Vol. XXIII No. 3 — March 1945

“. . . And Ye Visited Me.”

The Office of Defense Transportation on January 6th requested all concerned in holding conventions to call off such meetings, if of more than fifty persons, to conserve railroad and other transportation for the armed forces.

On January 7th the four national meetings of Masons — George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association, Masonic Service Association, Conference of Grand Masters, and Grand Secretaries Conference, scheduled for February, were called off by their executive officers.

The Masonic Service Association “annual meeting” therefore, consisted only in sessions of the Executive Commission. Their report, which would normally be presented to the annual meeting, has been mailed to all grand masters, grand secretaries and a long list of Masonic leaders in the nation.

This Bulletin is an abstract of that part of their report dealing with the welfare work for members of the armed forces.

Outstanding highlights of 1944 are the twelve new Centers established and one projected and the creation of Hospital Visitation Centers.

A new form of Masonic Service has been established at Salt Lake City and Brigham City, Utah; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Charleston, South Carolina; and Jackson and Biloxi, Mississippi; another at Asheville, North Carolina.

Hospital visitors are equipped only with an office and small storage facilities; they spend their time visiting wounded veterans in nearby government hospitals, offering brethren, sons of brethren and their friends the many services which supplement what is provided by the Government, and, within any reasonable amount of effort and expenditure, satisfying patients’ wants.

Hospital visitors are provided with various small gifts to take to the wounded, including ocarinas, ocarina quartette sets, tonettes, recorders and harmonicas, playing cards for bridge and pinochle, table tennis, Chinese checkers, chess and checker sets, playing boards, razor blades, shaving soap, brushless creams, stationery, greeting cards, postal cards, flowers, cigarettes, tobacco, pipes, matches, pencils, yarn (for fancy work), postage stamps, around-the-neck mirrors, neckties, furlough bags, sewing kits, dominoes, books both fiction and educational, magazines, Bibles, water colors.

Of course no one serviceman gets even a major part of this list. Field Agents learn what a patient wants or needs and then supply it. In a letter to the craftsmen in Utah, Grand Master Eric Bjorklund stated: “Hospital Field Agents render an endless list of services in writing letters, locating relatives, assisting families, solving problems, building confidence and inspiring hope. Long after the war is ended, this type of assistance will be vital.”

In a number of Masonic Service Centers facilities are used one or two afternoons a week by the military patients in wards of some hospital: ambulatory cases are brought to the Center, where they relax, learn to dance, go through exercises and generally expedite the program of their physicians in getting back full use of injured limbs.

In a hospital in which are many veterans a Third Degree was staged by a nearby lodge. This was at the instance of the Field Agent, who first received permission from the Commandant of the hospital, then the consent of the lodge and finally a dispensation from the grand master that the lodge might confer a degree in another place than its own Temple. The authorities said that more had been done for morale in that one evening than by many months of work in other lines.

From present indication hospital visitation work will indeed be necessary for a long time. Whether the war ends soon or late many wounded servicemen will be hospitalized for indefinite periods. Having set its hand to the plow of bringing Masonic aid and comfort to brethren, their sons and friends in hospitals, the Masonic Fraternity will not abandon such work while the need exists.

Also Masonic Service Centers for the armed forces will be needed for some time to come. Attendance at Centers was greater in 1944 than 1943 in spite of the huge number of men shipped abroad. If Congress enacts a compulsory military service law, young sons of brethren will need Masonic Service Centers and such Centers will be of great comfort to parents. Demobilization after victory will require a lengthy period during which morale will be at its lowest ebb and Masonic ministrations will be of greatest importance.

Twelve new Masonic Service Centers were opened by The Masonic Service Association in 1944, at Macon, Georgia; Farragut, Idaho; Ayer, Massachusetts; Jackson and Biloxi, Mississippi; Atlantic City, New Jersey; New Bern, North Carolina; Providence, Rhode Island; Charleston, South Carolina; Spartanburg, South Carolina; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Asheville, North Carolina, were opened in February.

Two Centers were closed: Sturgis, South Dakota, because of the permanent withdrawal of troops from that area, and Jacksonville, Florida, because the landlord raised the rent to a prohibitive figure and no other suitable quarters could be found.

Masons from every state in the Union and from twenty-seven other countries, to the number of 213,027 were guests at the several Centers, slightly more than 10 percent of the total number of guests, 2,094,760. This does not include visitors to the London, England Center, which has done splendid work during the year. Many letters from visiting Americans testify that in addition to providing a “home away from home” for lonely Americans, and a place in formal England where an officer and a private can meet “on the level,” the Center has been the liaison between thousands of visitors and English lodges anxious to offer hospitality to American Masons. Hundreds of letters have attested the quality of that hospitality and the pleasure American Masons have had in seeing at first hand something of English Freemasonry, a privilege they would not have had without the Center as a focus of invitations and a means of bringing hosts and guests together.

In Auckland, New Zealand, the Auckland Masonic Institute and Club opened its doors to visiting American Masons and friends, and to which the Association contributed a sum suggested as sufficient to enable them to offer the aid and comfort they had not, alone, the funds to accomplish. Hardly had this been done than conditions changed, as the war in the Pacific altered in character.

A letter prom Grand Secretary H. A. Lamb of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand informs of the closing of United States Naval Operating Base in Auckland and states that the need of a Center has decreased. The letter includes this statement:

Your Association’s generous and genuine interest in the welfare and comfort of the men of the fighting forces is fully appreciated. It will be specially mentioned at the forthcoming annual communication of grand lodge. In your funds we see a very inspiring example of true Masonic cooperation between our respective countries which we trust will continue for all time.

A trusted brother in the armed forces in Paris, supplied with ample funds, has formed a committee of American and French Masons, interested the grand master of the Grand Lodge of France (NOT the Grand Orient!) and is at work securing quarters and arranging for the opening of a Masonic Service Center in crowded and upset Paris.

The Government will not permit any fraternal organization to send ambassadors to Europe or the Pacific area to establish Centers; hence such work must be done through interested Masons already abroad.

The Masonic Service Association’s chain of Service Centers is now entering its fifth year, the first Masonic Service Center — incidentally, the first civilian service center of any kind in this era — having been established February i, 1941, in Columbia, South Carolina. In its report, the Executive Commission states:

The picture does not change; servicemen and women still want the same things, have the same problems, bring the same difficulties to us for solution. We but repeat ourselves when we say that no serviceman or woman brings his problem to a Field Agent or Hostess who fails to get sympathetic consideration and help.

Thousands of grateful letters from servicemen and women, their mothers and fathers, expressing appreciation of what this service has meant to those in strange and unusual surroundings are testimony of the value of this service being rendered by Masonry, not only to its own brethren and their relatives, but to others as well.

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.

Through the resources of Masonry, Grand Lodges, lodges, the Red Cross or other agencies, such help is given promptly. Time and again we have done in a few hours by long distance telephone for distraught parents what others have failed to accomplish.

Certain things no agency can do. When the Government with all its resources cannot find a boy missing in action or a prisoner, the Association cannot. 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.

One class of appeals is necessarily refused: parents and wives who want a transfer, a furlough or a discharge of their sons or husbands; requests to assist in getting promotion; appeals to make representations regarding military punishments. The Association has the cordial approval of Army and Navy, of officers of the High Command, of Commandants of Posts, camps and stations, won by rendering good service, without money and without price, and by minding our own business. To attempt to interfere in Army or Navy matters would merely prove 1 boomerang to those we tried to aid, and destroy all that cooperation which so helps in cases in which we can properly function.

Statistics of attendance at Service Centers have always been understatements. Field Agents use a handcounter to count those entering but in a large crowd some are necessarily missed and not all Masons will register. No point is ever made of registration; Masons and their sons and other relatives are asked to sign, but some are impatient of formalities and push the request aside.

The figures which follow are given for 1943 and 1944 for purposes of comparison. Attendance in 1944 is larger than in 1943 in spite of the fact that there are fewer men by many thousands if not millions in this country now than then. This is accounted for by increased knowledge of, and increased popularity of Masonic Service Centers. Visiting Master Masons were less by 2% than in 1943 because of younger men in the services.

1943 1944
Attendance all Centers 1,855,645 2,094,760
Masons registering, all Centers 227,786 213,027
Percentage of guests registering as Masons 12.275% 10.217%
Contacts made in Posts 14,214 20,808
Hospital Calls 1,720 2,392
Patients visited 6,206 15,155
Home Services 750 3,043
Requests for Assistance 12,722 19,011
Families assisted 9,141 31,123
Contacts outside Posts 17,478 30,617

Contributions to support this work this year have totaled the greatest sum ever offered by the Fraternity in a similar length of time for “help, aid and assistance,” more than three quarters of a million dollars having been voluntarily given by grand lodges and the several coordinate bodies of Freemasonry.

In speaking of this generous outpouring of the necessary money to make possible this contribution of Freemasonry towards winning the war, the Executive Commission said:

The continued support of American Freemasonry is a matter of pride to this Commission and should be a pleasure to all Brethren. Most valuable has been the cooperation given by the local brethren in locations in which Centers are established. We also offer our grateful thanks to the ladies of the Eastern Star, who have been most cooperative in supplying voluntary Hostesses and large gifts of food to servicemen. Without such assistance it would not have been possible to do as much with the money expended.

The Masonic Service Association of North America