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Part IV: A New Us

Come 1953, if we were to use scriptural language, the spirit of building or remodeling the temple was upon us. Alden A. Hipple was chairman of the building committee. A meeting was this committee was announced for April 30, 1953. There was, however, an inalterable course of events operating in favor of North Bend Lodge. We should always bear in mind that someone has given expression to the thought that if the Lord bless not the builder, they labor in vain who build [Psalm 127 -DBB]. Such was not to be the case in this instance with North Bend Lodge. Events were now moving to a climax which had been so long sought by its brotherhood from the very beginning. William G. Koenig, member of Brookside Lodge #720, Indianapolis, Indiana, was admitted on demit. Mrs. Mabel Guard Weisman, daughter of Thomas M. Guard, one of our brothers raised in the late 1880’s who passed “a good examination”, was persuasive with the heirs of the Matson estate. The lodge had accumulated some money in savings institutions and United States government bonds. It also owned all or part of the lot whereon the Cleves Municipal Building is now situated. All this property had largely been acquired through the thrift and patient effort of a past generation of Masons. The method of issuing shares in a building project suggested very early in the history of the Lodge had been given up. Further progress now depended on the generosity of the membership. The season was in bud; there was to be no biting frost. The Lodge building was clearly on the downgrade. The heirs of the property were dissatisfied. The question again was whether we should remain in this spot or locate elsewhere. After a little discussion the apparently united opinion was to remain. Brother Hey, Past Mater, emphasized this viewpoint on leaving Lodge one evening when he remarked that he was too old to enter into such a discussion, but he felt that this was the spot. Surely it was one of the best locations in Cleves. We must act quickly; competition for the purchase might arise. We were on the anxious seat. Brother Coy reported progress by the building committee at the June, 1953, stated meeting. This was an old tale. A series of negotiations by letter and by word of mouth had been taking place. July stated meeting came and brought with it opportunity. The owners of the property were reported to be without the Lodge room. It was suggested from the floor of the Lodge room that a consideration be paid and a brief description of the lot to be made on a receipt. Lodge was called from labor to refreshment. Brother C. Donald Coy went out. The result culminated in a common place transfer of title for the real property on which the remodeled Lodge building is now situated and the adjacent lot. The transfer took place in a law office in the Dixie Terminal Building, 4th and Walnut Streets, downtown Cincinnati on August 21, 1953. Lawyers for both parties were present, the heirs themselves, and Alden Hipple alone representing North Bend Lodge. The critical moment had passed. The ambitions of almost a hundred years had been realized. [The date of the transfer is recorded at the Hamilton County Auditor’s Office as August 28, 1953 -DBB].

The next question was what to do with the newly acquired Lodge building. A temple building committee was appointed (Sept. 16, 1953) to be responsible for the maintenance and rental of property. We then examined that condition of the building. Was it beset with dry-rot? Was it termite ridden? We found this not to be true. The building was ascertained to be structurally sound. After misgivings suggesting that notwithstanding its basically sound condition it should be razed, the Lodge came to the conclusion that it would be economically more practical to remodel in the future. Inflation was already making its ugly presence known.

Brother Melvin R. Coward then became the ramrod, the real inspiration for remodeling. No job was too large or too small for him to undertake. The Lodge stairs were repaired. A large steel beam or beams properly supported were needed to strengthen the center of the building. The came by way of a gift from Brother W.W. Taylor at North Bend. Brother Coward remarked that they were brought to the premises largely through the efforts of men belonging to the Catholic faith. Gulf Refining Corporation provided the truck. The Lodge remodeling project thus has at its very beginning an ecumenical aspect. If Brother Coward played the role of Hiram, King of Tyre, in our building program, Brother R.S. Maddox was his Adoniram. Brother Maddox was our Tyler. It was not his lot to be in the Lodge room to stimulate and encourage, but he was always at Brother Coward’s side when it came to the actual work. Later, when the more complete effort of rebuilding was to take place, Brother Maddox, with the help of a borrowed Ohio Gravel Company crane, was to help raise the central beam into position on the second floor so it could be elevated to support the roof.

The Lodge made a very timid approach to building. It was not miserly; it just had to be careful. Improvements moved slowly; a little here, a little there. Then came the event which really set things on fire and almost did. A large motor vehicle came down the Bridgetown Pike hill crushing the northeast corner of the Lodge hall. A banked stove was burning in the corner storeroom, but help came quickly; there was no time for the blaze to catch. The northeast corner, without which the Lodge could not make much progress, was propped up, and it stood there with a gaping hole beneath for some months. Brother Coward urged the Lodge to remodel the front which was put in the form of a motion (Dec. 19, 1956) and carried. The Lodge, however, continued to labor. The final result was that a communication from the Grand Lodge of Ohio was received (May, 1957) granting permission to remodel our building. Brother William G. Koenig, a professional builder and member of North Bend Lodge, then responded. Brother Coward shortly left for California in June. Peculiarly, when he returned the building was essentially renovated. Notably, none of the preliminary work had to be undone; it all fitted into place much as the stones which entered into the construction of Kings Solomon’s Temple. Brother Coward went to work adding the finishing touches. Brother Leroy Kessens presided at our first meeting in the newly remodeled Lodge hall on Wednesday, September 18, 1957.

The minutes of November 8, 1958 set forth that the members of North Bend Lodge #346 “participated in the ceremony of re-dedication of its newly remodeled Lodge hall to Free Masonry”. The Grand Master of Masons in Ohio, Chester Hodges, and the Grand Secretary, Most Worshipful Brother Harry S. Johnson, and Brother M.R. Coward, the real architect in spirit and in work at times assisted by Brother Roscoe S. Maddox, were on hand. Festivities began with open house at 2:00 P.M., the Lodge room being open for public inspection. The Eastern Star Chapter #295 served light refreshments during the social hour. The formal re-dedication ceremony took place that evening at 5:00 P.M.  The mortgage was burned at the annual inspection, Saturday, March 13, 1965. North Bend Lodge has continued to extend its inner structure reaching out to the your of the community who are desirous of becoming a part of our masonic environment. The fist to make an impact of consequence was Job’s Daughters. Cyrus D. Bailey and his wife, Pearl Davis Bailey, attracted a Bethel whose footsteps were faltering to the North Bend Lodge hall. The only record of this (June 14, 1956) states that a motion was passed to permit Job’s Daughters to meet in our Lodge room. Cy was apparently so busy that he failed to come to the stated meetings of North Bend Lodge and make a report on their activities. He left the scene, but not before Job’s Daughters was on a firm footing. Now his son-in-law, Terry Meyers, and daughter, Beverly Bailey Meyers, have taken over and there will probably be more prominence give to their work in the minutes since Terry comes to the regular meetings of the North Bend Lodge.

The Order of DeMolay again came to the attention of North Bend Lodge when a very small donation was made (March, 1966) toward the promotion of the DeMolay conclave. The following year, Brother Jack Applegate was invited to speak concerning the advantages of DeMolay to the youth of our locality. The next stated meeting (April, 1967) a resolution was passed unanimously that North Bend Lodge sponsor a Chapter of DeMolay. A special meeting of North Bend Lodge was held on July 22, 1967, and Brother Leroy Kessens reported that on July 20, 1967, sixteen boys were initiated into our DeMolay Chapter, known as Three Rivers Chapter, and Leroy has continued to give reports ever since.

[An extended excursus by Bro. David Bailey: I was one of the sixteen teenage boys initiated into Three Rivers Chapter on July 20, 1967. Over the next two year,  I served the Chapter as Marshal, Sr. Councilor and Master Councilor. I was the first member of Three Rivers Chapter to become a member of North Bend Lodge, being raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason on February 10, 1973. That raising was the Lodge’s inspection, with Terry B. Meyers presiding that year as Worshipful Master. Many other members of Three Rivers Chapter also became members of North Bend Lodge #346.]

Recent year have not only extended the scope of North Bend Lodge to all members of the family, but it has traveled from a period when father was truly the head of the house to “women’s lib”; from a time when children were to be seen and not heard to a day when they could express themselves in such social groups as Job’s Daughters and DeMolay. Even the territorial jurisdiction of the Lodge has changed along with other Masonic bodies under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Ohio from one of neighborhood boundaries within a brief buggy ride to county wide and now state wide jurisdiction for the Lodges. Masonry seems to be passing from a mere pedestrian existence to a course which might be likened to man’s journey to the moon. In a period of less than twenty years three honorary members have been elected to North Bend Lodge: George Neihard (April 9, 1952); Chester Hodges (October 1957); and Joseph Fink (December 20, 1967). Prior to that time there was only one honorary member.

North Bend Lodge has not only changed its outreach in a social aspect, but it has presently come under the economic stress of inflation. Generally, the members of the Lodge have had more money. It has received bequests from the estates of John F. Hey, Raymond R. Robison, Gordon B. Henderson and his wife, the first bequests in its history. The abundance of money and credit has brought other changes. Dues have been increased approximately sevenfold or better and the initiation fee has been multiplied by ten. The demand for higher education has led to the beginning of Masonic college scholarships. Improved medical techniques have moved us into the blood bank (August, 1954). Alden A. Hipple has resigned as Secretary and become Secretary Emeritus. The best we can do as members of North Bend Lodge looking into the future is to remember the challenge the Lord gave to the prophet Amos:

 

“Thus he showed me; and behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumb-line, with a plumb-line in his hand. And the Lord said unto me, ‘Amos, what seest thou?’, and I said, ‘A plumb-line’. Then said the Lord, ‘Behold, I will set a plumb-line in the midst of my people Israel; I will not again pass by them any more’.”

It might be well for the members of North Bend Lodge now and in the coming years to keep in mind the comment of Reverend Brother Coply at the Hooven Methodist Church (St. John’s Day, June 26, 1960): “When imperfections arise in our work, God applies his skill to finish the job for us, or gives strength and knowledge to complete our work”.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Louis O. Saur

[August 20, 1974]