Vol. XXI No. 4 — April 1943

Masonry Follows Servicemen

January 31, 1942, Masonic Service Centers were in operation in Columbia, South Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; Alexandria, Louisiana; Aniston, Alabama; Lawton, Oklahoma; Rolla, Missouri; Newport, Rhode Island; with a sub-Center at Jamestown.

During 1942, Centers have been opened at New London, Connecticut; Washington, D.C.; Columbus, Georgia; Belleville, Illinois; Waukegan, Illinois; Portland, Maine; Battle Creek, Michigan; Mt. Clemens, Michigan; Trenton, Michigan; St. Paul, Minnesota; St. Louis, Missouri; Neosho, Missouri; Trenton, New Jersey; Muskogee, Oklahoma; Sturgis, South Dakota; Rapid City, South Dakota; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Alexandria, Virginia; Petersburg, Virginia; Madison, Wisconsin; Sparta, Wisconsin.

Masonic Centers not operated by The Masonic Service Association but listed by request with them have been opened at Fargo, North Dakota, by the Masons of that City; Rockford, Chicago, Rantoul and Highland Park, Illinois, operated by the Grand Lodge of Illinois; New York City, Rome, Stapleton, Black River, New York, operated by the Grand Lodge of New York; Rockland, Maine, operated jointly by local Masons and the Association; Newburg, Missouri; a recreation project of Alhambra Grotto of St. Louis in which cottages, dining hall, large dormitory and many facilities for rest and recreation are available in the summer only to the officers and men of Fort Leonard Wood.

Centers are now being opened in Baltimore, Maryland; Long Branch, Newjersey; Norfolk, Virginia; New Orleans, Louisiana; Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Inquiries have been made about possible Centers in Spartanburg, South Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; Evansville, Indiana; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Kansas City, Missouri; Jefferson City, Missouri; Pierre, South Dakota; Salt Lake City and Ogden, Utah.

In December 1942, the Grand Lodge of Texas voted to invite The Masonic Service Association to come into that state to survey possible locations. Two surveys have been made, one by the Director of Welfare, the other by the Inspector Field Agent. The Association waits now on the pleasure of the grand master in Texas. He is an officer in the army on active duty; as soon as possible he expects to call his advisors together to hear the result of the surveys and express his will as to what Centers shall be established and where.

Wherever possible Centers are in Masonic Temples. This requires that some room or rooms in a Temple be suitable; that the brethren controlling the Temple are willing to give up their privileges in this room or rooms; and that the contribution expected is not beyond the budget of the Association.

In some places, a temple is either non-existent or permission cannot be had. In these locations a suitable room or rooms have been secured at commercial rentals. It is not so satisfactory as having the Center in a Temple but is better than no Center at all.

In most Centers established in Temples no charge is made other than an amount equal to the increased expense caused by extra heating, lighting, janitor services, opening the Temple on Sundays, etc.

It is not necessary for a grand lodge to contribute to welfare work to have a Center established within its borders. As money is available Centers are established in order of greatest need, if the grand master’s permission or invitation has been given. In some places where Centers are badly needed grand masters did not permit the Association to establish. Other locations in which Centers should be established are without them because of insufficient funds. Whether or not a grand lodge has contributed to welfare work is not a factor in the determination of places of establishment. The problem is national, not local; it concerns armed forces and Mason everywhere, not merely within a jurisdiction.

Masonic Service Centers are staffed by one or more Field Agents, and in some places by Hostesses. The Senior Field Agent is in authority and is responsible for the conduct and property of the Center and the outside contacts. He reports weekly on prepared forms showing attendance, services rendered, visits to hospital, entertainment and dances provided, etc.

All Centers have a Center Fund of from $50.00 to $150.00 to pay small bills; gas for the Center car, errands, supplies, soap, towels, at times food, small repairs, etc. The Senior Field Agent accounts for his Center Fund every week, sending receipted bills for expenditures. These are audited at headquarters and a check for the amount spent is drawn to build up the Center Fund to its original size. Field Agents are required to query headquarters before making any major purchase, repairs or additions.

It is impossible to list all services rendered by Field Agents, but it may be noted that among services rendered by Field Agents the following are all in the day's work: arranging a wedding; dissuading a would-be suicide; supplying baseball equipment for searchlight and anti-aircraft crews far from a city; arranging a bed in an automobile for a soldier for whom at midnight no room was open; finding living quarters for mothers and wives who come to visit sons and husbands in camps; providing a friendly shoulder for some boy to lean on who has had sad news from home; giving a free long distance call to some soldier worried about not hearing from his wife; finding a sympathetic Craftman lawyer to give free advice in legal matters reaching a soldier by mail; giving first aid to injuries received while on leave (every Masonic Service Center has a first aid kit); calling on the ill and injured in hospitals; looking up the lad whose mother and father are frantic because he has not written and persuading him to write; mending clothes, shipping bundles, checking packages, etc.

Whatever the service needed, the Field Agent is taught to give it. Masonic Service Centers sell nothing; whatever they have is given.

Personnel services are frequent: a distraught father telephones from the middle northwest; his son is in a post hospital in the east. Can we get him news? In thirty-five minutes (an office record) a full and comforting report is on the wires. A mother in the northeast has not heard from a son in the far south for weeks and is beside herself with anxiety. A wire to the nearest Field Agent, a trip in the car to the camp; result, a wire from the Field Agent, a letter from the boy. A father in the far west knows his daughter, an Army nurse, has been taken off a train with pneumonia. He can get no information through channels known to him. Wire and telephone in eight hours brings word of girl’s convalescence.

Often headquarters is asked — sometimes frantically — to do something to get news of some lad who was at Corregidor, Bataan, Solomon Islands or other far battlefronts. What little can be done always is done; cables are sent, War and Navy Departments queried, Red Cross aid enlisted. Alas, news of prisoners comes through very, very slowly. But the mere fact that Ma­ sonry is making the effort is of comfort to mothers and fathers heartsick over no news, fearing the worst, hop­ ing, hoping. . . . (Note: As this goes to press [in 1943] an International Red Cross Cable reports an aviator son, missing a year, alive, well, a prisoner in Tokyo!

As the year closed fifty-five Field Agents, eight hostesses, one traveling Field Agent, one Inspector Field Agent and one Supervising Hostess were in field force.

Field Agents are Master Masons of middle age. Hostesses are all mature women. Field Agents are selected after exhaustive investigation which includes references, a report from a credit bureau, a medical examination. Successful applicants either attend a “Field Agents School” where an intensive course is given by the Director of Welfare, or are immediately assigned as assistants to some successful Field Agent. If they are adaptable, learn quickly and show initiative, eventually they become Senior Field Agents in charge of Centers of their own.

The Traveling Field Agent is sent from place to place to organize and open new Centers. The Inspector Field Agent goes where difficulty arises and also checks on all Centers, makes suggestions and brings to headquarters new ideas and successful plans.

Two years ago many expressed doubt as to the number of men who could use Center facilities. The Association estimated that 10 percent of the armed services were Master Masons, and that approximately 14 percent more could be expected from Masonic families. The table shows only actual registrations; no estimate of the number of Masons who have not registered is made. Registrations show that 9.7 percent of all uniformed visitors are Master Masons. These statistics are for all Centers for eight months in 1942:

Attendance at Centers 566,034
Master Masons registered by name 54,934
Contacts in post (new) 4,749
Hospital Calls Visits 1,054
Hospital Calls — Patients 3,700
Home Service — Masons 120
Home Service — Others 37
Contacts outside post 5,729
Requests for assistance 1,480
Families assisted 1,125

Interested in the welfare work of the Association are the War and Navy Departments, the President’s War Relief Control Board, The Committee of Defense Health and Welfare, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The War Department is interested through Intelligence, Special Services, Chaplains’ Corps; the Navy Department through the Welfare and Recreation Division of the Bureau of Navigation and the Chaplains’ Corps; the President’s War Relief Control Board has supervision over all welfare agencies dealing with the armed services of this country and our Allies, and with all agencies seeking funds for foreign disbursement of relief; the Committee on Defense Health and Welfare is a part of Social Security and has a nation-wide organization of field directors and agents, investigating all welfare, health, recreation and morale agencies. Like the President’s War Relief Control Board, it has a great power over all organizations; the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is interested in Field Agents who are given permission to enter the camps and the hospitals, as they have access to information valuable to an enemy agent. They must be above suspicion.

Before the war, Army and Navy handled their own welfare programs. With the emergency, the President appointed a small group of social workers to handle all welfare within the army. Shortly after, the Hon. Brother Paul V. McNutt was placed in general charge of all welfare and morale work in connection with the armed services.

The various committees and groups evolved the plan of national welfare organizations combining in the United Services Organizations. The Masonic Service Association was urged to join, but as the USO was to appeal for public funds, which Masonry never does, it was necessary to decline.

Next came the Committee on Defense Health and Welfare, headed by the Hon. Charles P. Taft, Assistant Director to Paul V. McNutt. This committee has set up an organization, national in scope.

The President’s War Relief Control Board was originally formed in the state Department to supervise organizations collecting money for foreign governments. Later, by Presidential proclamation, the Board was empowered to govern domestic organizations and The Masonic Service Association registered a short time after the proclamation was published.

The Board has power of life and death over all welfare organizations. To the argument that Masons may do what they will with their own money within their own Temples the answer is: “Certainly, if they are not attempting to work with the armed services. If they are, the Temples can be placed off bounds by the Government after which no soldier or sailor, even if a Mason, can enter such a Temple.”

The procedure in setting up a Center is as follows: After obtaining permission from the grand master to make a survey and report, a conference is held with the local Defense Council regarding the desirability and necessity for the Center. If the Council approves, application is made to the President’s War Relief Control Board for permission to open. The Board may or may not ask the regional representative of the Committee on Defense Health and Welfare to make a report on the situation. Permission to open follows if there is no logical objection. Not until that procedure has been followed can the Association organize, sign contracts, purchase furniture and equipment and assemble personnel.

“Out Service” is the official name given to help extended to Masonic Clubs or military units either outside continental United States, or within its borders where no other social contacts are available. “Out service” has been extended in the form of games, literature, and equipment. During the flood of the Potomac River in the Capital City, the Center car traveled all day and night carrying hot coffee and food to the hundreds of police and servicemen and women on extended duty.

Money to support this work is contributed by grand lodges, the Northern Supreme Council, A.A.S.R., the Grand Encampment of the United States, Grand Com-manderies, the Imperial Council, A.A.O.N.M.S., the Mystic Order Veiled Prophets (Grotto), the National League of Masonic Clubs, Grand Chapters, RAM & OES, Order of Amaranth, White Shrine of Jerusalem, Order of Rainbow for Girls, Jobs Daughters, Tall Cedars of Lebanon, lodges, Chapters, Councils, Consistories, and a host of individuals. All contributions are acknowledged by formal receipt. Large contributors receive a framed certificate bearing the seal of the Association.

The smallest contribution yet received is ten cents; the largest single check, $20,000. Contributions for 1942 amounted to $258,880.59.

Bookkeeping and accounting of the large sums handled are under constant supervision and advice of the Auditor. A substantial reserve has been established to cover any possible contingency and as a buffer against stoppage of income when the emergency is over. When Masonic Service work is wound up, there will be problems of sending the Field force home, selling property, compromising leases, etc. The reserve funds will take care of this so that the promise of “no debts for grand lodges to pay” may be rigidly kept.

The executive secretary-treasurer is bonded for $100,000, a larger sum than he handles at one time, and funds and reserve are kept in a number of banks and building and loan associations. Every safeguard possible has been provided to insure accurate accounting and wise and conservative spending.

The future is in the hands of grand lodges, contributing organizations, and brethren of the nation. In its annual meeting February 24, 1943 the Executive Commission recommended a goal of $5,000,000 for 1943, or $2.00 per member for every Mason in the United States. The Delegates agreed to the recommendation, but without, of course, binding any grand lodge as to the amount of its contribution.

One hundred Centers are needed in 1943; at least 150 before the end of 1944. In the armed services are approximately 25 percent of Masons and Masons relatives. If the armed services are 8,000,000 men, then 2,000,000 should have Masonic service because of membership, or relationship to members. It costs on an average $10,000 to equip, open and operate a Masonic service Center for one year. One hundred Centers, then require $1,000,000 for a year’s work.

That is the simple problem. The need is so much; the cost is so much; the response will be . . . how much?

The Masonic Service Association, servant of its member and non-member contributing grand lodges, exists but to do the will of the Craft, to carry Masonry to brethren and their sons in the armed services to the extent that those who contribute are willing to finance. How great that service will be is for the brethren to say.

The Masonic Service Association of North America