Masonic Service Association

Vietnam Veterans and Freemasonry: MSA’s Hospital Visitation Program

Your Masonic Hospital Visitor September 1966_smallerFounded in the aftermath of World War I, the Masonic Service Association (MSA) has performed a number of services for Masons since 1919. The initial impetus for the MSA's formation was to coordinate U.S. Masonic efforts to provide aid to American military servicemen near the end of World War I. In 1966, the MSA published a book called Fifteen Years of Masonic Service to Hospitalized Veterans, 1952-1966, a copy of which is in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives collection. The book reprints the MSA’s bulletin, originally titled Army and Navy Masonic Service Center and, in 1960, changed to Your Masonic Hospital Visitor, a name it carried for years. Most of the reprinted bulletins feature news of Masons visiting veterans of both World War II and the Korean War, but the end of the book sheds light on service to a new group of veterans.

The lead article in the September 1966 bulletin is titled “A New Call for Service, The Veterans of Viet Nam.” The article begins:

Our sons and brothers are coming back from South Viet Nam, the sick and wounded, I mean. The war in Southeast Asia is a hot war; the build-up of men and material is increasing. A lot more boys will be going over before most of them come home.

At the beginning of 1966, the U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam numbered nearly 185,000. By the end of 1966, the United States had over 385,000 troops there – an increase of 108%. That year, more than 6,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam, and 30,000 were wounded.

The article in the 1966 bulletin is accompanied by three photographs of wounded soldiers being visited by Masonic Service Association staff. The men shown are Norman C. Weiffenbach, a member of Ft. Benning Lodge No. 579 (Columbus, Georgia), pictured at Walter Reed Medical Center; Johnnie S. Miller of Tarpon Springs, Florida, at the V.A. Hospital in East Orange, New Jersey; and Thomas E. Bennett of Atlanta, Georgia, at an unidentified hospital.

The work of the MSA’s Hospital Visitation program continues today, with Masons volunteering their time to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans. The MSA’s website describes the program as “much more than merely ‘visitations’ to the disabled and lonely patients in V.A. Hospitals, State Veterans Homes and Extended Care Facilities. It is the rendering of personal services to all our sons and brothers, Masons and Non-Masons alike, who now need someone to turn to for encouragement and to make life a little more pleasant.”

Do you have any items related to Freemasonry and your time in service during the Vietnam War or related to your time as a hospital visitor? We’d love to hear more about them. Please leave a comment below.

 

Caption:

Fifteen Years of Masonic Service to Hospitalized Veterans, 1952-1966 (Washington, D.C.: Masonic Service Association of the U.S., 1966), Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 45.D614 1966.

 

A version of this post originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of The Northern Light.


How to Catch Masonic Impostors Using Index Cards

MSA BulletinThe Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's blog turns seven years old this month! As in years past, we celebrate the anniversary of our blog by revisiting the topic of our very first post: Masonic impostors.

Pictured above is the back page of the November 1933 (No. 552) Bulletin of the Masonic Relief Association of the United States and Canada, which explains how the Masonic Service Association distributed index cards of people known to impose upon Masonic relief boards for charity under false pretenses so that local boards of relief could compile an index of known "crooks and impostors."

Be sure to read all of our previous posts on Masonic impostors for more information about why someone would impersonate a Mason and how the Masonic Service Association and local Masonic relief boards attempted to detect those trying to defraud them.

 


"Let's call it Petroleum Lodge!": Or, a guide for naming Masonic lodges

Lodge_Names_MSA_booklet_web It's 1938 and you and some of your fellow Masons are organizing a new Masonic lodge. Maybe this is because the lodge that you currently belong to has so many members that it's becoming slightly unwieldy and there's enough interested members to form a new lodge. (The average number of members in a Masonic lodge in 1938 was 160.) With the permission of the Grand Lodge in your state, you're granted permission to work as a new lodge "under dispensation" (usually abbreviated to "U.D."), often the step before a lodge gets officially chartered by the Grand Lodge.

Perhaps the first thing that confronts you is a question that you might not have considered. Namely, a name for this new lodge.

Maybe you want to pick a name that no Masonic lodge has used before, or maybe you want to pick something that's popular, but maybe not too popular. Thankfully, in May 1938, the Masonic Service Association issued a booklet entitled Lodge Names of the 15,734 Lodges of the Forty-nine United States Grand Jurisdictions: An Analysis and Classification, Designed to Assist Lodges U.D. in Choosing Names.

The names of all 15,734 lodges in existence at the time of the survey were collected and analyzed by the Masonic Service Association. This analysis included breaking the names down into categories (Biblical and Masonic Names, Famous Names, Geographic Names, etc.), which were then further analyzed at the state and national level. Below are the tallies at the national level, which reveal that the most popular type of names for lodges were those named after the place in which they are/were located. Fully 43.4% of all Masonic lodges in the U.S. in 1938 were named after the place they were located.

Biblical and Masonic        1,908 (12.1%)
Character and Patriotic        490 (3.1%)
Double                                120 (.8%)
Famous Names                    709 (4.6%)
Geographic                     1,080 (6.9%)
Imaginative                    1,251 (7.9%)
Other Place                        335 (2.1%)
Place                            6,827 (43.4%)
Proper                                558 (3.6%)
State                                    37 (.2%)
Unclassified                   2,269 (14.4%)
Unusual                              138 (.9%)
(Numbers only)                    12 (.08%)

The Lodge Names booklet lists the names of each of the lodges within each category, as well as the number of lodges in the U.S. with that lodge name. Unsurprisingly, some of the most popular names focus on patriotic and/or Masonic themes. The five most popular Masonic lodge names in the U.S. in 1938 were:

[Number that follows indicates number of lodges in U.S. with that name in 1938]

St. John's [all variants of that name] - 61
Hiram - 52
Washington - 48
Harmony - 45
Union - 43

Perhaps the part of the booklet that's the most fun is unusual names that show up for lodges. Here are some of my favorites:

Cotton Gin, Cowanesque, Difficult, Bee House, Drytown, Cereal, Invisible Friends, Fish House, Petroleum, Tidal Wave, Fourth Estate

It's likely that some of the lodge names in the Unusual Names category - including some mentioned above - may actually be place names. This is clearly the case with Drytown Lodge, No. 174, located in Drytown, California.

The last lodge mentioned above, Fourth Estate Lodge, was a Masonic lodge located in Boston, Massachusetts and comprised entirely of men in the newspaper business - the so-called "fourth estate."

As for the location of the lodge named after petroleum, maybe you're thinking "Houston!" Close, but no. It's Tulsa, Oklahoma, the earlier Oil Capital of the World that gave rise to Petroleum Lodge No. 474, chartered in 1917. In 1999 it appears to have merged with Millennium Lodge No. 543.