When I was in my first season with the last drum corps I marched with, I took one of the tenor players under my wing to help him out. It was his first season with any corps and there was nobody there working with the tenor section so I felt somewhat obligated because I remember being new.
Throughout the season we grew close and he became one of my closest best friends. I also introduced him to my brother and the three of us had some of the most fun together that I can remember. He was actually my Best Man when I got married, with my brother as the unofficial Other Best Man.
He was a couple years younger than me so I was able to go to his high school graduation. He lived a couple hours away from me but it wasn’t the first time I had gone to visit him.
My brother was on vacation with his family a couple hours in the opposite direction so I drove to pick him up. Then we rode together to our friend’s house.
I remember his graduation pretty well because it was the smallest class I had ever seen. The entire thing was in the gymnasium. I remember his band director crying when she saw me there because she worked with the drum corps and knew how close we were.
Later, after the ceremony, we were helping to get things set up for the graduation party and we all rode together with his dad to go pick up chairs and tables. The building we got them from was about the size of a small church. At least that’s what I would compare its size to because it was about as big as the first church I went to as a child; just enough to fit a small group in.
My friend’s dad asked if any of us had heard of the Freemasons before. I nodded because they were part of the discussions about the American War of Independence in history classes.
He saw my nod and asked me what I knew. I couldn’t think of anything because I could only recall that they were mentioned, not any details. So he showed us around the building explaining what he could about the society that’s so secretive they put big signs up in front of their buildings and post their schedules online. He was actually just starting his year being the Master of his lodge.
He gave my brother and me petitions to join and said to hold on to them in case we ever decide we want to turn them in. So we took them home with us after the weekend was over.
I looked more into it over the coming months and eventually decided I wanted to fill it out. Then I spent some time trying to find a lodge to join. It’s much easier now than it was when I joined. I found some information online but it wasn’t accurate so every time I tried to communicate with them it didn’t get through to them.
I asked my friend’s dad for help contacting someone and he got me the phone number of someone who ended up being one of the members I continue to look up to today. I called the person and set up a time to meet with him to discuss my reasons for wanting to join and to turn in the petition. I didn’t know I couldn’t use the petition I had been given because it had a different lodge name at the top than the one I was trying to join but he said I could cross it off and put their lodge name on it.
I waited a few weeks and eventually got a call from the investigation committee asking to interview me. Normally the person I had talked to would be a part of this but in order to keep things unbiased he was not there because he had handed in my petition. They asked similar questions to what I had already discussed at my first meeting. I mostly just remember the one who was asking most of the questions was another person who I looked up to until he died recently.
After a couple months I hadn’t heard anything from anyone so I called the original guy to see if I was supposed to assume they had voted to reject me. He said it was a time of the year when they didn’t meet as often but I should expect a response soon.
A few weeks later I got a letter in the mail explaining that they had accepted my petition and included information for when I would be initiated. I was elated. I told my friend to let his dad know. He was happy for me as well.
On the night I was initiated I remember showing up and the first person I saw when I walked in the door was the Master –though I didn’t know it until later in the night– and he asked me if I was the candidate for the evening. I had no idea what that meant but nodded hoping I was the person he was looking for.
He brought me into the preparation room and told me to wait there while he went to get someone. The person he got explained to me some things about how the night would work and when I need to do. It was pretty easy. Walk where they tell me to and if I hear my name to be ready to answer any questions they ask.
I was nervous at first when getting ready because I was the only one being initiated that night. They brought me in and after a couple short things they told me to follow my conductor and fear no danger. So I did. I put my complete trust in him and my trust was well founded. Most of the discussion was between him and the officers who were running things but whenever they asked me anything if I wasn’t sure of what they were asking I had someone to help me understand.
Sometimes I wish I could relive that night knowing the things I know now about what was actually going on. It was amazing but because there was so much information I missed most of it and didn’t catch it all for a couple more years.
The night of my second degree there was one other person with me. He had been initiated a few months before but hadn’t had a chance to move forward yet. We instantly connected and it was another great night.
Then when it was time for my second degree things worked out that my friend’s dad was able to be there. My friend went to college a few minutes from where I loved and it just happened to be when he was coming back from a break. I didn’t know until near the end of the night that he had asked then the third degree was because he was going to be a part of it. Those of you who are Masons know which part I mean.
There was a third person who joined for the third degree. He was from a different lodge and we didn’t quite click as much. That was actually the only night I’ve ever seen him. I’ve been to his lodge for things but he’s never been there.
Since I was only a couple of minutes away from the building I made sure to attend meetings regularly. The guy who was elected as Master shortly after my third degree asked me if I wanted to be an officer. I talked to him about what my responsibilities would be and we talked about how my schedule working with the marching band would interfere. We worked everything out and I was installed as the Junior Deacon a couple weeks later.
It worked out well for me. I didn’t have much to say during degrees so I ended up becoming the rehearsal prompter. That helped me learn all the things I had missed when I was actually going through them.
My brother joined the next year and we traveled our district together visiting all the lodges. It was fun having more reasons to drive around together. And we got to see the differences in the lodges in how many people showed up and how well the officers knew their parts. He doesn’t make it to meetings as often anymore because of his work schedule but everyone always asks me how he’s doing.
A couple of years after I joined, the Master started a study group for the people who want to learn more about the deeper meanings of the degrees. It started big but quickly turned into just a few people who were really into doing the research and looking for answers.
A few years later I became the Master of the lodge. It was pretty cool because my dad had joined a lodge near him in his state shortly after I had joined mine but neither of us had mentioned it to each other. He did manage to make it to a meeting with me after this but installation night was his first time making it to my lodge for anything. Since it was a public installation my wife and step-mom were able to make it as well.
At my first meeting as Master we received word from a Brother who was close to his wedding day. With just a couple of weeks to go his soon-to-be wife received notice that her dress had been stolen among others from the person who was doing the adjustments on it. We sent around a collection to help them quickly buy another one since there wouldn’t be enough time to wait for any insurance or legal concerns to be addressed before the day of the wedding. Another lodge in the area also helped by contributing money to the cause.
The next big thing to happen during my year as Master was a big flood in the area. It was something I knew too well so I immediately started looking to see who would need help with things.
One of our members who had joined recently lost his home completely. It happened at night so they didn’t even know they were flooding until the water was already a couple of feet high. Our lodge raised money to pay for a hotel room for him and his husband and pets while they tried to find a new home.
They didn’t have much money to begin with, living in a trailer home before the flood, so they couldn’t just go out and buy another place. One of our members who is a Past Grand Officer in our state worked with the Grand Lodge to help find funds to get them a new home in only a few weeks. Now they live up on a hill far from the threat of flooding.
Halfway through my year as Master I joined the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, or the Shriners as most people know it, because it was just a couple of minutes from where I live now. At the first meeting after joining they discussed their new location since they were selling the building and moving away from where I live. Due to a combination of that and not being able to get a straight answer ahead of time when meetings are, I’ve only made it to two meetings since they moved.
I haven’t really had a chance to do much with them yet because of my work schedule. They provide free medical care to children, including driving them to and from appointments, but the trips are usually weekdays when I am working. And whenever they are in parades I am working with a marching band so I can’t join them.
A couple of months after joining the Shrine I also joined the Order of The Eastern Star. I joined with a few other guys when we were talking about them after a meeting and one of their members who was there mentioned they needed more guys to join or they might not last long.
I was asked to be installed as their Patron a few months after joining. After discussing it a bit I accepted hoping I’d be able to get more answers about the organization as a whole by doing so. I still haven’t figured out what it’s all about.
The most joy I got out of my year as Master was in December. The previous year we had started bringing Holiday baskets to the surviving widows of our Brothers and to members who are unable to leave their homes due to their health.
I had someone set to help me deliver them but he ended up in the hospital just a few days before we were set to do so. I had a blast delivering them all by myself though. It was great to see how happy they each were that we were reaching out to them. Many of them sent letters to the lodge thanking us all.