Compiled by RW Raymond C. Thorne PGT
The Certificate of Incorporation of Audubon Masonic Temple Association was signed on February 21, 1950 by Franklin P. Kramer, PM; A. Paul Courtney, PM; Harry H. Mund, PM; Albert H. Gleaner; William B. Howe; William B. Somers, Jr.; Wilfred T. Brandon; Albert S. Oates and E. Clayton Dorsey. WB Kramer was the Association’s first President, serving for five years--enough time to oversee the completion of the temple. Parkside’s first Worshipful Master, RW Charles A. Williams, PSGD, occupied the East for the entire conferral of the Entered Apprentice Degree May 4, 1950 and for the first time in 30 years gave the lecture. The following month the lodge celebrated their 30th Anniversary with the Past Masters raising four members. Eleven Charter Members and 13 Past Masters were received that night.
Audubon’s 1950 Annual saw George S. Rippel, PM, close the meeting by dispensation from the Grand Master. A 50-year Mason, WB Rippel was raised in Arbutus Lodge #611, in Pennsylvania on January 23, 1900, and was Worshipful Master of that lodge before dimitting to become a Charter Member of Audubon.
At an emergent communication of Audubon March 8, 1951, MW Leo H. Carpenter, PGM, and a large delegation of Masons from the Lancaster, Pa., area witnessed a raising of five Masons, one of whom was a Lancaster resident who had a physical handicap that prevented him, under the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’s strict regulations at the time, of being raised a Master Mason in that Grand Jurisdiction.
Many times over the next few years a petitioner of a lodge in the Lancaster area who was rejected because of a physical condition would petition and join Audubon. At each raising of a Lancaster resident, and sometimes at the other degrees, a large delegation of Masons from the Lancaster area would be in attendance.
Masters and Wardens of the 18th and 29th Districts conferred the Master Mason Degree on four Audubon candidates May 4. On June 1 they were back, along with MW Lewis M. Parker, GM, and a large delegation of Grand Lodge officers. The theme of the speeches by the RW’s was Masonic rededication.
Audubon Masonic Temple Association began negotiations to purchase the New Highland Theater, 305 E. Atlantic Avenue, on June 27, 1951. Built in 1922 as the Highland Theater, it was renamed in 1938 when new owners purchased it. (Almost no one noticed the slight change in name.) The building had been closed and up for sale for some time. On September 14, the Temple Association authorized its officers to purchase the building. President Kramer and Secretary Oats signed the agreement of sale and on December 5, 1951, the Temple Association obtained title to the New Highland Theater. Money raised by the sale of the plot of land the lodge owned at Virginia and Maple Avenues went towards the purchase of the building.
Audubon’s first Temple Association wanted to build their own temple, even purchasing land for the building. Instead, they purchased a meeting place that was, among other things, a former movie theater. They sold the plots of land to help pay for the meeting place.
This latest Temple Association also wanted to build their own temple, even purchasing land for the building. Instead, they purchased a meeting place that was a former movie theater. They sold the plot of land to help pay for the new meeting place. Audubon’s third home was next door to their first meeting place and built the same year as their second meeting place.
The conversion work began on Saturday, January 12, 1952. The chairman of the building committee was Brother Clate Dorsey. Every night was a work night, as was all day Saturday and half day Sunday. Some nights there were only one or two in the building. More showed up on weekends.
The first thing to be done was remove the seats in the theater. Most were sold, which helped finance the renovations. The seats that were kept were reupholstered. Brother Frank Sozzi donated the stuffing and covering material. At the time, Brother Sozzi was a member of Ionic Lodge, but he later affiliated with Audubon.
Brother Jesse Care, lodge Tyler, sat at a sander and cleaned up each arm rest by removing the old grime and varnish before applying a new coat of varnish. The chairman overseeing this restoration was Brother Bill Cheesman.
The raked floor of the theater was leveled, the concrete slabs supporting the floor were broken up and carted out, wheel barrowful by wheel barrowful. The wood planks were removed and stored and as many as possible were reused.
Parkside had perhaps its biggest Boys Night on October 4, 1951, when RW Sam Fulton showed movies of football games and the speaker of the evening was Wayne Milner, coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. On June 6, 1952, MW Adrian B. Hommell, GM, accompanied by a large delegation of Grand Lodge officers, paid an Official Visit to Audubon, no reason given in the minutes.
At an emergent held October 31, MW Hommell, accompanied by many past and present members of Grand Lodge, including three Past Grand Masters and John T. Plasket, District Deputy Grand Master of the 18th Masonic District (the title had been changed from District Deputy), paid an Official Visit to Parkside to honor Rowland R. Harden, Grand Chaplain, the lodge’s first Grand Lodge officer in almost 20 years. In the Grand Master’s message, he suggested everyone present “Practice without that which I learned within.”
Audubon lost their Charter Master, William D. Hopkins, January 5, 1953 and two days later conducted Masonic Services at the home of the deceased brother.
On June 4, Parkside received a letter from the Camden Masonic Association requesting the opinion of the lodge members on the feasibility of building a new Masonic temple in a more desirable location and where such a location would be, and also suggestions for its financing.
That October 1, a large delegation of Excelsior Scottish Rite 33rd Degree Masons were present in Parkside to honor Illustrious William I. Baker, member of the lodge, Past Thrice Potent Master of Excelsior Lodge of Perfection and newly-coroneted 33rd. Included in the group were MW and Illustrious Frank C. Sayers, PGM, Scottish Rite Deputy for New Jersey, RW George G. Rudisill, DDGM of the 29th District, William G. Rohrer, Potentate of Crescent Shrine, and also two RW’s from Parkside, Charles A. Williams, PSGD, and Rowland R. Harden, PGC.
Also present that night were RW Plasket, members of the Crescent Shrine Club and the Camden Post Office Square Club. Past Master Jim McKissock, who received his 25-year pin that night, sang a solo. The speaker of the evening was MW Lewis Parker, PGM, who was coroneted at the sane meeting with Brother Baker. Grand Master John C. Barbour and his staff paid a visit to Audubon on November 4 to honor RW Franklin P. Kramer, Grand Tyler. Pop Kramer said two people at the meeting were his guiding lights: MW Leo B. Carpenter, PGM, and lodge brother RW Luther P. Krout, PGC.
Occasionally in Audubon’s minutes during the years 1952 through 1954 would be recorded a transfer of lodge money to the Audubon Masonic Temple Association, usually to complete a large purchase of something the Association made a down payment on.
There would also be frequent requests for help in working at the temple. Usually these requests would be made by Harry Scholl, who was a great organizer and supervisor, and the one responsible for getting individuals out and assigning them their job.
The small basement of the old Highland Theater was used for the furnace and for storage. The old furnace was removed--a job in itself--and sold, the money going into the renovation effort. The cleared basement would be converted into a kitchen and dining area. A furnace room behind the dining area was dug out of the ground, one shovelful at a time.
The big work day was Saturday, when ten or fifteen men would show up. Jesse Care, lodge Tyler, was in charge of lunch. No account of the renovation of the temple would be complete without telling the time Brother Care, instead of pouring a big pot of coffee back into the coffee maker, accidentally poured it into a pot of soup. He never lived it down.
Slowly the new interior took shape. Upright wood beams would be installed, electric wiring would be added and then boarded over to create a wall. Doors would be installed in empty archways. Plumbing would be installed and the water turned on. Paint would be applied. Seats would be attached to the lodge room floor. The building eventually began to look like a suitable meeting place.
The lodge was fortunate that where the law required professional work, such as a licensed electrician, a qualified lodge member would volunteer his services. Years later Brother Dorsey wrote in a letter, a copy of which is in our files, “The job was done by the brothers with a few exceptions as: 1.Bricklayer to close up old exterior doorways. 2. Contract to install imitation stone on front of building. 3. Some roof repairs. 4. Supervision to install asphalt tile floor.”
Elsewhere in our lodge’s website is a slide show of the renovation of the Highland Theater into Audubon Masonic Temple. Incidentally, there are no pictures in the lodge archives of the lodge rooms in the corner of Pine Street and E. Atlantic Avenue, over the bank at Merchant Street and W. Atlantic Avenue, or of Camden Lodge.
Audubon’s last communication “over the bank” was held November 5, 1954. The Past Masters of the lodge raised five new members. The PM’s occupied the officer’s positions for the closing, with RW Luther P. Krout, PGC, sitting in the Oriental Chair. He said there had been many good times in the room and felt sad closing lodge there for the last time.
On November 19, 1954, the gavel was sounded for the first time in Audubon Masonic Temple. Brother Clate Dorsey called the brethren to order, then turned the gavel over to the Worshipful Master, William C. Wolfiner. RW Krout offered a prayer for the blessing of the new temple. After some regular business, RW Franklin P. Kramer, Temple Association President, was conducted to the East and made appropriate remarks about the building of the temple.
Then presentations were made. Harold “Pud” Mullen, on behalf of the Masonic members of Murray-Troutt American Legion Post 242, presented the lodge with the officer’s chair in the South. William N. Hartley, Worshipful Master of Henry S. Haines Lodge, presented Audubon with the officer’s chair in the North. WB Hulah L. Smith, on behalf of Mrs. William D. Hopkins, widow of the lodge’s Charter Worshipful Master, presented the lodge with the officer’s chair in the West. Then WB Smith, on behalf of Brother Frank Sozzi, presented the lodge with the altar kneeling pad.
(Incidentally, the Oriental Chair had been presented to the lodge by Brother James Burkett December 7, 1945. It is the only documented piece of furniture in the new temple to have been in use over the bank.) Brother William Mattson, on behalf of Edward Zimmerman (who was too ill to make the meeting) presented the lodge with the portrait of George Washington which still hangs in the lobby. SW Walter J. Kling, on behalf of himself and his family, presented the Masonic emblem in the tile floor of the lobby (which has since been covered over by carpeting).
Integrity Lodge #187, Philadelphia, displayed in the lodge room, then presented to the lodge, the Square and Compasses which are now part of the front of the building. (Audubon and Integrity had been exchanging visits for several years.)
SD Harry Scholl then presented Brother Clate Dorsey, “the chief architect at the building of Audubon Masonic Temple.” Brother Dorsey recounted some of the trials and tribulations of the renovation.
The building, although fit for occupancy, was not yet finished. Furniture was still needed in the lobby. The Recreation (Craftsmen’s) Room and the basement were not yet complete.
Ten days later at an Audubon emergent, RW John T. Plasket, DDGM, accompanied by eight visiting Worshipful Masters from 1953, plus members of the NYS Square Club, were present when a delegation of twenty-five Illustrious 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Masons from the Valley of Southern New Jersey, including PGM’s Arthur P. Johnson and Leo H. Carpenter, were admitted and introduced by RW Luther P. Krout, PGC. They were present to honor newly-coroneted Illustrious William F. Hory, Worshipful Master of Audubon in 1953. Many of the speakers, in addition to praising the man of honor, commented on the beauty of the new lodge room. The emotional highlight of the evening came when RW Krout accompanied WB Hory to the altar, the lodge officers assembled around the altar and with the help of a quartet created for the night sang “Bless Be the Tie That Binds.”
On December 17, Audubon held Masonic Funeral Services for one of the principal workers on the new temple, Thomas G. Parry, chief electrician. Brother William Lamey, as he did so frequently at funerals, sang “Abide With Me.”
In January of 1955, Henry S. Haines Lodge #253 held its first communication in Audubon Temple. Two Masonic-affiliated women’s organizations--Audubon Chapter #191, Order of the Eastern Star and Integrity Court #30, Order of the Amaranth--first met in the Masonic Temple on the corner of Pine Street and E. Atlantic Avenue and then followed Audubon Lodge over the bank. By the end of 1955, they would both call 305 E. Atlantic Avenue home. So would Oaklyn Chapter #253, OES, which moved from the Oaklyn Fire Hall.
The first member raised in Audubon Temple was Warren I. Hess, on February 4, 1955. He was raised by Walter J. Kling, the first Worshipful Master to be elected and installed in the new building. A total of five brothers were raised that night.
Parkside performed a very sad duty on March 3 when it conducted Masonic Funeral services for its Charter Master, RW Charles Albert Williams, PSGD. The service was conducted in Excelsior Scottish Rite Temple. As Secretary Frederick B. Johnson, PM, recorded in the minutes, “The attendance there was most impressive and a fitting tribute to our first Worshipful Master and Secretary for twenty-five years.” The library room in Excelsior Scottish Rite Temple was dedicated to RW Charles A. Williams June 24, 1960.
WB John Zanger died March 6. A member of the first class raised in Audubon, he was the first member to “go the long way.” He served that lodge as Worshipful Master in 1926.
At Audubon’s March 18 meeting, William E. Beringer, PM, presented a set of Warden’s columns to the lodge in memory of his father, William E. Beringer, who was Junior Warden when he died in 1938. These columns are still in use today.
On Friday May 20, 1955, Audubon celebrated its 35th anniversary by initiating five candidates, including E. Robert Zimmerman, who would become Worshipful Master in 1965, and William P. Elberson, who would be Worshipful Master the following year. Occupying the South for the second section was Cooper L. MacMillan, PM, who occupied that chair exactly thirty-five years earlier.
Also at that communication Brother Pasquale Massi, who was also in the class just entered, presented the lodge with sixteen chairs for the Craftsmen’s Room. Brother Sozzi donated a statue for that room. They promised they would soon donate a table. The chairs, statue and table are still features of the Craftsmen’s Room.
With the furniture in place, everything painted, the basement finally finished, and all the little details dealt with, Audubon Masonic temple was dedicated at an emergent communication on Saturday, June 4, 1955, (which by coincidence was Parkside’s 35th anniversary).
The evening opened with a dinner at the Collmont Diner (which straddled the Collingswood-Westmont border). Then, back at the new temple the Worshipful Masters of the 18th and 29th Districts were received, followed by 15 Past masters of Audubon.
Senior Deacon George B. Beetle presented the lodge with a Bible on behalf of “the fellow workers of the temple” in memory of Brother Thomas G. Parry “whose untiring efforts in the construction of the Temple will long be remembered.” Brother Parry died the previous December 15, at age 73.
This Bible is the altar Bible our lodge uses today. By coincidence, the presentation date (although 35 years earlier) on the Bible Parkside used throughout that lodge’s entire existence is also June 4. Our lodge sill has Audubon’s original Bible, as well as Parkside’s Bible.
After some musical selections, visiting Past Masters--literally from Canada to the Canal Zone--extended fraternal greetings. Then Grand Master Joseph H. Gick, who had received the gavel of Audubon many times over the previous seventeen years, was received. Several other members of Grand Lodge, including PGM’s Leo H. Carpenter and E. Walter Parsons, were also received.
West of the altar, Chairman of the Building Committee Brother Clate Dorsey “Audubon’s Hiram Abiff” formally turned the temple over to Temple President Frank Kramer, whom Brother Dorsey called “King Solomon.” RW Kramer then approached the East and presented a key of the building to the Grand Master. RW Luther Krout, kneeling at the altar, offered up a prayer of blessing on the new temple. Grand Master (and honorary member) Gick stated the building was the most beautiful temple he had ever seen and declared it officially open.
Three members were raised in Parkside on October 6 by the Camden Shrine Club, which included three members of the lodge: the Club’s President William I. Baker, Crescent Shrine Past Potentate Arthur E. Armitage, Sr., and Crescent’s Chief Rabben Arthur E. Armitage, Jr.
The following night witnessed the first recorded table lodge in Audubon’s history, at an emergent immediately following the regular communication.
The 1955 Annual was the last time Audubon held its Annual Banquet at Audubon High School. For the next ten years the Banquets were held at the Holly House in Pennsauken.
On December 27, 1955, Parkside held Masonic Funeral Services for Brother Mortimer Lionel Nottebrock, Charter member and the lodge’s only Tyler. As Secretary Johnson wrote in the minutes, “Parkside Lodge has suffered a great loss in the death of our good friend, ‘Mort,’ as everyone called him. No task that he had to perform was ever half done, he could always be relied upon.”
January 5, 1956, was a big meeting for Parkside. After a dinner in the Banquet Room, all present went upstairs to the Blue Room. GM Gick was received, along with DDGM Plasket and a few other members of Grand Lodge. Ten Charter Members, “the foundation of the lodge,” were received. Then twenty-two Past Masters, “the superstructure of the lodge,” were received. Seventeen members of the lodge were honored by the Worshipful Master for their services to the lodge over the years.
Two brothers were singled out for special recognition. Charles H. Sullivan, Charter Secretary and Historian for 32 years, was presented with his 50-year pin. Then Shrewsbury Priory #5 presented Frederick C. Vieser, PM, with the York Rite Cross of Honor. To be eligible for this award, one must be Past Master of a Masonic Lodge, Past High Priest of a Royal Arch Chapter, Past Thrice Illustrious Master of a Council of Royal and Select Masters and Past Commander of a Knights Templar Commandery.
On March 19, Audubon held Masonic Funeral Services for Brother John E. Cowden, who was in the first class raised by Audubon, August 20, 1920. He had served continuously as a Trustee since December 1, 1933, helping the lodge financially through some of its leanest years.
A more pleasant evening for Audubon was held a month later, April 20, when the Acacia Club of RCA Victor, the Traffic and Transportation Club of Philadelphia, a representation from the Budd Company and members of Sea Isle City Lodge #280 witnessed the Bozo Club raise a class of five.
Audubon celebrated their 36th Anniversary on May 18 by honoring three Charter Members. This was the last time the Charter Members of Audubon would be honored as a group, and the only time they were collectively recognized in the new temple. One of them, Brother John L. Koerner, was given his 50-year pin by RW Plasket. (Many members who grew up in Audubon Borough knew Brother Koerner as a teacher in Audubon School #1.) A class of five was then passed to the Degree of Fellowcraft.
At Parkside’s 1956 Annual two Charter members and longtime officers retired. Brother Edward Albiston stepped down as Proxy to Grand Lodge, a position he held since 1922. He was elected Proxy Emeritus to Grand Lodge. Brother Albiston was the lodge’s first Historian. Brother Charles H. Sullivan, a 50-year member, who took over the job of Historian from Brother Albiston in 1924, declined reappointment as historian and was elected Historian Emeritus.
Audubon’s 37th Anniversary, May 17, 1957, was a sad occasion. After the lodge opened and the regular business dispensed with, the approximately 140 brothers present went down the street to Foster’s Funeral Home to pay their respects to Brother Charles H. Githens, Sr. Worshipful Master Harry W. Scholl gave what must have been a very emotional funeral service.
Chuck Githens did a lot of the electrical work in the temple and was Junior Master of Ceremonies when he was killed instantly in an industrial accident where he worked. After the service, labor resumed in the lodge room and five brothers were raised.
The following communication, June 7, was a joyous occasion as Audubon’s oldest-living Past Master, Charter Member Cooper L. MacMillan, received his 50-year pin. Many members and visitors gave personal recollections of the honored member. The Stewards presented him with a birthday cake, which, with strawberries, was enjoyed by all after the meeting.
On November 7, 1957, MW Raymond N. Jensen, Grand Master, paid an Official Visit to Parkside to honor RW Frederick C. Drake, Grand Pursuivant. Also present were PGM’s Johnson, Carpenter and Gick, as well as RW Plasket.
Audubon gave a Masonic Funeral for WB Cooper L. MacMillan, Charter Member and Worshipful Master in 1922, on December 27. He died on Christmas Day.
Parkside reached its high water mark for membership in 1957, with 373 members.
After raising five new members of Audubon on May 2, 1958, and in the presence of a busload and several carloads of Lancaster area Masons, Brother John C. Truxal, on behalf of the fifteen lodge members living in the Lancaster area presented the lodge with $175 to assist in the purchase of more chairs for the Craftsmen’s room. On August 8, Audubon held Masonic Funeral Services for Clifford D. String, PM, who in 1931 was the first Worshipful Master elected and installed over the bank. He was also a Past High Priest of Rabboni Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, and a former mayor of Oaklyn. Speaking of Rabboni, that chapter started meeting in Audubon Temple September, 1958.
Brother J. Blair Cuthbert died October 6, 1958, one month short of his 90th birthday. He was one of two 50-year members of Parkside, having been raised in Tyrone Lodge No. 494, Pa., January 19, 1890. He was Past Imperial Potentate of Crescent Shrine, as well as Charter High Priest of Rabboni Chapter in 1920--the year he was coroneted a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Mason. In the Excelsior Bodies he was, respectively, Most Wise Master, Sovereign Prince, and Thrice Potent Master.
On November 6, 1958, Parkside received twenty-six 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Masons to honor Brother A. Richard Walker for receiving the Meritorious Service Award for his work and dedication to Masonry in general and the Scottish Rite in particular.
The delegation was also there to honor Illustrious Thomas P. Pierce, PM, Worshipful Master of Parkside in 1942 and Past Thrice Potent Master, who had recently been coroneted a 33rd. Music for the evening was provided by the Oriental Band of the Camden Shrine Club, in full regalia, which was led by their director, the same Illustrious Pierce.
At that meeting, but dying two days later, was Brother Ernest H. Cox, a very faithful attender of Parkside activities since he was raised in 1922--and whose son, Earl L. Cox, was Worshipful Master at the time. At Parkside’s Annual just short of a month later, WB Cox offered up an emotional prayer at the memorial service. On November 21, the officers and 33rd Degree Masons of Excelsior Scottish Rite were in Audubon to honor Illustrious Franklin P. Kramer, Worshipful Master in 1939 and Past Grand Tyler, who was coroneted with Illustrious Brother Pierce.
Also present, along with DDGM Plasket, were the Most Excellent Grand High Priest of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter for the State of New Jersey and the Most Illustrious Grand Master of the Most Puissant Council of Royal and Select Masters of the State of New Jersey.
“Pop” Kramer would be Sovereign Prince of Excelsior Council Princes of Jerusalem in 1959. In the Council of Royal and Select Masters he would serve as Grand Master in 1964 and as Grand Treasurer from 1965 to his death in 1976.
Parkside’s minutes between April 2, 1959 and September 2, 1965 disappeared long before the consolidation. There is also no surviving lodge history for that period, either.
On July 3, 1959, although at an emergent, Audubon voted to transfer one thousand dollars to the Temple Association so they could purchase the lot behind the Temple for use as a parking lot. The lodge still owns this lot.
Grand Master William Davies, the elected Grand Line and most of the appointed line visited Audubon on October 2. The purpose of this visit was for MW Davies to be made an Honorary Member of the lodge.
Starting the decade with 300 members, Parkside ended the 1950’s with 370. Audubon started the decade with 459 members and ended with 707.
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