2012-10-19 / Front Page

Open houses to provide rare glimpse

Masons throughout state invite public into their lodges
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


Masons in Scarborough will hold an open house at The Gov. William King Lodge Saturday, Oct. 20. The lodge has been operating since 1961, the last 27 years in the present location. (Michael Kelley photo) Masons in Scarborough will hold an open house at The Gov. William King Lodge Saturday, Oct. 20. The lodge has been operating since 1961, the last 27 years in the present location. (Michael Kelley photo) Freemasonry has had a long and storied history in the country since it was brought to the United States more than 260 years ago. Many of this country’s founding fathers – including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock – were Masons.

That history will be honored Saturday, Oct. 20, as Masonic Lodges throughout the state, including lodges in Saco, South Portland and Scarborough, will hold open houses.

The Saco Lodge, located in at 258 Main St., will hold its open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will include a luncheon and a tour of the facility, where the lodge has been located since the early 1900s, when the building was built.

“What we want to do is show people we are not hiding in the shadows,” said Gordon Workman, worshipful master of the Saco Lodge, which dates back to 1802 at a different location.


The public will get an inside look at how the Scarborough Mason’s Lodge operates Saturday, Oct. 20. Scarborough has had a Freemasonry chapter since 1961. Many famous Americans, including Presidents George Washington, Harry Truman and Theodore Roosevelt, were Masons. (Michael Kelley photo) The public will get an inside look at how the Scarborough Mason’s Lodge operates Saturday, Oct. 20. Scarborough has had a Freemasonry chapter since 1961. Many famous Americans, including Presidents George Washington, Harry Truman and Theodore Roosevelt, were Masons. (Michael Kelley photo) “The idea is to invite people into our lodge to see it and hear some of the brethren speak. It is an opportunity for us to meet the community and for the community to meet us.”

Workman, who has been involved with the lodge for the last 10 years, said a big part of being a Mason is about giving back to the community, both as a lodge and individually.

“We encourage our brethren to go out in the community to help out,” Workman said. “We, as Masons, believe as you make yourself better, you make the community better.”

Over the years, Workman said, the lodge, which has 200 members, has supported the Saco soup kitchen, including in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and local food pantries sent much of the local supply to Louisiana. Workman said this year Saco Masons donated funding toward the creation of a veterans monument in Eastman Park, just south of the lodge on Main Street.

The lodge also participates on regular roadside cleanups of Jenkins Road, Wreaths Across America and hands out annual scholarships to high school students at Thornton Academy. The Masons also offer the use of their lodge to community groups, including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and the Tri-City Community Chorus.

The Hiram Lodge at 111 Ocean St. in South Portland also has a long history of giving back to the community, dating back to 1875.

“We try to identify needs in the community and contribute back to the community as best we can,” said Worshipful Master David Gleason.

Some of the contributions include participating in Toys for Tots and winter coat programs for children, as well as assisting the local soup kitchen.

“We try to help out families around the holidays or people in the community who might be less fortunate,” Gleason said.

The Hiram Lodge will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., during which time the public can see the facility, meet members and watch a DVD that chronicles the history of Freemasonry.

Gleason got involved with Hiram Lodge 10 years ago after hearing about Freemasonry from his family.

“It’s something that my father and brother were involved with,” he said. “I decided I wanted to learn more about it, so I went to a meeting. I like the fellowship and all the work we do to contribute (to the community).”

One of the projects the lodge is currently working on, Gleason said, is starting a youth chapter for young men ages 12 to 21.

Gleason said Freemasonry “is not a secret organization,” like some think it is. Rather, it is a social organization aimed at bettering its members and the community.

“Masonry is not for everybody,” Gleason said. “We try to get the best men in the community to join. We try not to be selective, but we want to make sure the men who do join meet the high standards and have a high moral quality.”

Scott Whytock, a member of the Gov. William King Lodge in Scarborough, said this year the Grand Lodge of Maine has put more money into advertising and marketing in an effort to get new members. Last year, he said, 2 percent of the budget was spent on membership development. This year that figure has grown to 18 percent.

Clearly defining what Masonry is for a television or radio ad, he said, can be a difficult thing.

“One of the problems we have is this fraternity can be so many things to so many people that it is hard to brand,” said Whytock, who has been a Mason since 2003. “We need to brand what we do better in a way that will attract the people we want, but not in the way we reached people 40, 50, or 60 years ago.”

Members of the public will have a better sense of what Masons do when the Scarborough lodge holds its open house from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20.

Scarborough’s lodge, located at 649 Route 1, is the second youngest in the state. It was founded 51 years ago and a number of its 120 members are founding members. It is named for Mason and former governor William King.

Whytock said at 1 p.m., there will be a kick-off to the Toys for Tots program. This is the second year the lodge has participated in the program, an initiative started in 1947 by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve to distribute toys to needy children.

Despite a late start last year, Whytock said Masons were able to collect 600 toys.

The Toys for Tots Program is but one of the community service activities the lodge does throughout the year. Whytock said the lodge has sponsored a Scarborough Little League team for the past seven years and handed out scholarships for high school students, as well as participate in the Books for Bikes Program, in which Scarborough students get a chance to win a bicycle with every book they read.

Jeff Simonton, who has been involved with Masonry since the early 1990s, said the lodge also puts on celebratory dinners for sports teams after their seasons have ended.

Simonton said he got involved with Masonry after finding out his father and grandfather were Masons.

“I didn’t think much of it as a kid. I saw the emblem on their hats or on their car, but it wasn’t until I was about 24 or 25 that I actually asked about it,” he said.

For years, Simonton said, Masonry work was something that members never talked about. That, however, is changing.

“The guard is changing and most guys now know you can actually talk about it,” Simonton said.

Still, he added, there are misunderstandings about what Freemasonry is. Simonton said it is not some sort of secret religious organization, like some believe.

“The motto is to make good men better,” Simonton said. “It is hard to knock a group that is based on lessons of morality. Masons don’t want men who aren’t good and upright people.”

Whytock said while Masons must believe in a higher being of some sort, religion and politics have no place in a Mason lodge.

“Religion and politics are divisive,” he said. “If you can cut these out, it is going to be a much happier crowd.”

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