Greetings Brethren, family, and friends of Lodge 542! The previous month gave me the unique opportunity to experience Masonry from present, past, and future perspectives. I witnessed the revival of one of our current traditions, spoke with a Past Master who ran the Lodge back in the 1970s, and will get to see one of our most motivated Brothers earn his Master Mason degree this month. If you have not visited us lately – especially since the move – I encourage you to check the Lodge calendar and stop in to see what you are missing.
Last month was our first barbeque since moving to Van Nuys! Monthly barbeques are the cornerstone of fellowship at our Lodge — typically held on the last week of the month. Due to logistical challenges of moving our grill from the previous location and storing it at the new one, we opted for hanging out and ordering takeout for our socials for the last few months. Motivated by the superiority of the food and fellowship of our typical Armenian barbeques, Brother Cesar Franco took it upon himself to provide the Lodge with two, portable grills and cinder blocks to retrofit them into the existing grill pits at Van Nuys. Thank you, Brother Cesar! In addition to the great food, these events are a wonderful opportunity for the Brethren to unwind and share fellowship with each other, our family, and our friends. These barbeques also give guests and prospects an opportunity to visit the Lodge, get to know the Brethren, and find out more about Freemasonry. This culture of cohesiveness between the Brethren and hospitality to our guests is one of the defining factors of Lodge 542.
Speaking of the Lodge’s culture, I had the recent honor of speaking with Worshipful Brother William Burt who served as the Worshipful Master of Lodge 542 fifty years ago – in 1972. Worshipful Burt told me the Lodge was socially active during the time he attended by putting on events open to the community. In the 1980s, a Master Mason named Joe Leone hosted breakfasts at the Lodge every Sunday morning. These breakfasts were open to the public and served as a fantastic opportunity for the Brethren to hang out and for members of the community to visit and learn more about the Lodge. From 1965 to 1975, Brother Don Ingalls, a prominent television producer at the time, produced features on the stage in the dining hall that hosted about 300 guests and featured entertainers honing their acts for their performances in Las Vegas.
In addition to social activities, the Lodge was highly active with bringing in new Brothers. Due the volume of candidates and Brethren earning their higher degrees, he received his Entered Apprentice and Fellowcraft degrees with five other Brothers and received his Master Mason degree with four others! To facilitate this massive volume of Masons, the Lodge met on Mondays – in addition to the standard, weekly meetings on Thursdays – for the purpose of coaching candidates. Brethren met in three groups, separated by their degree, in one of the three rooms that existed upstairs, prior to the renovations: the Lodge room, the Audie Murphy Lounge (currently the ladies’ restroom), and the current Ladies’ Lounge (which once served as the living quarters of our previous caretaker and security guard, Brother Shane Bailey). This emphasis on membership development led to massive attendance for meetings. Worshipful Burt said a typical, Stated meeting (our monthly, business meeting) had about 70 Brothers in attendance, which is higher than our current attendance by a significant margin – especially considering, during that time, Stated Meetings were only open to Master Masons. This volume of Masons attending these meetings and progressing through their degrees is indicative of the Lodge’s excellence in supporting their new Brethren and the exacting standard for these Brothers to advance through their degrees. Worshipful Burt told me candidates and Brothers completed their degrees in the typical timeframe of about six to eight weeks each. This timeframe is similar to one I experienced when I became a Mason in Cincinnati, OH, back in 2005.
One of our newest Fellowcraft Masons, Brother Adam Mecalo, is doing his best to revive that old standard. He completed his Entered Apprentice and Fellowcraft degrees in about six weeks each. Brother Adam will receive his Master Mason degree on Thursday, June 23rd. I encourage all Master Masons to attend his degree if they are able. The Master Mason degree is the most meaningful ceremony in our mysteries and a Brother becomes a true Mason when he completes this degree. It is very meaningful for our new Masters to receive this degree in the company of their new peers. Seeing this ceremony also serves as a reminder to the Master Masons in attendance of the night they received their degrees. I am convinced this evening will be profound for Brother Adam. I am also convinced that he will go on to pursue a long and successful Masonic career and inspire new Masons to follow the path is setting.
Again, I ask the Brethren of 542 and Brethren from other Lodges, to visit the Lodge when they are able and bring their family and friend, when appropriate. The Brethren that show up today are the foundation of our culture, the future caretakers of our history, and the inspiration for the next generation of Freemasons. As always, I hope you are doing well. Please contact the Lodge if there is anything we can do to provide you with support or relief.