So here I am sitting in the East in a two-year line of a Lodge with significant resources and a great budget. I had just taken the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team to hometown Lexington. What to do next? Think big Fred, I thought, think big! After all that was one of the decisions that led you to affiliate with Paul Revere Lodge in the first place, its ability to provide the means to facilitate those who wanted to do great things.
So the first time around I thought of my heritage and how that fit with the Colonial Degree Team going to Lexington. Now once again I turned to what I knew and where I had been before and how that fit in with the Colonial Degree team and with my family and its origins.
I had just gotten my first computer a year before being installed as Master of Paul Revere Lodge. And one of the first things I did with that new toy was to explore cyberspace for signs of the Craft. The most active areas at that time seemed to be New York and Indiana. I joined the GFN and made some interesting friends such as Ian Donald and Ellis Mills. I also latched onto an enterprise launched by Jeff Naylor out of Indiana, a Masonic forum and discussion Board, Masoniclight that was very active and interested in the betterment of the Craft. Such later notable Freemasons as Chris Hodapp, Nathan Brindle, Roger Van Gorden, Bill Hosler, Tom Fellows and Eric Schmitz who I was later to meet in person hung their hat there. Plus others I am sure these old brain cells just can’t conjure up. This group became very reform minded and later formed The Knights of The North, which I also associated with, and wrote Laudable Pursuit.
My wife’s hometown was not Lexington, MA but Bloomington, Indiana and I had been there a few times and also north of Indianapolis to visit the other side of her family. So why not take the Paul Revere Colonial Degree team to Bloomington, Indiana? It wasn’t England but then I didn’t know anybody in England and maybe that would be carrying thinking big just a bit too far. But heck Indiana was only a thousand miles away. When I looked up the Lodge in Bloomington I found out that it was Monroe Lodge #22. And I was William Munroe on the Colonial Degree Team. Those who know me well know that I don’t believe in coincidences.
I broached the subject in a sort of trial balloon to the members of the Degree Team and to a certain few well-placed members of the Lodge. Many said that nobody had ever tried something that ambitious and they doubted it would fly. But I am not one to be easily discouraged. I took the founding head of the Colonial Degree Team, now its Historian, and a revered Past Master of the Lodge out to lunch. I told him what I wanted to do and I said to him that if he did not there and then approve and be willing to openly say so, that I would drop the idea. Quite frankly without his approval the idea was going nowhere. When he gave his full blessing to the project and actually brought it up in open Lodge we got the go ahead on our end of the line.
I had meanwhile already gotten in touch with Monroe Lodge and struck up a conversation with its Master. Soon I was pushing for him to have the Colonial Degree Team out to his Lodge. The conversation lasted over many months as he liked the idea but working out all the incidentals of actually doing it was no small project. First and foremost were the financial arrangements. We would pay for our airfare out there and back for approximately 18 Degree members. They would have to pick up the bill for our meals and board. That looked like no easy task. Before we could even think of making this trip we had to have prior approval from The Grand Master of Indiana and our own Grand Master. Some states had locked us out, refusing to allow Massachusetts’s ritual to be exemplified in their state. That really seemed so petty to me and was later to influence me into becoming an advocate of more cooperation among the various American jurisdictions and the crafting of some sort of American Masonic identity.
After eight months of negotiations the talks broke down and the trip seemed to be just a dream never to be actualized. The Master in Indiana was enthusiastic about having us out but he just couldn’t seem to work out the logistics of accomplishing it on his end. Now it was time for him to step down and turn over the East to a new Master. It was also time for me to step down and do likewise at Paul Revere Lodge. As a famous Mason once said, “The best laid plans of mice and me, oft go awry.”
Many, many other wonderful things were going on in the Lodge during all this time and I stepped down knowing that it had been a wonderful two years in the East. Still I was despondent and sulking over what could have been.
Months went by when all of a sudden the new Master of Monroe Lodge #22 E-Mailed me. He had solved the problems on his end and wanted to know if we were still interested. WERE WE INTERESTED!!!
We flew out of Boston on a Friday afternoon in October of 2001 just four weeks after 9/11, eighteen members of the Degree Team making the trip. My biggest laugh was seeing our Marshall a Past Master and a retired Boston cop get patted down and practically stripped search before our eyes. They had him down almost to his birthday suit right there in the open in the terminal.
Upon arrival in Indianapolis Past Grand Master MW Richard Hickham and the Master of Monroe Lodge #22 , Wor. Gary Denson met us with a mini bus with a bunch of bedding in the back. We drove about 75 miles south and stopped at a Shrine Club just outside of Bloomington where we were treated to a great steak dinner and some beers and MW Hickham announced our arrival to all gathered. Afterward we were driven to the place where we were going to stay. They had us billeted at the state DeMolay chateau about 20 miles east of Bloomington in a rural area. The bedding in the back of the bus was for us to make up own bunks (we brought our own towels and toiletries). The Chateau was a beautiful two story natural wood building, somewhat like a giant log cabin. The top floor had a large wrap around deck. The bottom floor consisted of eight bedrooms each with two bunk beds (upper and lower) and a bathroom. Upstairs was a bathroom and huge living/dining area with a small kitchenette. In the kitchenette refrigerator was two cases of beer.
Saturday morning MW Hickham and Wor. Denson were back with the bus and we went down to the Lodge where they had breakfast prepared for us, eggs and bacon and sausage and grits and fruit and biscuits and honey. Then we took a tour of Bloomington and Indiana University, I being able to stop at my wife’s grandmother’s old house. We had lunch out and then it was back to the Chateau to shower and change clothes for the Degree. We arrived back at the Lodge around 5:00 PM for a tour, set up and pre- dinner fellowship. The Lodge prepared a wonderful meal after which we retired to the Lodge room for the ceremony we had come 1000 miles to perform.
We marched into Lodge to the beat of our drummer, all in costume with tri- cornered hats. The degree went flawlessly and we raised three Indiana Masons to the sublime degree of a Master Mason. William Munroe gave the “Canadian Charge” and the Historian his usual patriotic message. Afterward we presented the Lodge with an engraved Paul Revere bowl and they gave us all presents. Many visitors were there including one Massachusetts Mason from the Plymouth district who was visiting IU. After many introductions and good cheer all around we retired to downtown Bloomington for some real cheer.
We all gathered at an Irish pub for celebration and a continuation of Masonic fellowship. As it was a warm night we all sat out on the outdoor sidewalk café of the pub. There is nothing like sitting on the sidewalk of a big college town on a warm night. The sights were something that sent the blood of old men bubbling. I have a picture of Wor. Denson, Master of Munroe Lodge #22 and me at the pub included here and also Past Master Eric Schmitz with MW Richard Hickham – the last two pictures at the bottom.
Sometime after midnight, I can’t quite remember when, we all piled into the Chateau. Sunday morning the bus was there to take us to the Lodge for another great breakfast. We all told many Masonic stories over breakfast including how much we enjoyed their company and all they had done for us. We said our goodbyes and the bus brought us back to the Indianapolis airport for a Sunday afternoon flight home. Monday morning we were all back to work with memories of a time we shall never forget.
And that’s what can happen when you think big! 1000 miles and back – all in one weekend!