Vol. XXVII No. 3 — March 1949

In Glory’s Lap

This Short Talk Bulletin is a condensation of Part II of the Report of the Executive Commission of The Masonic Service Association to its thirtieth annual meeting, February 21, 1949.

Gashed with honorable scars
Low in glory’s lap they lie;
Though they fell, they fell like stars,
Streaming splendor through the sky.
— Montgomery

Grand lodges, other Masonic bodies and individuals who by their contributions have enabled The Masonic Service Association to aid the ill of body, the sick of mind, the wounded of spirit in Army, Navy, Veterans, and Marine Hospitals, may well wear as a decoration Longfellow’s gentle thought that the greatest grace of a gift is that it anticipates, and admits of, no return.

The uniforms are laid away in mothballs. Thousands of young men who went to war are behind hospital doors — in some pitiful cases, behind locked doors. Many will never have any other world than that of the ward, the doctor, the nurse, the orderly — and the Hospital Visitor.

The Masonic Service Association has been the great means by which American Freemasonry has ministered to our veterans. Hospital authorities, relatives, patients, unite in a chorus of praise and gratitude for the work Masonry has done in government hospitals.

During 1948 more than one hundred letters came from Hospital Managers, Doctors, and Chiefs of Special Services, commendatory of our work, and many times that number from other hospital personnel; recreation directors, chief nurses, the chairmen of VA Hospitals Advisory Committee, the chief executive of Medical Rehabilitation, the chief of surgical service, chaplains, librarians, chiefs, educational therapy; chiefs, occupational therapy; assistant superintendents; recreation section, special services division, medical officers.

From NO hospital has come any criticism.

What does a Hospital Visitor do?

Suppose your twin brother were in a Veterans Hospital. He is half blind, has but one leg and suffers from diabetes. The doctors tell you his eyesight will get worse instead of better; that he may learn to walk eventually (but probably not well) with his artificial leg, and that it is on the knees of the gods whether diabetes will eventually kill him or not.

You come to the large city in which his great hospital is located. You find yourself living quarters. You visit the hospital every day, for the two hours permitted. When not with your twin you write letters about him to his wife, his children, his lodge, his business associates. You read his mail to him. The purchases he can finance you attend to, whether it is a motor car or a diamond ring for his wife, or an inexpensive little gift which is all he can afford for the birthday of his buddy in the next bed. You send his telegrams and write his letters. If the glasses with which he sees but a little get broken, you have them repaired. You never come to the hospital without some little gift — it is hoped you never have to give him the Braille playing cards, for these are for the blind. If he is able to go out of the hospital for a short trip you take him in your car. If he can see well enough to enjoy a picture show, and the hospital authorities permit, you take him. If his wife or children come to see him, you find living quarters for them, meet them at the train, bring them to and take them from the hospital. If he is one of those who have been dropped from lodge membership and wishes to reinstate, you tell him how to go about it. You counsel with him in legal or domestic difficulties, you comfort him when he is down-hearted, you do for him whatever love and pity and admiration for what a brave man did for his country can suggest.

But you can visit but two hours a day. And the relatives of the great majority of patients in veterans hospitals can visit them only at long intervals.

But suppose your twin brother were in a hospital a thousand miles away from you? Who would then serve your brother?

This is what Masonic Hospital Visitors do for veterans all day long, every day in the year and often at night. Almost all have their offices in the hospitals, by request of managers or special service officers. Some actually live in their hospitals. The loving service you would unselfishly give one brother for two hours, one day in a month or in six months, is given all the time, to all the patients, in all hospitals in which Masonic Service Hospital Visitors work.

The work of the Masonic Hospital Visitor does not duplicate the service of any other organization. Other groups stage parties, auto rides, dances, musicals; valuable and gracious work, but not ours, which is to bring the friendly hand of a friend to the friendless, the brotherly hand to the brother away from lodge and home, and comfort to the suffering who need contact with an understanding heart as much as they need medical and surgical skill.

Because Masonic Service men are trained men, trained to keep from under foot among busy doctors and nurses, trained to say the right words, trained to cooperate with doctors, hospital authorities, they are encouraged by them to work all day, every day.

Sent in with weekly reports, carefully checked as a guide to a Hospital Visitor’s activities, figures at best tell but a poor story. They show visits and contacts, but not hours, outside work, letters, shopping, time spent in writing reports, in writing to lodges, in writing for patients, meeting parents and friends, hunting lodgings for them, etc. Hospitals differ in size, in accessibility, in turnover of patients. All such factors make statistics but a pale reflection of facts.

But figures do tell a story, even if but a thumbnail sketch. Viewed in any light, the figures for 1948 seem to us most impressive; during 1948, 987,075 visits were made by M.S.A. Hospital Visitors to patients in government hospitals. Of this number 139,691 were made to members of the fraternity from all states and from Balboa, Bermuda, Canada, Canal Zone, China, England, Mexico, New South Wales, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Scotland, and South America.

It may be of interest to know just how many brethren came from each state and country. The list follows:

Alabama 2,479
Arizona 2,883
Arkansas 1,904
California 1,293
Colorado 759
Connecticut 1,289
Delaware 854
Florida 2,450
Georgia 4,104
Idaho 294
Illinois 4,997
Indiana 6,268
Iowa 12,524
North Dakota 1,290
Ohio 2,013
Oklahoma 1,687
Oregon 237
Pennsylvania 7,259
Rhode Island 510
South Carolina 3,520
South Dakota 445
Tennessee 1,682
Texas 2,318
Utah 261
Vermont 311
Virginia 7,427
Kansas 1,364
Kentucky 1,321
Louisiana 3,903
Maine 2,748
Maryland 8,098
Massachusetts 2,135
Michigan 1,927
Minnesota 5,671
Mississippi 8,101
Missouri 7,228
Montana 378
Nebraska 981
Nevada 15
New Hampshire 311
New Jersey 3,301
New Mexico 95
New York 3,758
North Carolina 7,856
Washington 359
West Virginia 1,206
Wisconsin 799
Wyoming 2,734
Dist. of Col. 3,822

Foreign Countries:

Balboa 3
Bermuda 41
Canada 33
Canal Zone 257
China 5
England 51
Mexico 1
New South Wales 1
Philippines 153
Puerto Rico 16
Scotland 3
South America 77

Total Masons visited = 139,761

The value of visits to any patient increases with the number. After the second or third, shyness is broken down; confidence is established; new wants are discovered; greater service can be rendered. The comfort the Visitor gives vicariously to mother, father and wife, is as much a bringer of happiness as what is done for the patient himself.

Who can calculate the relative values of visits to servicemen and women in hospitals, help for their families, and assistance to their dependents? Our only yardstick is in the gratitude expressed. Judged by such a standard, the services Freemasonry gives through this work are as much beyond description as they are inexpressible in terms of money.

The Association has won praise from high places. A recent letter from President Truman reads:


December 18,1948

Dear Carl:

I know of the good work being done by The Masonic Service Association, both in its Hospitals Visitations in Army, Navy and Veterans Hospitals, and in its relief of distressed Masons in Europe.

The labors of the Association in hospitals have been productive of much happiness to the shut-in veterans: they made great sacrifices for their country and Masonry’s contribution to their welfare has been large.

As past grand master of the Grand Lodge of Missouri (a member of the Association) and as a veteran, I approve these activities and commend my brethren for their unselfish labors.

Sincerely and fraternally,

[signed] HARRY S. TRUMAN

Mr. Carl H. Claudy
Executive Secretary
Masonic Service Association
700 Tenth Street, N.W.
Washington 1, D.C.

The Association appealed to the Government for some of its surplus property in the form of games. After much untangling of red tape we secured eleven large packing cases filed with sixty peg checkers (pocket size); 144 race horse games (for six players); 576 domino sets; 864 sets of checker men; 144 checker and backgammon sets; 72 Chinese checker sets (plywood); 576 chess, checker and backgammon boards; 480 sets of chess men. The retail value of these games is considerably in excess of $2,500, which will thus not have to be spent next year on gifts for men who find in games in hospitals one of their most cherished forms of recreation.

Other gifts Hospital Visitors distribute include books, razors (both blade and electric), toothbrushes, combs, pencils, chewing gum, candy, matches, stationery, knives, mirrors, sewing kits, scrapbooks, etc.; these have been of comfort in an amount hundreds of times their small cost. A special gift in 1948 was Braille playing cards for the blind. The electric razor campaign has brought thousands as gifts for distribution to the blind, the one-armed, the palsied, those who cannot be trusted with sharp tools, etc. The electric razors which cannot be repaired are of use to the Rehabilitation Service of the Government. Electric razors now have developed a new use; that of training the polio-stricken to again use their hands. It is pleasant to chronicle again that Remington Rand has repaired and sterilized all gift electric razors free of charge.

Calls for personal service are many; too often they are for help which Masonry cannot give and which this Association is forbidden by its set-up to undertake; requests for interference in Government procedure, to get some man promoted, discharged, changed from one hospital to another, etc. But we are able to accomplish far more for those who appeal, than what we must courteously refuse.

The morale of the Association’s Hospital Visitors was never higher. The task is not to get them to work, but to insist that they do not overwork. Apparently hospital work “gets into the blood” and these men spend themselves for too long hours and too generously for their own good. In 1948 the Association transferred one who was literally killing himself in this service; he was sent to his home town where there is a smaller hospital, to keep from having a tragedy in the family.

The Hospital Visitors are the “personal touch” of the Ancient Craft with those who need help; on them depends the success or failure of the major part of Masonic effort for the wounded and the ill. Doubtless they have small use for decorations, but if there are crowns in heaven to be given to good Samaritans, these our brethren who carry out your generosity will surely wear them.

The record is before you. It seems to the Association to be a record of accomplishment or worthwhile labors in a great cause, successfully accomplished.

The Masonic Service Association of North America