As the Old Past Master pulled into the Lodge parking lot he knew he was early enough to get the Master’s ear for a bit. He and the Master had cooked up one bang of an evening for tonight’s Communication. He needed to do more than cross his fingers though. He needed to pray to the Grand Architect of the Universe to help guide the Lodge and see us all through this night.
Upon entering the Masonic building he went straight to the office.
“Evening Worshipful, are we all ready for tonight?”
“Ready as we’re ever going to be. Do you really think the members are going to go for this idea?”
“Well what other choices are there?”
“As usual your logic wins the day.”
“Let’s hope I am really as persuasive as you think I am.”
The two parted, the Master to greet the Lodge arrivals and The Old Past Master to look over his notes.
Lodge started right on time and as has been the case lately the Master breezed through the usual business, tabling some measures until the next meeting.
When he rose to speak you could hear a pin drop.
“Brethren, as charged at the last meeting, I led a delegation of three, the other two being Past Masters Schmidt and Crowley, into a conference with the Grand Master. We had received an offer from a charitable non-profit agency for us to donate our building to them whereupon they would make the necessary repairs and then give us a 99-year free lease. This seemed like a win/win proposal but we lacked the ability to dispose of our building, it being the property of Grand Lodge. So the meeting with the Grand Master was a plea to wave that Grand Lodge regulation and allow us to go through with the agreement with the Non Profit. ”
“The Grand Master said he could not do that. It would set a precedent for the entire jurisdiction, for how could he do it for us and not for everybody. While once again he sympathized with our plight he explained that Grand Lodges had to maintain possession of all Lodge buildings for liability reasons, for in the event a Lodge went bankrupt and left significant creditors, the courts had previously ruled that Grand Lodge was liable for those debts. The only way for Grand Lodge to be able to protect itself was to have full rights of ownership of its chartered Lodges building and property. Once again he suggested a merger or a rental someplace else.”
“I told the Grand Master that his refusal pretty much stymied us. We had investigated a merger, I told him, and it was not possible in the only other Lodge in our area. To travel a greater distance to another Lodge would result in poor attendance and be a death knoll. I reminded him that we still had a $40,000 mortgage on the building and faced with continuing to pay that off and a rental someplace else at the same time was beyond the means of the Lodge to accomplish. I told him that we had a grand old building that now was in serious disrepair and that unfortunately the Lodge had all its money tied up in the building. What we had now was a grand old albatross around our necks.”
“And lastly, before parting, I informed the Grand Master that it was entirely possible, based on a vote of the Lodge at its upcoming meeting, that the Lodge would turn in its charter and disband.”
“And that’s it, Brethren. Now I would like to hear your thoughts on the subject.”
The Master was playing it really cool. He had The Old Past Master waiting with his surprise but on his advice he was going to let the hand play out until their was no solution left but what The Old Past Master would lay on them.
Brother Hughes asked to be recognized. “I think we out to ask all our members for an emergency donation,’ he said.
“That might mean a thousand dollars per member, Brother Hughes”, replied the Master. “Do you realistically think that in these terrible economic times that we can expect that kind of immediate, and I do mean immediate, donation from each and every member? Many of our members are retired and on fixed incomes.”
“Have we,” asked Brother Hathaway, rising and get the nod of recognition, “investigated the bank forgiving the mortgage and /or spreading the payments out over a longer period thus reducing the monthly amount and the town of giving us four or five years to update the electrical wiring?”
“That’s the first thing we did before we called these emergency meetings,” retorted the Master.
Past Master Schmidt you wish to speak. “Well Worshipful,” Schmidt despairingly spoke, ” I don’t see any other choice than for us to surrender our charter and disband.”
Not a sound could be heard in the Lodge room as Past Master Schmidt was one of the Lodge’s oldest and most respected members, next to The Old Past Master, that is. Nobody had another good idea. Most of the Brethren just stared at the floor in sadness. If you looked really hard you might have even seen a tear or two.
That was the moment The Old Past Master was waiting for as he rose and spoke in a clear, loud voice of authority, “Worshipful Master.”
“Old Past Master”, responded the Master.
“As of this morning I now hold the note for the mortgage on this building, having paid off the bank with $40,000 plus fees. What I propose that we do is just what you have come to the conclusion that we must do. But I have a plan for the Lodge to rise again out of the ashes.”
“First we surrender our charter. Next I will foreclose on the building. Then I will convince the Building Inspector who is a friend of mine to immediately condemn the building and put large signs to that effect on the outside. Now the repairs total about $40, 000 and the balance on the foreclosure will be $40, 000 with an additional $10,000 in interest, fees and other charges. That’s $90,000 Grand Lodge is going to have to invest to get the building in a position to be resold. Furthermore I will call in the entire amount of the note immediately which I can do on a condemned building. Now I will hold the note through a series of holding companies so that my name is hidden in all this.”
“After that I will make an offer to the Grand Master to purchase our building for $40,000. He gets the mortgage paid off free and clear and I get the building. I doubt he is going to want to invest all that money to get the building resalable because there are no buyers out there for the building. We are headed for a depression in the economy and nobody in their right minds is investing in real estate of any kind.”
“Once I have the building back I will deed it to the Lodge with the stipulation that they take up the Non Profit on their offer. Now we will have a 99 lease free of charge on the building we are in now but we will no longer be a Lodge because we have no charter. I have been bending the Senior Warden’s ear a lot lately. He and I go back many, many years. He has assured me that if we apply for another charter in good financial shape after he assumes the East in three months he will grant us a brand new charter and we are back in business. I will simply tell him that a wealthy donor who wishes to remain anonymous came forward to bail us out and that we are now financially stable thanks to him.”
The only thing I ask is that the Lodge, now with no rent, heat, light or repairs to pay reimburse me at the rate of $200 per month for the rest of my life. When I die any balance due is forgiven.”
After the period of shock and awe had subsidized, Past Master Schmidt rose and said, “I think I can speak for most all of us. That, Old Past Master, was a right generous thing you did for the Lodge. And your plan is well thought out and just deserts for a Grand Master who seemed very reluctant to bend any rules to help us. Now if your plan works the Grand Master will give up his right to the building with no gain, he getting rid of this albatross around his neck in order not to get stuck with many years of taxes and ultimately a loss. It’s a shame that the end result for us via a circuitous route is the same as if the Grand Master had found a way to be our benefactor. My only concern is that if we go through with your idea, Old Past Master, the Grand Master might not take the bait.”
“In that case,” replied The Old Grand Master, “we are no worse off because without launching this plan the only real option we have is to desert the building, and either meet at somebody’s house or disband.”
With that the Master declared, “The East will now entertain any motions.”
A motion was made, seconded and passed to accept The Old Grand Masters plan and for everybody to keep their finger crossed. Lodge closed at 10:21 PM in short form, after which most everybody retired to O’Reilly’s where many stories of past good times at the Lodge in this building were recounted.
The plan proceeded as scheduled. The Building Inspector came down and put big condemned signs on the Lodge building, the Old Past Master foreclosed on the property against the Grand Lodge and the Master made a trip back to Grand Lodge with an official letter of the Lodge containing the vote of the Brethren and turned in the Lodge Charter.
After about a month the lawyer for The Old Past Master met with the Grand Master and offered to take the building off his hands for the cost of the $40,000 mortgage and all improvements needed to get the building up to code and repaired. In lieu of that the lawyer said on behalf of his client the building owner he would expect full payment of the balance of the mortgage plus attorney fees, bank fees, court filing fees and town fees in 30 days. After 30 days the lawyer stated that all fees would double and the building owner would charge a late fee of $1000 per month.
That seemed to have done the trick for in 29 days the Grand Master replied to the lawyer that he would accept the offer of the building owner. Papers were signed with less than 30 days remaining on the Grand Masters term in office. Immediately afterward the Master notified the Non Profit that deal to donate the building to them in exchange for a free 99 year lease was on, contingent on obtaining a Charter and that he would keep them informed.
The next step was the new charter for the Lodge. About a month after the former Senior Grand Warden had been installed as Grand Master, the Master and The Old Past Master met with him at Grand Lodge. The Master explained that they had received aid from a benefactor and were now ready to rent space free and clear form all financial obligations.
The Grand Master was a bit suspicious. “It seems very convenient that all of a sudden you have some one donating emergency relief to you. Where was he just a few months ago when you could have used his help to avoid all this and who is he?”
“The donor is some one who wishes to remain anonymous,” replied the Master. He didn’t hear or know about our predicament until the condemned signs went up on the building. After this entire situation was not exactly front page news. It was kept pretty quiet.”
“And where will you be renting space,” queered the Grand Master
“We will initially be meting in the back conference room of LaRusso’s Restaurant. But we are negotiating right now to rent space back at the old Lodge building from the new building owner,” answered the Master.
“Now that’s a little too good to be true,” said the Grand Master. “I want your assurance that there was no skullduggery done here.”
This time the Old Past Master answered. “Grand Master we have known each other for years and my conversations with you when you were Senior Warden were to keep you apprised of our situation and to provide you with all the facts as to what we were doing and what we hoped might happen in the future. Let me say we have been most fortunate but that we have done nothing unmasonic or illegal. Everything has been above board. This all could also have been avoided if the former Grand Master had found a way to help us.”
“Under the circumstances I am inclined to grant you your new charter. However, since there might be some questions as to how convenient this all fell together, I am going to wait 5 months until Grand Session convenes and put it to a vote of Grand Lodge with my recommendation,” intoned the Grand Master. “What would you like to name your New Lodge?”
“Mirabeau Lodge,” replied the Master. “As you know George Mirabeau is the real name of The Old Past Master.”
Five months later at Grand Session Mirabeau Lodge #848 was granted a charter.
A few weeks later at their first meeting in the Old Lodge building since disbanding the Old Past Master came to Lodge early and conferred with the Master in the office.
“I am feeling guilty over that little white lie I told about the anonymous benefactor,” said the Master. “I will do penance for that, but if I had to do it all over again, I would do the exact same thing.”
“Don’t beat yourself up over something so trivial, when a Grand Master who could have granted special dispensation and bailed us out wouldn’t go out of his way for us. I too regret we had to fib a little to get this through but the disposition of the property was honest and legal” replied The Old Grand Master. This is a new beginning. Let us begin.”
AND SO THEY DID