Masons celebrate 125th anniversary in area Saturday

Discussion in 'General Freemasonry Discussion' started by Blake Bowden, May 3, 2010.

  1. Blake Bowden

    Blake Bowden Administrator Staff Member

    SARANAC LAKE - The Whiteface Mountain Masonic Lodge will celebrate its 125th anniversary this Saturday with a series of events open to the public all afternoon.

    The day will start outside the temple at the corner of Olive and Broadway with a ceremonial rededication of the corner store, said Bob Brown, who is a a 32nd-degree Mason and a past master of Lodge #789.

    The building's cornerstone was laid in 1904. It was dedicated a year later, and the Masons have met there twice a month on Wednesdays, uninterrupted, ever since. The downstairs, which houses Jreck Subs now, has always been rented out. It was first occupied by a blacksmith's shop and horse livery and housed several other businesses over the years, including WNBZ radio at one time.

    At 1 p.m. Saturday will come the first-ever showing of a compliation of short black-and-white films of Saranac Lake in the 1920s, originally taken by William F. Kollecker, who is known for a rich collection of local photographs. Masonic Brother James Griebsch, who is a filmmaker, put the series together. In the course of doing so, Brown said, he found one with his mother, then a little girl, in the crowd of children waiting to see Santa Claus.

    At 2 p.m., Brother Mike Turmell will give a short lecture and present a slide show discussing Masonic symbolism that was incorporated in the First Methodist Church.

    Brown said there is a large 32nd-degree Scottish rite Masonic symbol in the church's center window; it even has a 32 on it.

    "It's very unusual for that to be in any church, particularly Methodist, which usually isn't very ornate," Brown said.

    Brown said they also found other Masonic symbols in the other windows and in the church's sculptures. He said representatives of all of Saranac Lake's churches have been invited to come listen to the talk, take a tour of the temple with the public and ask questions about Freemasonry and religion.

    The Masons require that members believe in one God and the immortality of the soul, but don't go beyond that, Brown said, and they don't discuss religion or politics in their meetings. They pray before meetings to the "great architect of the universe," and they keep a Bible on the altar, and a Jewish holy book, as some of the lodge's members are Jewish.

    "We aren't a religious organization, but we believe in morality," Brown said. "We have the Bible on an altar, and we say that within this book, you can learn how to live a virtuous life."

    The Masons have invited several civic organizations and local politicians to a ceremony at 3 p.m. to make short speeches and acknowledge their shared history of community service with the Masons.

    "We're going to have a time for the representatives of those groups to sit around and share what they do for the community," Brown said.

    Finally, at 4 p.m., seven Petrova Middle School seventh-graders will read their prize-winning essays. The Masons hold a contest every year; this year's theme is, "Find a unique place in our village and describe its historical importance to the community."

    The original charter from 1885 has been laminated and will be on display. The lodge will be open to the public, and there will be refreshments. Brown and current Master Richard Preall will give tours of the lodge all afternoon, and explanations of Masonic rituals.

    Brown said that the Masons' secretiveness has led some people to be leery of the organization.

    "The only secrets that we have are our passwords and our handshakes, and portions of our ritual," Brown said.

    Those passwords, Brown said, haven't changed in hundreds of years.

    "I know the same passwords George Washington and Ben Franklin and my father knew," Brown said.

    Many Masonic symbols and rituals can be connected to King Solomon's temple, and Brown said the use of handshakes and passwords date back to these times. Most people couldn't read and write, so when someone was trained as a mason, their instructor taught them handshakes and a password. That way, when they went elsewhere to find work, the people in charge of the project could know by them where they were trained, what skills they had and what to pay them.

    Tools that were once used by stonecutters have symbolic meanings for Masons now. For example, a trowel that might have once been used to smooth out cement could now symbolize smoothing out the differences between Masonic brothers. The ranks of Masons are also meant to correspond to the ranks of workers on King Solomon's temple, with third-degree Masons, who are the bulk of the membership, representing the skilled workers who did the ornate stonework within the temple.

    The Whiteface Lodge has about 65 members today, Brown said. Between 16 and 20 are usually present for "degrees," or ceremonies where Masons move up a degree, and 14 or 15 for regular meetings.

    Lake Placid and Tupper Lake have their own lodges. Brown said that when they hold "degrees," Masons sometimes come from lodges as far away as Vermont, Ticonderoga and northern Franklin County.


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