Brethren, our Lodge began a new chapter this month, after we voted to move from the temple in North Hollywood to the one in Van Nuys. I know this change elicits different emotions from the Brethren, but it is already in motion, and we need to go along with it. It is more productive to ride the waves of change than to push back against them. Change is a part of our history at Lodge 542. This history, our personal memories of North Hollywood, and our fellowship will continue to be part of the Lodge no matter where we meet.
North Hollywood Lodge 542 was born from change and has adapted to it ever since. In 1922, a group of Brothers joined together to discuss the establishment of a new Lodge in Lankershim, which was the previous name for the neighborhood of North Hollywood. The majority of the Brethren came from Hollywood Lodge 355. They established Lankershim Lodge and received a charter from the Grand Lodge of California the following year in 1923. Discussions began in 1939 to create a temple, which culminating in the erecting of the temple at 5122 Tujunga Avenue that opened in 1951. Specific details of the early days of our Lodge and the erection of the temple can be found on our Lodge History page.
The result of the Brothers’ efforts was an architectural masterpiece, a more elaborate description thereof is available in a write-up from the Los Angeles Conservancy. This majestic temple stood strong for over 40 years, until the Northridge Earthquake of 1994 almost leveled it. The Brethren of 542 at that time rose to the task of repairing the temple and fortifying against similar disasters in the future. Unfortunately, declining membership of fraternal organizations, rising costs, and other factors put Lodge 542 in a position where we had to sell the building in 2014. The new owner completed a major renovation of the building and re-opened it as the Bella Blanca Event Center the following year. During this time, the Brethren joined together in various places, including the Lodges in Burbank, Glendale, Van Nuys, and the parking lot outside of the North Hollywood building during its renovations. After the completion of renovations, the new owner allowed the Brethren to continue meeting in the building. However, this transition sacrificed some of the history and spirit of the building while introducing the complications of managing a Lodge as tenants within a banquet hall, instead of having the freedom that comes with owning the building or at least operating in a Masonic building. These reasons, among others, are why a majority of the Brethren voted to leave this building in search of a better location. I am fortunate to have almost 10 years of memories from North Hollywood before we decided to move.
I remember the first time I visited Lodge 542 and a few other memories come to mind as well. In the summer of 2012, I was living in Hollywood, having recently relocated here after returning from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Still enlisted in the Army on my return – and having hair at the time – I required frequent haircuts for compliance with the military grooming standard. Through serendipity, I met a Brother at my local barber shop who recommended that I should visit North Hollywood Lodge. This recommendation is even more noteworthy because I later discovered that he was not even a member of 542. He recommended me to visit 542 over his own Lodge! From the moment I arrived, I knew why. I immediately felt at home there. I remember receiving a hospitable greeting. A Brother conducted into the dining room, at the entrance of which was the Lodge’s seal cast on the floor.
After passing through the dining hall, I ascended a staircase, at the top of which was a painting of our Brother and the founding father of our great nation, George Washington.
To the right of that painting was another dedication to an American hero, who was also a movie star and a Brother of our Lodge, Audie Murphy. This dedication came in the form of the Audie Murphy Lounge.
The lounge featured a pool table, entertainment center, a library of Masonic books, and a collection of historical items and Masonic memorabilia – including many of Bro. Murphy’s military awards. As an Army veteran myself, recently returned from war and my visit being shortly after the Army’s birthday, I was elated to observe this shrine to such a hero. Then, I joined the Brethren in the Lodge room for a meeting, presided over by Worshipful Brother R.J. Comer.
During such meetings, it is customary to recognize Brothers visiting from other Lodges. During this recognition, I mentioned that I was an honorary member of a Military Lodge I stumbled upon in Afghanistan. Worshipful Comer then assigned me with the task of returning the following month and giving the Brethren a presentation about the Lodge – a story I will save for another time. After the meeting was over, I had the opportunity to hang out and connect with the Brethren, many of whom I still regularly speak with today! I did not immediately become a member of 542 but visited when I could and stayed connected with the Brethren. I remember nights when renovations to the building forced us to hang out and share fellowship in the parking lot of the building! I also recall a Stated Meeting we had in the middle of the summer, in a partially constructed dining room with no A/C – with the modified dress code of wearing shorts, instead of full suits, so no one passed out from heat stroke. This period of adversity brought the Brethren together and formed a very tight bond between them. In 2018, I finally became an official member of 542. Shortly after I assumed the role of Junior Steward and worked up to my current office. During this time, I was able to introduce two of longtime, personal friends to Masonry and take part in their degrees. Last month, I had the bittersweet honor of sitting as the Worshipful Master for the last candidate to ever receive the degree of Entered Apprentice in the North Hollywood temple. This month, the Lodge is conferring another Entered Apprentice degree at Van Nuys, which is proof that Masonry perseveres.
This perseverance was alluded to by multiple Brothers in the discussion that preceded the vote to move. The Lodge is not the physical space where Masons meet. The Lodge is the Brethren themselves and their connection with one another that persists wherever we assemble. In my time as a Mason, I have seen Masonry exist from the most historical and elaborate buildings to a shack, bootstrapped together in a combat zone, and various forms between. As Brethren of 542, we are blessed to be Masons, surrounded by our Brothers, with resources that allow us to continue improving ourselves with the teachings of Masonry and introducing new Brethren to our Craft – regardless of the physical location where we do it.
Thank you letting me share a glimpse of our Lodge’s history, including my own memories of it. I would love to hear your stories as well and post them on this site – archives of which is where I found all the photos in this article. Feel free to share your stories, photos, and videos with me via email or via Facebook and Instagram. The temple at North Hollywood and the Brethren who assembled there will live on as long as we continue telling their stories.