Vol. XXII No. 3 — March 1944

Report on Welfare Work for the Armed Forces

At the twenty-fifth annual meeting of The Masonic Service Association of the United States, February 21, 1944, the Executive Commission reported in full to the delegates on the welfare work accomplished in 1943.

From that report the pages which form this Bulletin have been abstracted.

Four accomplishments the Association considers outstanding highlights of 1943. The new Centers established; the motion picture Your Son Is My Brother, the successful launching of field assistance to grand lodges in raising funds; the establishment of the Masonic Service Center in London, England.

Ten new Centers were established during the year and surveys are in process looking to erecting others. The new Centers opened this year are: Hartford, Connecticut; London, England; Evansville, Indiana; Baltimore, Maryland; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Long Branch, New Jersey; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Burlington, Vermont, and Newport News, Virginia.

One Center — Atlantic City — was closed, due to withdrawal of soldiers from that area.

A devoted group of Masons in Hollywood produced for and gave to the Association a splendid Motion Picture Your Son Is My Brother: A tale of a Field Agent, a serviceman in trouble and how it was cured through the operation of a Service Center.

Four names deserve special mention — Brother E. O. Blackburn, whose driving force, enthusiasm, and Masonic heart were largely responsible for the production of the picture; Producer and Director Sid and Al Rogell, and the writer of the script, Mel Riddle, at that time not a Master Mason, but since having been raised.

These four brethren interested their associates in Hollywood, with the result that this really beautiful picture was completed and given to the Association: A gift conservatively valued in money at more than $100,000.00.

The results of showing it have been nothing less than phenomenal. The first grand lodge to see it immediately tripled its contribution to Masonic service work. The second grand lodge to view it doubled its contribution of last year.

A triumph of 1943 was the establishment of a Masonic Service Center at 98 Mount Street, W1, London, England. This was accomplished through the good offices, tact, and diplomacy of Past Master and Colonel Robert H. Young, Patent Coordinator for the United States in England. He went to London armed with a commission from the grand master of the District of Columbia as a special representative, and with a commission from The Masonic Service Association. These documents proved an open sesame to the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge, the Earl of Harewood, and Right Worshipful Brother Sidney A. White, Grand Secretary.

After establishing contact with these eminent Freemasons and interesting many other American and British Freemasons stationed in London, Colonel Young was able to consummate an arrangement by which our Center is opened and operates in the quarters of the Square Club, an organization consisting of American and British Freemasons for the mutual entertainment, pleasure and Masonic instruction of the brethren of the United States and Great Britain.

The Service Center in London occupies the house formerly inhabited by Lord Gort, now in command at Malta. It is a double house with ample facilities in parlors, recreation rooms, bath, billiard room, and even a safe in the basement for the safe keeping of valuables of the visiting Masons.

Many letters from visiting Masons, both English and American, highly commend this London Masonic Service Center which is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds, so much so that additional quarters, on which an option has already been secured, may be soon necessary. Letters from Colonel Young, Brother Bertrand Clark (his deputy), and others who have written, all say that the Center is very well patronized and that all who visit it find a peculiar pleasure in learning better to know the Masons of the other English speaking country.

Additional service abroad, by other Centers, is a difficult accomplishment because the Government will not permit emissaries from an organization to go abroad for these purposes. The Association, therefore, must depend on brethren already in other countries for the establishment of such Centers. Every effort, however, is being made to extend foreign service.

Contributions this year have been slightly more than half a million dollars for welfare work for the armed forces.

Ten percent of this has been set aside in the reserve fund as a wise insurance against the future. After the war Freemasonry will have the opportunity either to continue the Masonic service work for the armed forces during the period of demobilization or to turn its Service Centers and Field Staff to rehabilitation or hospital visiting. It is not possible to make such plans now, but it is possible to lay aside the money so that when leases must be compromised, property sold, men sent home and found positions, etc., funds will be on hand and grand lodges not asked to pay for an obligation of the past.

Finances are handled by the executive secretary-treasurer, and a competent bookkeeping department under the eye of the auditor. With the approval of the finance committee and Executive Commission, the Auditor laid out the bookkeeping system.

No new Center is opened unless money is in hand or in sight to do so without going into debt. The Association has no liabilities of any kind, save current monthly bills. It has and will borrow no money.

In addition to the workman’s compensation insurance policy required by law, the Association has a blanket policy covering all its employees in the field and all visitors to its Service Centers, necessary to protect the Association against any suit which might arise out of accidents. All the automobiles used by the Association are insured against fire, theft, personal liability and the necessary property damage. No fire insurance on the contents of Centers is carried, it being less expensive for the Association to insure itself than to pay the necessary premiums. The executive secretary is bonded in larger amounts than he will handle at any one time.

In furtherance of publicity a new brochure has been issued under the title Your Son Is My Brother. The Supplement to The Short Talk Bulletin, giving the news of the Centers, is now illustrated and during 1944 will be published as four pages instead of two.

Statistics of attendance at Service Centers necessarily are understatement. Field Agents use a hand-counter to check those in attendance, but it is not possible to get all servicemen and Masons to register. No point is ever made of registration. The registration book is there; Masons and their sons and relatives are asked to sign their names and addresses, but many of the men who come in are impatient of such formalities and push the request aside. The statistics, therefore, are decidedly an understatement of the facts, smaller than the actuality though they are, they nevertheless seem impressive.

  1. Attendance, all Centers — 1,855,645
  2. Masons registering, all Centers — 227,786
  3. (Percentage of guests registering as Masons — 12.275%)
  4. Contacts made in Posts — 14,214
  5. Contacts made outside Posts — 27,478
  6. Hospital calls — 1,720
  7. Patients visited — 6,206
  8. Home Services — 750
  9. Requests for Assistance — 2,722
  10. Families assisted — 9,141

No serviceman or woman brings a personal problem to a Field Agent or Hostess, but gets a sympathetic consideration and any help which is possible. Thousands of grateful letters from servicemen and women, their mothers and fathers, expressing appreciation of what this service has meant to those away from home and in strange and unusual surroundings are sufficient testimony of the value of this service being rendered by Masonry, not only to its own brethren and their relatives, but to its fellow men.

The results of Masonic Service are beneficial to Masonry. The work is not done because of these benefits, but the facts remain: many brethren have been reinstated because of the inspiration they received from visiting Masonic Service Centers. Many young men who never before were interested in Masonry have asked for information as to when, where and how they may become Master Masons. There is no way to estimate the effect upon brethren who thus see Masonry actively doing what has been for so many years taught as a theory.

The Association’s work is not considered as supplementary or amateur in character; it has repeatedly been cited as outstanding, especially in morale building. For example, by General Sloan, Commandant of the 88th Division, who especially commended the work done at Muskogee, Oklahoma; Col. Hunter, in command of the Army Base at Rapid City, North Dakota; Mrs. Agnes E. Meyer, independent investigator, in her article in the Washington Post of December 19, 1943, and many others.

Distracted parents write for information regarding a son killed, missing in action, a, prisoner; wives want help to get increased allotments from their husbands’ pay; a bride is in tears because her husband has gone AWOL and may be declared a deserter; new mothers need clothes for infants and have no money with which to buy; servicemen and women on long train journeys hope for reading matter; servicemen whose families are in trouble at home beg for help to pay the rent, arrange the mortgage, find the doctor, do something about the runaway child, and so on without end.

Wherever possible, through the resources of Masonry, grand lodges, lodges, the Red Cross or other agencies, such help is given, and given promptly. Time and again this Association has done in a few hours by long distance telephone for distraught parents what others have failed to accomplish.

But certain things no agency can do. What the Government with all its resources cannot learn of a boy missing in action or a prisoner, the Association cannot ascertain. Invariably in such cases every hope is held out that Government and/or Red Cross may succeed, and full and sympathetic counsel given as to how to go to work to interest those in authority in the case in point.

One class of appeals for help are necessarily refused; parents and wives who want a transfer of their sons or husbands; requests to assist in getting promotions; appeals to interfere and make representations regarding military punishments for infractions of regulations. The Association has the cordial approval of Army and Navy, of officers of the High Command, of Commandants of Posts, camps and stations. This has been won by rendering good service, without money and without price. To attempt to interfere in Army or Navy matters would merely prove a boomerang to those the Association tried to help, and destroy all that cooperation which does help in cases in which it properly can be offered.

"Out Service,” 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, has been extended to Masonic Clubs (at least two in the Arctic Regions) in the form of games, literature, and equipment; to some military units, especially anti-aircraft and searchlight companies too far from the cities they protect often to get leave. For military reasons these are not here named.

The Field Force at this writing consists of 54 Field Agents, 22 Hostesses, a Chief Field Agent, whose duties include both survey of new locations and establishment of new Centers, and the Chief Traveling Hostess, whose business it is to obtain the cooperation of ladies in operation of Centers.

Personnel to handle new Centers are trained in advance so that when any new Center is ready for opening the personnel is ready for the work. Training is accomplished by sending new men and women to Centers, there to remain for a period of from two to six weeks. They are then transferred as Assistant Field Agent or Hostess to some Center needing assistance, there to remain until they demonstrate capacity to handle the work as Field Agent or Hostess in charge.

Field Agents make hospital calls as often as possible. Tried first as an experiment, it is now a policy to encourage Hostesses also to visit and, where permitted by Commanders, to encourage the Service Cadettes (Volunteers) to visit the Post hospitals, bringing small gifts of cigarettes, candy, stationery, matches, playing cards, etc. A woman’s visit is welcome by most hospitalized men, and many a mother is now receiving letters from an incapacitated son written in a woman’s hand, because of this friendly feminine service being rendered through Masonic Centers.

Resignations, sickness, and other reasons cause occasional withdrawals from the service. The rate of turnover is small, which can be accounted for by the fact that the devoted men and women who labor in this quarry are imbued with the desire to serve, and find in this work an opportunity to do something for the war effort not otherwise easily obtained by men and women of mature years.

When the thousands of visits paid to hospitals are considered, the multiplied thousands of sick and injured servicemen and women who have been comforted and encouraged by Field Agents and Hostesses, the parents who have come to visit their sons in the service without a place to sleep, who have been accommodated through the efforts of Field Agents: the mothers who have come to see their boys, perhaps for the last time, who have found in the hostess a sympathetic companion and in the Masonic Service Center a clean and decent place to say what may be a last goodbye; when the mothers-to-be are thought of, who have come to be near their husbands while they bear their babies, with no knowledge of where that baby is to be born, who is to pay for it or even who is to clothe it, and reflect on the services given by Field Agents and Hostesses, even to complete layettes given to the newly born babies; when reading the thousands of letters of mothers of servicemen who write with tears blotting the page to express their gratitude for these “homes away from home,” it is not hard to believe that Freemasonry never had a greater chance to do something for humanity. In all humility, but with pride in the Ancient Craft, sincere conviction is recorded that through this Association as its instrument and servant, American Freemasonry has not been found wanting in this war as it was, alas, in World War I.

The Masonic Service Association of North America