriously this is really cool. To be honest this is the way I expected it to be when I joined, a room filled with candles! I think a lot of guys do.” The old man seemed puzzled “Really? You think most men think the room will be lit with candles?” Pudge nodded “Oh yeah, Candles, men in robes, somber music, stuff like that. I think because when they show Masonic stuff in movies that is way they portray it.  I bet that is why the traditional observance lodges are so popular among the younger guys.”



“Traditional observance lodges?” Mike Bailey asked “I don't believe I have heard of those before.” Pudge explained “Traditional observance lodges believe we should go back to the way Freemasonry was practiced before the large influx of members during World War II. Instead of just reading the minutes of the previous meeting and paying bills they bring in speakers from around the world to lecture on Freemasonry and have discussions on various topics like history, symbolism or even Geometry. Pretty intellectual stuff.”



Pudge continued “Members dress in formal wear, tuxedos or white tie and tails, whatever they decide on as a lodge.  Kinda like a lodge uniform.  They also have higher standards for membership. A perspective may have to visit the lodge for several months and be interviewed before he is even given a petition. Then he has to go through a background check and the usual interview. These lodges want to make sure only the best men will become members.  Once they go through the degree the man has to write a paper on a Masonic topic and learn the memory work before he can advance to the nest degree.



After the lodge closes the men gather at a four or five star restaurant in a private room dinner called an Agape which is Greek for love. During the dinner they perform a table lodges complete with toasts. Most of the members of these lodges find them very fulfilling.”



Bailey thought for a second “Meetings by candlelight and they all wear the same clothes? Are they Amish masons?” The 50 year member laughed “No Mike not Amish but they do believe in a more pure, simpler Masonry than lots of lodges practice.”



“The thing that gets me about this is they bring in speakers from all over the world, five star dinners, formal clothes...How do they pay for all of this? I mean even with our pancake breakfasts and our other fundraisers we couldn't afford all of that.” Mike Bailey said. “The dues structure for these lodges are higher than the average set of dues in most lodges. I have heard some of these lodges charges their members about an dollar a day, around three hundred and sixty five dollars on top of about a thousand for the initiation fee.” Pudge said.  “Wow! That much?! That is a fortune!” Bailey exclaimed. 



Pudge laughed “Yes it is but many of these lodges have a waiting list of men waiting to join. They see the value of joining a lodge that offers more than bickering and the reading of the minutes. And they don't have to have spaghetti dinners just to pay their electric bill.”



The Master was sitting at his station and banged his gavel “Brethren we are getting ready to open lodge. Please find your seats and in this darkened condition I mean literally find your seats!” All the men laughed and started to find a place to sit.



“I got a feeling this will be a night we will remember for a long time. “ Mike Bailey Said to Pudge and the 50 year member. “It's too bad we can't do this all the time. After lodge I want to talk to you more about this Traditional observance lodge concept.” Pudge and the old man sat down next to Bailey in the glow of the flickering candlelight “Absolutely!” Pudge said “Maybe by then the power will be back on and we can make coffee and talk about it. “Maybe but to be honest I just hope the power stays off just long enough for us to get through this degree. I don't want the lights to come back on and spoil this evening.”

~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 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. 

The Clerical Oversight

by Midnight Freemason
Steven L. Harrison, PM, FMLR 33°

From an article originally published in

Years ago I developed a membership management system for my home Lodge. It tracked the standard things you might expect: initiation dates, demographics, Masonic offices held, birth date and the like. When the secretary requested a new feature, I'd add it and test it out in a database that was a duplicate of the live information he used. On occasion I would refresh the test data I had from the live system the secretary had, so the information I had was nearly as complete as his. In fact, on one occasion the secretary called to say his computer had crashed and he hadn't been making backups, so we used my data to recover. Each year for Christmas, the Lodge delivers flowers to the widows of our former members. The year I was Senior Warden we had the Secretary use the system to print a list of the widows and their addresses.


Then several of us divided into teams to deliver the flowers using the list. The Lodge Master and I joined forces and together drove to a widow's house to make our first delivery. Neither of us had known the Brother, but that didn't matter. We walked to the door, rang the bell and the widow answered. We greeted her and were very sincere in wishing her season's greetings and our condolences for the loss of her husband. The poor woman looked a little surprised. She looked back into the living room and called out, "Joe... Are you dead?"   Joe came to the door, "Not the last time I checked." Now it was our turn to be surprised. 

The Master and I apologized for the "clerical oversight" and made a hasty retreat. It turns out, when I sent the Secretary that test database to recover his lost data, I had been using Joe's name to test the method for marking Brothers as having passed away. Prior to restoring the data, I did not resurrect him. You might blame me for this, but I prefer to think of it as a computer error. By the way, we let Joe's wife keep the flowers.

~SLH

Steve Harrison, 33° KCCH, is a Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Senior Warden. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and is a member of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. 

The Scars Unseen

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Aaron Gardner

Many associate Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with the military. It is understandable when they do too. A Soldier goes to combat, sees things that cannot be forgotten and does things that we are not proud to talk about. It is common to notice the distance a Soldier, Marine, Airmen, or Sailor appears to keep from the average person in society. They are constantly alert, watching every person to enter and leave the room. When entering a building their eyes clear every corner and find every escape route possible in the event of an emergency. It is normal behavior of a man or woman who has just returned from a combat zone. It is when this behavior continues after being home for long periods of time that we should consider that this young man or woman may have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

The man or woman is constantly living a moment in the past that has traumatized them, so their
minds automatically adjust to the event in order to protect themselves from it happening again. If
our military members are mentally still in Iraq or Afghanistan when they are stateside enjoying well earned leave with friends and family— imagine what it must feel like for a Police Officer,
Firefighter, EMT, Nurse or Doctor when they are constantly around the places, people and
scenarios that remind them of a traumatic event. What about victims? That being robbery,
breaking and entering, murder and of course rape. PTSD can affect any one of any gender,
size, race, creed or age; it is non-discriminatory.

There are not many who are willing to talk about their issues. There are many of reasons why
they won’t; it could be they feel weak because they can’t shake it, they are afraid the person
they talk to will not understand and mock them, they worry talking about it will stir new memories
and make it harder to deal with, or maybe they are afraid when talking about it the caretaker
may be affected by the vivid description of what happened. Those who do talk about it are
typically people who have dealt with it, and are just trying to get over it.

This is one of the first times I am coming out publicly about PTSD. It has affected for most of my
adult life. I have talked to counselors which typically doesn't work for me. Simply because their
is a blockage in my mental state of mind that I am afraid of. They always say in order to get
better it must get worse. This couldn't be any more true. Usually my counselors just listen to me
talk and I become irritated. I feel they aren't really helping but making it worst because all I do is
think about the event in more depth and detail making my dreams that much more vivid and
lifelike. My mind begins to play tricks on me and I cannot separate the part of the memory that
actually happened or what my mind is putting in place to help me cope. I have talked to
counselors and they suggest talking to someone about medication, this I cannot do. I do not
want medication, I never have and never will. I rarely take ibuprofen for my damaged knee, how
would a narcotic make me feel? In order to cope, I have found my best fighting chance. Yet, I
am still scared to utilize my chance.

I use to drink heavily to help me sleep until I realized that could be a problem. It wasn’t in my best
interest to get drunker than a skunk, nor for the people around me. Since I have stopped
drinking so heavily (before it became alcoholism), I would just toss and turn every night until I
could sleep. This of course was never the best idea either. The truth is I needed help. I needed
to figure out why I could not shake the overwhelming feeling to check all doors and windows. I
know why I do it, but I need to know why I can’t stop. I need someone to talk to. Writing has
helped, I stay awake at night and write my heart away, but my best tool I am still afraid to use. I
am afraid if I tell Emily everything that bothers me, every single instance of cold sweats, or when
I wake up screaming in my dreams— she will be scared away. Since she and I have known
each other she became that comfort zone, however. She has shown me that she will always be
there, and will help me through my sleepless nights. I wish every Soldier had a woman with her
caring heart. I wish every person had someone by their side that cared as much as she does for
me.

 
The fact is, that is not the easiest thing to ask for. People with PTSD can push away their loved ones by their selfishness, which leaves them feeling alone in the fight. That doesn't have to be the case. We need to study the effects of PTSD more, find a way to help everyone cope. Brother Brian Schimian has brought up the idea to me of starting a Masonic charity to help study PTSD. Well, there are plenty of foundations outside of Freemasonry that push the study and the cure for mental disorders, specializing in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We can help these foundations by raising money for them. There are benefits of it for the order, and for our brethren. For some brethren and their families the fight isn't over. Like I tell my battle buddy going into combat, “I have your back.” Shouldn’t we tell our brethren, the same?

  If you are suffering from PTSD I ask you to help me help you. Whether  you are you brother
Mason, a brother/sister in arms, a civil service member, nurse, doctor or just a victim of a
traumatizing event. The time is now to get help. Remember, you are not alone in this fight. If you
don’t have someone to talk to call one of the numbers below, they are willing to help. If you are
like me and don’t like talking to counselors or psychiatrists, talk to a loved one. If you can’t I am
always accepting e-mails from all my readers and I will talk you through what ever battle you are
facing. Sometimes it’s easier to know you're talking to someone who knows exactly what it is
like to lose sleep, concentration and live through the life of PTSD. So however you want, just get
help.


Veteran Crisis Line
1.800.273.TALK (8255) - Veterans Press ’1
PTSD Information Hotline
Phone: 802-296-6300
PTSD Sanctuary

~AG



Bro. Aaron Gardner was raised as a Master Mason in his hometown lodge of Flushing, Michigan. He has served in active duty with the United States Army for the last seven years in which he has become well traveled around the world. He is currently stationed in Lawton, Oklahoma where he is a member of Triangle Lodge #548. When Bro. Gardner is not defending the nation, he takes great pride in writing articles for his blog Celestial Brotherhood, writing his fiction novel and researching all he can involving the Craft.

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