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History of the Valley of Alexandria

Chapter 3

(1937 – 1960)

 

In 1937, some of the same concerns as expressed in earlier years continued to come to the fore. Fewer candidates were entering the Rite, attendance at meetings and reunions was very low, the ritual of brethren in degree teams was below par, and thoughts of having a new temple were prevalent on the minds of many of the active brethren.

 

The number of candidates at reunions was among these numbers: 1934 – 4, 1935 – 4, 1936 – 4, 1937 – 4, 1938 – 6, 1939 – 4, 1940 – 5, 1941 – 22, 1942 – 25, 1943 -89, 1944 - 145, 1945 – 181. So, 1941 was the start of a surge of men wishing to become Scottish Rite Masons. Some of this was due to men entering into military service, being reassigned, or being discharged (beginning in 1943). The Fall Class of 1943 included some 35 who were employees of the U. S. Naval Torpedo Station (commonly referred to as the “Torpedo Plant”) at the foot of King Street on the river‟s edge. [It is now (2011) a major art center known as the “Torpedo Factory.”]

 

These developments are readily reflected in the year end net membership standings: 1936 – 525, 1937 – 527, 1938 – 512, 1939 – 486, 1940 – 461, 1941 – 456, 1942 – 465, 1943 – 556, 1944 – 692, 1945 – 865. Adding to the membership increase was a return of members who were previously suspended or suspended, but were now in a better economic situation to resume their Scottish Rite interests.

 

Ten years later (1955) the net membership at the end of the year showed a continuing spiral upward of membership – 1,848. By October, 1960, when the 50th Anniversary was celebrated, the membership had climbed to a new high of 2,242.

 

At the April 1937 meeting, a few brethren voiced opinions about building a temple on the space then serving as a Club, or office, on North Alfred Street. This thought was developed because the club building was then up for sale. A special committee was formed to consider all aspects of doing this. A later committee report rejected the proposal.

 

In early 1938, the Scottish Rite Council of Virginia (later renamed “Scottish Rite Conference”) proposed a statewide reunion in the fall. Later this proposed event was called off. Alexandria‟s Fall Class was named in memory of William L. Allen, 33°, Treasurer, who died on April 8, 1938. As a fitting gesture to his memory, all revenue above reunion expenses was to be sent to the Blue Ridge Sanitarium in Charlottesville to establish a memorial library. [The Sanitarium was built earlier by Virginia Masons to help counter the spread of tuberculosis.]

 

To illustrate the then prevailing concern about lack of attendance at meetings, here are some numbers picked at random between 1939 and 1945: 21,16, 10, 14, 18, 14. Added to that concern was the close-in location of all residents of the City of Alexandria. That should have been a convenience conducive for members to regularly attend meetings.A very common and consistent concern expressed and periodically considered during this 25-year period dealt with “building our own Temple.” In May of 1939 a special committee was appointed to review the possibilities of doing this. At the same time another committee was appointed to meet with the Eastern Star chapter which was interested in raising funds for such a venture. Neither avenue produced tangible results.

 

The 1939 Spring Reunion was canceled because there was only ONE candidate. The Fall Reunion, which was held over a five night stretch, didn‟t fare much better; it had a total of only four candidates. In an endeavor to overcome this recurring problem, Venerable Master Leonard J. Miller, 32°, in December appointed several brethren to serve a special mission. They were, on behalf of the Scottish Rite, to contact newly-raised Master Masons in the following nearby lodges: Alexandria-Washington No. 22, Andrew Jackson No. 120, Henry Knox Field No. 349, Kemper No. 64, Occoquan No. 310, and Manasseh No. 182.

 

During the early 1940s, the Valley continued to buy War Bonds, and have them placed in the “Building and Equipment Fund.” With the same intent, a resolution was passed in 1941 that whenever the North Alfred Street property was sold, the proceeds would go into this Fund.

 

At the Grand Lodge of Virginia Annual Communication on February 9-11, 1942, Illustrious and Doctor Robert South Barrett, 33° was elected Grand Master of Masons in Virginia. This brought great honor to this Valley.

 

Also in February, Brother Alvin W. Frinks, 18°, was selected as Advisor of the Alexandria Chapter of DeMolay, replacing Roger C. Sullivan, 33° who had resigned.

 

In October of 1942, Brother Benjamin D. Edwards, 32°, was elected as Treasurer to fill the unexpired term of John C. Fox, 32°, who had died unexpectedly. [Bennie Edwards held this office for the next 40 years!]

 

The year 1943 saw several actions that were of benefit to the Valley. On April 23, the Trustees were authorized to sell the North Alfred Street property for $30,000, minus the realtor‟s
commission, property taxes, and deed and revenue stamps. On June 11 a check was received for $28,342.05, and was used to buy War Bonds to be placed in the “Building and Equipment Fund.”

 

In anticipation of a large 1943 Fall Reunion (67 candidates), an arrangement was made with the George Washington Masonic Memorial that the reunion be held in the auditorium at the Memorial. Previously all reunions, except the one in 1929, were conducted at the Cameron Street Temple. The supper took place at Shuman‟s Bakery on King Street (very near to the Temple). The 1944 Spring and Fall Reunions were again held at the Memorial, with Martha Washington Chapter No. 42, Order of the Eastern Star, handling the meals at the Fall Reunion.

 

As a follow-on to the previous sale of the North Alfred Street property, the Trustees were authorized, in December, to sell the South Alfred Street property for $21,000. The property was sold on May 11, 1945 to the Veterans of Foreign Wars at the asking price of $21,000. The proceeds, of course, went into the “Building and Equipment Fund.”Several other developments of interest occurred in 1945. The Spring Reunion was named in memory of Most Worshipful Charles H. Callahan, KCCH. It beckoned 125 new members to the Valley. [At the Shenandoah Valley Scottish Rite Club meeting on October 27, 2010, Brother J. C. Wine, 32°, a 65 year member of the Valley, proudly identified himself as a member of the “Callahan Class.”] At the October Supreme Council Biennial Session, recipients of the KCCH honor included Thomas Fately (later to become Secretary), and for the 33° Inspector General Honorary – President Harry S. Truman.

 

 

On November 1, 1945 Alexandria member Patrick Henry Bayliss, 32° died. His long range and significant contribution to the Scottish Rite will be discussed later on.On December 12, 1945 a resolution was adopted in the Consistory and addressed to Harry S. Truman, 33° noting “our sincere pleasure that you received the thirty-third degree of the Rite at the recent meeting of the Supreme Council, and desire to express to you our most sincere congratulations and good wishes.” A desk weight depicting the three great lights in Masonry also accompanied the resolution. The following reply was addressed to Julian Whitestone, Master of Kadosh of the Consistory:

 THE WHITE HOUSE                                      February 12, 1946

Washington, D. C.

 

My Dear Sir and Brother:

 

I appreciated most highly your sending me
the copy of the resolution passed by the members
of Virginia Consistory, located in the Valley of
Alexandria.

 

I am also very happy to have the desk weight,
which you sent me.

 

Please express my appreciation to the Brethren.

 

Sincerely yours,

/s/ Harry S. Truman

As a first statement of his plans for the year 1946, the newly-elected Venerable Master, Josiah S. Everly, 32° vowed to help Erdmann T. Stultz, 33° get the support necessary to improve the quality of degree work. It was also apparent that having paraphernalia and stage properties at both the Temple and the Memorial was not very effective. Brother Everly felt there was a need for a meeting with Memorial officials to see if the Scottish Rite could hold its meetings there as well as the reunions. Such a meeting took place in March, and tentatively approved, but no terms were defined.

 

Early in 1946 the Supreme Council presented the Memorial Association $100,000 to finish the North Room (then referred to as the “Cryptic” Room).

 

The Minutes of the August 8, 1947 meeting recorded a very interesting motion made from the floor. It simply said that “a motion was made that refreshments be served at the next meeting.” Apparently there had been none before!

 

When A. M. Sherwood, 33° resigned as Secretary on March 12, 1948, his replacement, Thomas Fately, KCCH was elected on the same night.

 

Although plans to move the meeting place to the George Washington Memorial continued to evolve, some confusion had arisen about dates and rooms to be used. To avoid any further misunderstanding, the Secretary was designated the focal point for all arrangements with the Memorial.

 

At the November 1948 meeting, Harry H. Newton, 33°, Chairman of the Memorial Committee, reported on the status of the possible move to the Memorial, and asked for a full attendance when the final report would be made. That report was presented at the meeting on January 14, 1949 by the committee Chairman Harry H. Newton, 33°. (Other committee members were: Riley W. Nixon, Erdmann T. Stultz, and A. M. Sherwood, all 33°.) The fundamental agreement approved the Scottish Rite‟s move to the Memorial and that it would be free to leave if it later found itself in a position to ever build its own Temple.

 

Further details were to be worked out, and the name “Cryptic” was changed to “North” Room. The Memorandum of Agreement between the Memorial and the Scottish Rite is attached to the Minutes of July 8, 1949.

 

Upon the death of Robert S. Crump, 33°, SGIG in Virginia, on October 31, 1949, our Robert S. Barrett, 33°, was appointed Deputy of the Supreme Council in Virginia. Throughout his term as Deputy and, after October 1951, as Sovereign Grand Inspector General, he continued as a regular attendee of Alexandria‟s meetings and provided good counsel and guidance to the Valley. At the October Supreme Council Session, Secretary Thomas Fately was honored with the 33rd Degree.

 

December 3, 1949 was a momentous day at the George Washington Masonic Memorial. The North Room was formally dedicated under the direction of the Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction, with Sovereign Grand Commander John H. Coles, 33° conducting. [As noted earlier, completion of this room was made possible by a $100,000 donation by the Supreme Council.] Also present were: The SGIG in Maryland, and Deputies in the District of Columbia and Virginia. The North Room was to be used by: the Alexandria Scottish Rite, Andrew Jackson Lodge No. 120, Mt. Vernon Royal Arch Chapter No. 14, Old Dominion Commandery No. 11, and Martha Washington Chapter No. 42, Order of the Eastern Star. The organ in the North Room was a gift of the Alexandria Scottish Rite.

 

The Alexandria Scottish Rite held its first meeting in this newly-dedicated room on December 9 when the Lodge of Perfection and the Consistory held their regularly scheduled meetings. For the next two years, reunions were also conducted in the North Room.

 

In October of 1950 a presentation was made on the status of the “Building and Equipment Fund.” In addition to the $28,342 from the sale of the North Alfred Street property, the Valley bought many War Bonds between 1941 and 1948. The 1950 value of the Fund was $127,746, but at full maturity of the bonds the total value would be $151,000.

 

Included in this presentation was a resolution to withdraw some funds to purchase a centrally located land site for a future Temple. Illustrious Roger Sullivan reported in detail the site he had in mind – 1500 WEST BRADDOCK ROAD in Alexandria. The motion was carried! EUREKA? Not yet!

 

At the next month‟s meeting, Illustrious Brother Sullivan announced that an option to buy this property had been secured for $500, and could be purchased for $40,000. He also indicated that Deputy Barrett had seen the property and said he would approve its purchase. The members present authorized the Trustees and Building Committee to proceed.

 

In June of 1951, Illustrious Brother Barrett offered some thoughts about raising funds for the future Temple. Based on an average of 100 candidates per reunion and setting aside $100 of the petition fee, for a five-year period, would raise $150,000 to $170,000 toward a new Temple. Those were his thoughts; no proposals were made.

After the Valley held three reunions in the North Room, John Malcolm Stewart, 32°, Director of Work, made a motion on October 12, 1951 that future reunions be held in the auditorium instead of the lodge room. His motion was carried.

 

A not new subject arose in February of 1953 – “our own Temple.” The Building Committee and Trustees were to meet with an Architect about plans for a new building. Illustrious Roger Sullivan commented that he “hoped that within three years the building will be completed, and we will be meeting in our own building.” OPTIMISTIC? Wait until December!

 

During the year, the Sovereign Grand Commander made a request, Southern Jurisdiction-wide, that Scottish Rite members wear their caps at all official meetings in the lodge room. All indications are that Alexandria members had, routinely, worn their caps at meetings and reunions.

 

The December 11, 1953 Meeting. Faithful members and Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Virginia, Illustrious Brother Barrett, discussed the Valley‟s financial limitations, particularly as they related to starting a building. At the conclusion of Brother Barrett‟s remarks, he stated “we should abandon the idea of a building for at least five years,” and then moved that the Building Committee be abolished. His motion was approved! THE END? The matter would arise again!

 

By mid-1954, the continuing low attendance at meetings was in need of remedial action. This was especially noticeable because of the large number of candidates initiated in previous years: 1953 – 132, 1952 – 172, 1951 – 132, 1950 – 83.

 

A “Committee on Attendance” was appointed with John R. Schafe, KCCH as Chairman. The goal of the committee was not only to increase attendance, but also to promote more friendliness among the brethren. A target was to shorten the meetings and have special entertainment afterwards. The basic plan called for members of the committee to call a certain number of brethren prior to each meeting and reunion, and remind them to attend.

 

Reports of the committee at subsequent meetings showed up and down successes of its efforts. This committee continued until the end of 1958.

 

Another development in the „new Temple” saga occurred at the July 8, 1955 meeting. The Building Committee reported that they had met and considered that “the present lot on Braddock Road may not be large enough for a building and adequate parking.” They thought that another site should be sought – possibly in the Alexandria-Arlington-Fairfax area. WILL THIS EVER GET RESOLVED? Time, patience, and perseverance!

 

Since 1955 was an odd-numbered year when the Supreme Council would meet and elect brethren to receive honors, a matter related to that became a business item for the October 14 meeting. The question was whether the Valley should pay for caps of the KCCH and 33° honorees. The answer was NO, 31 to 16.

 

At the January 11, 1957 meeting, George R. Weaver, 32° announced his resignation as Junior Warden of the Lodge of Perfection due to other time-demanding commitments in his life. However, George remained dedicated to Scottish Rite work and involved himself diligently. He later received the honor of KCCH, and eventually the 33rd degree.

 

Also at the January meeting, Illustrious Brother Barrett commented on how the Valley‟s degree work had greatly improved.

 

A few more developments about the “new Temple” took place in 1957:

 

In January, Werner C. Strecker, 32° reported that engineers were working on drawings and plans for a new Temple.

In July, he advised that plans and specifications had been distributed, and anticipated early bids on the building.

At the August meeting he reported that the lowest bid received was $492,555, and added that this was beyond the financial ability of the Valley to pursue. END OF THE ROAD? Maybe not!

 

After ten years of swelling membership rolls, the Director of Work and the Degree Masters met in April of 1957 to discuss the continuing practice that so few brethren perform in so many degrees. They discussed a long range plan to spread the degree work over a larger percentage of the membership and allow more of these newer members to participate, as well as to reduce the burden on current cast members.

 

Concerning the Valley‟s investments, a lodge decision was made at the August 8, 1958 meeting to authorize the Trustees to dispose of current investments without prior approval of the Lodge to do so. The purpose of this was to prevent a time delay that would otherwise be needed and could be “financially disastrous.”

 

The year 1959 began on an undesirable note. Alexandria‟s Charter Member and Sovereign Grand Inspector in Virginia, Doctor Robert South Barrett, died on February 24, 1959. He suffered a serious and recurring illness. He was succeeded in office by Illustrious Charles E. Webber, 33°, of Roanoke.

 

An April 10, 1960 letter from Illustrious Brother Webber suggested that the special names of Alexandria‟s four Bodies be deleted, and that each Body‟s name be preceded with the word “Alexandria.” He indicated that he was asking each Valley in the state to do the same.

 

At the next meeting, the brethren discussed this, and voted to retain the original names. The rationale was the sentimental value represented by the names of outstanding men who had walked the streets of Alexandria – Washington, Randolph, and Lafayette. The SGIG was informed of this lodge action, but later correspondence would be forthcoming.

 

Another vote of the lodge during 1960 dealt with an increase in dues. In 1910, yearly dues were established at $5. Fifty years later the dues were still $5! Considering the optimistic desire for a “new Temple,” it seemed as though some provision should be made for building up the Valley‟s fund resource. A proposal was made to increase dues from the long-standing $5 to $8. The motion was defeated by a vote of 52 to 35!

 

The 1960 Spring Reunion was organized to do two major things. First, the Class was named in memory of Robert South Barrett, 33° who died a year earlier. There were 81 candidates in the Class. The second objective was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Valley. Following the reunion, a dinner was held at Alexandria‟s Hammond High School with nearly 700 in attendance, including members, wives, and friends. This was a memorable reunion program. Heads of the four Bodies at this milestone were:

Venerable Master -- Herbert A. Wood, 32°
Wise Master -- Walter H. Trudgill, KCCH
Commander -- William E. Sprouse, KCCH
Master of Kadosh -- Herbert DeBerry, KCCH

As 1960 came to an end, it became obvious that with a continually increasing number of candidates and a rising membership (now 2,242), losses would also increase. At year‟s end there were 60 losses due to death and 56 suspensions for non-payment of dues.

Back to Chapter 2

Continue to Chapter 4 (1961-1986)

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