The Old Past Master Part Two

The Old Past Master pulled into the Lodge parking lot later than usual.  Others had already arrived.  He sat in the car for a bit, contemplating all that had taken place over the last three months. He had been in charge of the committee to look into selling the building and renting elsewhere. It’s sad, he thought, how may complain and how few volunteer to serve.  He had one new Brother who wanted to serve and he called a number of others until finally Past Master Crowley signed on.

His committee met at O’Reilly’s Pub and over an adult beverage of choice, hashed out a plan of action. Past Master Crowley took the commercial Real Estate offices to see how hard it would be to sell the building.  Brother Jenkins, one of the Lodge’s newer Masons, took the task of finding rental space. He went to talk to the Master, Wardens and Building Trustees of Fidelity Lodge to see about a merger or a straight rental. They agreed to meet back in one month at the same place.

One month later the news was not good.  PM Crowley reported that there virtually was no market for the Lodge.  Property foreclosures were heavy; the market was flooded with property that would not sell. The economy continued to tank and even bargain hunters were hard to find.  Brother Jenkins found three private locations that would serve the Lodge’s purpose for between $800 and $1400 per month.  Unfortunately all would need extensive renovation or restructuring to make them into a Lodge room and offices and any such remodeling would be at the tenant’s expense.  He had met with all concerned at Fidelity Lodge and later in the month they brought the subject up at their Communication for vote.  Fidelity Lodge would have no part of a merger.  They would, however, rent their Lodge building for $1000 per month. But there was something about their condescending attitude that left a lot to be desired.

All this passed through his mind in a matter of minutes.  He wondered how Findler and his committee had made out and if the Master had any luck with the Grand Master.  Well the only way to find out was to get into Lodge.

He entered the building and found the Master at the door as usual greeting Brethren.  The Master pulled him aside and said, “We need to have a private tête-à-tête after we close.  How about getting together at O’Reilly’s?”

“Sure thing Worshipful,” replied the Old Past Master.  “You buying?”

And with a nod of his head the Master was gone to attend to other business.

Lodge opened at exactly 7:00 PM, right on time, and the Master quickly dispensed with the usual business. He then arose to address the Lodge.

“As you know Brethren we have set aside most of this meeting for the purpose of continuing our dialogue of what to do financially as the costs of our building and the deepening economic crisis have put us in danger of bankruptcy.  As we left off our last get together on this subject three months ago you will remember that I appointed three committees counting myself and so let us start off with these committee reports.  Old Past Master can we have your report?”

The Old Past Master rose and delivered all he had gone over in his mind in the parking lot.  There was no market for selling the Lodge building, private rentals were available at an average of $1000 a month but the Lodge would have to pick up the cost of major interior remodeling.  Finally he reported that Fidelity Lodge did not want a merger but would rent their building to us for $1000 per month.

As he sat down Brother Johnson rose and was recognized.  “Seems to me there is no fraternal discount from Fidelity Lodge,” he stated.  “It almost sounds like they don’t really want us.”

“I agree,” replied the Master. “I have had some follow up conversation with the Master over there and he seems to feel that old bad blood between the two Lodges might spill over into today if the association was so close.”

“Well, I will give you my report next,” continued the Master.  “I met with the Grand Master at Grand Lodge and explained to him how desperate our situation was. We needed to upgrade our building right now and make the necessary repairs in order to continue to meet there.  He told me that, while he sympathized with our plight, that Grand Lodge was also feeling the pinch of the depressed economy and would have to be giving up some of its programs and lay off some full time paid staff at Grand Lodge. Under those circumstances he didn’t think it would look too good to lay off staff while subsidizing Lodges.”

“I asked him about a possible loan and he countered with, ‘Well Master do you think you have the where with all to pay it back?’ I allowed as how that might be a problem. But then I got his Irish up by mentioning that the Grand Lodge had some trust funds it could tap into.  He curtly informed me that it wasn’t all that easy and that these funds were set up to be untouchable except for their stated purpose under extreme circumstances. I countered with the fact that considering the state of our economy these were extreme circumstances.  And that abruptly ended our meeting. So, Brethren, it looks as if Grand Lodge cannot be our savior.”

“Let us hear now from Brother Findler.”

Brother Findler rose and reported, “Brethren, my committee searched for ways to increase our revenue.  The most likely prospect would be to get some good paying tenants for our building.  As you all know we have a pretty large building which has many more rooms in it than just a Lodge room.  With some minor alterations we have space available for certain businesses and organizations like a church or community service groups.  The committee scoured the area for prospective tenants but found nobody that wanted to make a move in such tough economic times unless we were offering free rent.  All hope seemed lost until I ran into this large Non Profit Group, which had been endowed by a wealthy deceased patron with a good sized trust fund.  They are in cramped quarters now and were looking for a larger space. We had some long conversation over the past two months and to make a long story short, they have made this offer to us.  If we will donate them the building they will make all the necessary repairs and upgrades at their expense and offer us a 99 year lease free of charge.  They are a 501©3 corporation involved in community charitable endeavors and thus will pay no corporation or property taxes. One of their community programs is refurbishing and remodeling old run down, condemned and vacant property and then turn it over to a needy family for a place to live. That provides them with the necessary tradesmen to perform the repairs and remodeling to our building at a reasonable cost.  This committee recommends that the Lodge look into the possibility of taking up this organization on its offer.”

At which point Secretary Dobson rose like he was shot out of a cannon. “Now I am sure Brother Findler knows that the Lodge building is the property of Grand Lodge and cannot be disposed of us as we please.”

“I am aware of that fact Brother Secretary,” replied Brother Findler,”but I thought perhaps the Grand Master might make an exception considering the seriousness of the circumstances and the dire straits our economy is in.”

Brother Gonsalves rose and after the Master nodded his head said, “I think the idea has a lot of merit and we should see what we can do.”

“I second the motion,” chimed in another Brother.

“The East will then entertain a formal motion,” declared the Master.

A motion was made that the Master appoint such Brothers as he deemed necessary to accompany him to Grand Lodge and meet with the Grand Master again to see if he could and would release the Lodge building to the disposal of the Lodge.  The motion was seconded and carried by a hand vote.  From the count there were no objections but a few Brethren refused to vote.

The Master than stated, “I think that will be all for tonight, Brethren.  We should address this subject again at our very next meeting in one month. If no one has anything else to bring before the Lodge I will proceed to close.”

Lodge closed at 10:10 PM in short form.

Afterwards at O’Reilly’s The Old Past Master and the Master huddled in quite conversation over a libation.

“You know, the Grand Master is not going to go for this idea either,” lamented the Master.”

“Unfortunately you are right,” replied The Old Past Master. “Yet our ammunition is far from being spent.  I have an idea up my sleeve that I have been saving.  I think that if we …………………………………………….”

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Fred is a Past Master of Plymouth Lodge, Plymouth Massachusetts, and Past Master of Paul Revere Lodge, Brockton, Massachusetts. Presently, he is a member of Pride of Mt. Pisgah No. 135, Prince Hall Texas, where is he is also a Prince Hall Knight Templar . Fred is a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society and Executive Director of the Phoenix Masonry website and museum.