South Seminole Lodge No. 364 Free & Accepted Masons
Proudly Serving The Communities in South Seminole County, Florida
Lodge History | South Seminole Lodge No. 364
The First Twenty-Five Years of Masonry
with South Seminole Lodge
Lodge History from 1968-1993
In 1976, What would eventually become South Seminole Lodge was conceived in the minds of two men George Miller was a mail carrier working out of the Casselberry, Florida. Post Office and Raymond Morris who lived on Miller’s route. Both were Masons from other jurisdictions and during their conversations, they discussed the need for a Masonic Lodge in the fast-growing Altamonte Springs-Casselberry-Fern Park area. The closest active lodges at that time were in Sanford to the north, Oviedo to the east, Apopka to the west and Winter Park to the south. The nearest of these was the Winter Park Lodge, which was about five miles south.
Both men were acquainted with many Masons in the area. most of whom came from other jurisdictions. Among these. Were Curtis Blow, an electrical appliance dealer and mayor of Casselberry; Frank Bingham and Louis Kirby, both employed at the Casselberry Post Office; and Verbun Jones, an officer at one of the local banks. Miller and Morris contacted these men, along with several others, and they started holding informal meetings.
At first, they met at a vacant store owned by Curtis Blow. Later, they met at the Winter Park Masonic Temple. They were guided and assisted in getting started by R.W Harvey B. Eddy, District Deputy Grand Master of the 16th Masonic District and Wor. Richard Carr of Eola Lodge.
Brothers Eddy and Carr were faced with a formidable task in preparing the brothers for acceptance by the Grand Lodge-of Florida. Several of the brothers adamantly opposed learning the Florida Ritual work as they felt what they had learned in the “home” jurisdictions was the only correct ritual. Brothers Eddy and Carr had to convince them that the only work acceptable in Florida was the Florida Ritual.
Finally, on December 18, 1967, a Lodge was opened for the purpose of granting dispensation to South Seminole Lodge. R.W. Harvey B. Eddy presided initially. Most Worshipful John T. Rouse, Jr., Grand Master of Masons in Florida, and his Grand Family were received into the Lodge room. R.W. William A. Whitcomb, Grand Secretary, read the proclamation granting dispensation. The new Lodge was composed of twenty-eight Petitioners.
During this period, the Lodge met at Winter Park Masonic Temple. The brothers were working diligently, exploring all possible Lodge sites for a location in the desired area. On June 15. 1968, having found no appropriate site for building a temple, attention was turned to renting a suitable place for Lodge meetings. The American Legion Hall in Fern Park was selected as being suitable for most of our requirements.
The new location met most, but not all, of our needs. For example, candidates had to be taken out of the front door of the building to re-enter at the side door, leading to the kitchen, which served as our preparation room. The tile floor left much to be desired for our degree work so Brothers William Byles and Carl Strom paid a visit to Mokanna Lodge and were given some strips of blue carpet material to use on our floor during degrees. The strips of blue carpeting were eventually used in the lobby of the new temple.
In February 1970, we had the opportunity to purchase a lot in Casselberry across the street from City Hall. Though the price was reasonable, the Lodge did not have the funds to make the purchase, so a loan was obtained with several of the brothers signing a promissory note.
Among the brothers who signed for the note were Verbun Jones, Paul McClure, Louis Kirby, Richard Lusk, Curtis Blow, Francis Oddo, Troy Tatum, Frank Bingham, Kenneth Brittain and Charles DePerch. The loan was retired in November 1971, thereby relieving the brothers from their responsibility.
About this time, a group of ladies, many of them wives of South Seminole brothers, were trying to form an Eastern Star Chapter. Though they were not yet officially an appendant order of our Lodge, they served many of the social functions as such an order and contributed much to the welfare of the Lodge.
By 1971, our Building Program had made to no definite progress. There were honest differences of opinion among the brothers, as to just what was required. Several of the brothers wanted to make the new temple part of an office building which could be rented out for income. Others argued that this would violate the terms of our purchase, saying that we had agreed to build a Masonic Temple and nothing else.
Some brothers had a “make do” philosophy, which called for a great deal of improvising. One such idea that of using rain gutters inside the building to shield indirect lighting fixtures. Some theater seats were obtained from the defunct Vogue Theater at Mills and Colonial, but no permanent storage area for the seats could be found and many of them were broken or damaged in moving them from one place to another. By 1974, Wor. William Byles, seeing that there were not enough unbroken seats left to serve our purposes, wisely disposed of them.
In April 1972 the Grand Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star, granted our ladies a charter for Rachel Chapter, Number 308.
In 1973 the Building Program was discontinued. However, we continued to raise money for the Building Fund whenever possible. ln 1974, our Past Masters’ Dinner, largely through the efforts of Bro. Phillip Marriott and his father Charles Marriott, was a huge success. They donated and prepared all the food and all proceeds were donated to the Building Fund.
When the 1975 slate of officers was elected in December of 1974, Carl Strom, the Wor. Master Elect was approached by Bro. Phillip Marriott and several other brothers who requested that we renew the Building Program. It was learned that Grand Lodge would not object to the construction of a new temple if the individual Lodge could pay the normal construction costs, plus any taxes which might, in the future be assessed on the property.
Realizing that the Lodge did not have the means to finance a conventional building program, the Worshipful Master suggested a pay-as-you-go plan. The plan was well received by the Craft as much of the semi-skilled work could be done by the brothers. Some brothers had to be restrained as they felt that, having worked on various small projects, they were qualified to assist in all phases of the construction. Wiser heads prevailed, however, and it was decided that the slab walls and roof would have to be done by professionals. The electrical and plumbing work were to be done by Lodge brothers who were licensed to do this kind of work.
Plans were drawn up and submitted to the city authorities for approval. This was the start of an ordeal of meetings, frustrations and plan modifications which was to last until January 1976. Brother Phillip Marriott. as Co-chairman of the Building Program, attended most of the City Hall meetings along with the Worshipful Master. In January 1975, Bro. William B. Ritter was appointed Chairman of the Finance Committee.
In addition to the Building Program, in early 1975 the Worshipful Master initiated a program of obtaining flags which had been flown over the United States Capitol and presenting them to the local schools. This program was carried on by subsequent Worshipful Masters for many years.
By March 4. 1975. Through the efforts of Bro. John L. Maynard, the Lodge obtained, gratis: about 9,000 concrete blocks; a great saving for the Lodge. The blocks were hauled from the point of origin and stacked on the Lodge site, mostly through volunteer labor of the brothers.
Left to Right: Harvey Eddy, Woodrow Cash, GIen Avery, Lewis Kirby, J.C. Valentine, M.W. George L. Myers, William Byles, Rodger T. Peterson, Carl Strom & Francis Oddo.
The City of Casselberry, on January 15, 1976, finally issued us a Building Permit and plans were made for a ground-breaking ceremony.
On February 28, 1976, ground was broken in a ceremony presided over by M.W. George L. Myers, acting as representative of M.W. William C. Hill. Grand Master of Masons in Florida. Two spades were used in the ceremony. The first two spades of earth were turned by M.W. George L. Myers and Wor. J.C. Valentine, the Worshipful Master. This ritual was then repeated by Wor. Frank Bingham and Wor. Louis Kirby, who were followed, in turn. by Wor. Francis Oddo, Wor. Troy Tatum, Wor. William Byles and Wor. Carl Strom.
The final two spades of earth were tuned by Mr. G.K. Christenson, Mayor of Casselberry, and Bro. Walter Sims, a State Senator. Following speeches by M.W. Myers, Mr. Christianson and Bro. Sims, refreshments were served by ladies of Rachel Chapter, O.E.S. There were about one hundred-fifty family members and friends in attendance.
The months following the ground-breaking were busy months indeed. The brothers pitched in and did all sorts of manual labor on the project, starting with the digging for the foundation. Much of this work was done under the guidance and supervision of Bro. Ray Norman, a local contractor. Three of the brothers who were on the job almost every day were Phil Marriott, Ralph Schoolcraft and Roy Tucker.
Cornerstone Laying Ceremony
Laying Cornerstone for Casselberry City Hall, April 29, 1983
Left to Right: Samuel M. Lewis. Jr., William Ritter, M.W. Harvey Eddy, M.W. Ralph Miller, M.W William Christian, Ottis Erickson, Mayor Owen H. Sheppard, H Glen Avery & Arthur Forster
On November 27, 1976, the cornerstone for the new temple was laid in an impressive ceremony presided over by the Grand Master of Masons in Florida. M.W. Richard F. Griffie. The following are excerpts from the Secretary’s Minutes of this communication:
…The Grand Master, Officers of the Grand Lodge and acting substitutes, in procession, marched out of the building and., upon approaching the northeast comer, walked under an Arch of Steel formed by 24 Knights Templar, in full regalia. The Grand Master and Officers taking their stations, it was announced to the 150 or more in attendance that this communication was called and opened for the purpose of laying the cornerstone in True and Ancient Masonic form.
As part of the ceremony, the list of articles to be deposited within the cornerstone was read by the Grand Secretary… at the direction of the Grand Master the Acting Grand Treasurer deposited the capsule containing the articles enumerated within the cornerstone.
Following the above, the cornerstone was physically placed in position by the Grand Master assisted by the Grand Marshal. The cornerstone, having been laid agreeable to the usage of ancient Craft Masonry, was then consecrated.
PARTICIPANTS IN CORNERSTONE LAYING – November 27, 1976
Grand Master M.W. Richard F. Griffie
Act. Dep. Grand Master R.W. Francis P. Oddo
Sr. Grand warden B.W. Lynn P. Blitch
Act. Jr. Grand Warden R.W. Harvey B. Eddy
Act. Sr. Grand Deacon R.W. Kenneth R. Blakely
Act. Jr. Grand Deacon Wor. Verbun Jones
Grand Secretary R.W. William A. Whitcomb
Act. Grand Treasurer Wor. Carl E. Strom
Act. Grand Chaplin R.W. Ralph T. Miller
Grand Marshal R.W. Robert L. Goldsmith
Act. Grand Orator R.W. Richard J. Carr
Act. Grand Standard Bearer Wor. William P. Byles
Grand Pursuivant Wor. William G. Wolf
Grand Tyler Wor. Glenn T. Stitt
Act. Grand Architect Bro. Phillip G. Marriott
Great Light carried by Wor. J.C. Valentine
Act. Sr. Grand Steward Wor. Troy Tatum
Act. Jr. Grand Steward Wor. Herbert Marsula
Act. Grand Sword Bearer R.W. Ralph C. Kazaros
On May 3, 1983, we were honored by a visit from M.W. Harvey B. Eddy. who spoke to us about his year as Grand Master. He then presented a camera to Wor. Samuel M. Lewis as a token of appreciation for Bro. Lewis’s service as Grand Marshal.
In 1985 it was determined that, though our temple was presentable both inside and out, the surrounding grounds needed attention. A committee chaired by Bro. Carl Neufeld, planned the landscaping with an estimated cost of $750.00 plus another $135.00 for a sprinkler system. The landscaping was completed by September of that same year.
On January 3, 1978. We were able to install our new slate of officers in the new temple. We did not have the permanent seats in yet, and there was much finishing and painting to be done on the interior, but we were happy to be within our own four walls.
On St. John’s Day, June 24, 1978, the new temple was dedicated in a most impressive ceremony. Following the dedication of the temple, the brothers and general pubic retired to the Lodge parking lot where the flag pole and American flag were dedicated. The flag pole was donated by Mrs. Mildred Holmes, widow of the late Oliver Wendell Holmes. who had passed away on January 6, 1977.
Participating in the ceremony were members of the National Sojourners Heroes of ’76, Knights Templar and the Legion of Honor of Bahia Shrine Temple. While this health permitted, Brother Holmes had been active in all of these groups.
On all special occasions, such as the dedication or some other function where a large crowd was in attendance, the ladies of Rachel Chapter always provided delicious refreshments.
In November 1981, R.V. Robert Goldsmith, Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Florida, visited and informed us about the financial problems faced by the Masonic Home. He congratulated South Seminole Lodge, however, for its substantial support of all the Grand Lodge prorgrams which, of course, included contributing to the needs of the Masonic Home.
Also in November 1981, on Past Masters’ Night, we burned the note representing a loan we had received in 1978. The loan was for the purpose of finishing up the interior of our temple. The burning was, in effect, the same as burning a mortgage. The Lodge was now finished and fully paid for.
On April 29, 1983, the Lodge assisted R.W. Harvey B. Eddy and other Grand Officers in laying the cornerstone for the Casselberry City Hall.
PARTICIPANTS IN DEDICATION June 24,1978
Grand Master M.W. Donald H. Wessel
Deputy Grand Master R.W. Franklin C. Smith
Senior Grand Warden R.W. Lynn P. Blitch
Junior Grand warden R.W. J. Roy Crowther
Grand Treasurer R.W. Abe Horovitz
Grand Secretary Wor. William A. Whitcomb
Act. Grand Chaplin R.W. Paul Hiller
Act. Grand Orator Wor. Francis P. Oddo
Grand Marshal R.W. Christ Georges
Grand Marshal R.W. Robert L. Goldsmith
Act. Sr. Grand Deacon Wor. Walter Boyer
Act. Jr. Grand Deacon R.W. M.J. Morrison
Act. Grand Standard Bearer R.W. E.L. Green
Act. Grand Sword Bearer R.W. Curtis Jackson
Act. Sr. Grand Steward R.W. Ralph T. Miller
Act. Grand Pursuivant Wor. Rodger T. Peterson
Act. Grand Tyler B.W. H. Glen Avery
Great Light carried by Wor. George Shows
Constitution carried by Wor. Charles Pappas
Act. Master Architect B. W. Ad Forster
Organist Wor. Carl E. Strom
In March 1986, we were visited by Ms. Lois Jackson, Social Director of the Seminole County School Board. She thanked us for our regular contributions to her office and reported on the many benefits brought about by those contributions. One of the problems of property ownership hit home in the Fall of 1986 when we discovered we would need a new roof on the temple. This was probably due to the fact that the original roofing had been finished by inexperienced brothers rather than by professional roofers.
During 1987, the Lodge participated in five Masonic funerals. The Lodge does not have a regular funeral team but two of our brothers participated in every funeral. Wor. Otis Erickson presided and Wor. William Byles served as Chaplain. These two brothers also served on the funeral ream of the Shrine Past Masters’ Unit.
In December 1987, an affair was held which has since become a tradition for South Seminole Lodge; the annual Christmas party for underprivileged children. Wor. John Schroth originated the program and has served as Chairman or Co-Chairman of this event for many following years. The children attending (about 100) were entertained, given soft drinks, cookies and cake, and each presented with a nice gift. Wor. Leroy Browning and Mrs. Browning attend as Santa as Mrs. Claus and the children always enjoyed seeing them.
Improvements made to the Lodge in 1989 included new carpeting in the Lodge room, ante room and preparation room. Also, the theater seats in the Lodge room were reupholstered. We also had a new altar and new pedestals made by Bro. Dave McFadden. A fieldstone sign, bearing the names of the Lodge and appendant orders meeting at the temple, plus times of meetings, was installed in front of the parking lot.
In 1990, Wor. John Bornman initiated a program of once-a-month family Sunday breakfasts in the temple dining room. This program was an immediate success.
At our February 10, 1990 meeting, we had one of our “family” nights when non-Masons were invited into the Lodge room for special programs. On this occasion, the Apopka High School Marine R.O.T.C. unit performed their historical flag ceremony, a most impressive performance. Following this, we held a very informative talk by Mr. David Chamberlain, a bioengineer from NASA.
In May of the same year, Samuel M. Lewis reported that he had been presented with a beautiful set of gold pillars. They were a gift from Surfside Lodge. M.W. Lewis, in turn, presented them to South Seminole Lodge, where they were displayed in the West.
Left to Right: J.C. Valentine, Leon Howard, Thomas Embree, John Bornman, Melvin Young, W.M. Samuel M. Lewis, Jr., Dave Madden, Richard Kasten & Ben Dowis
Left to Right: Dave Madden, J.C. Valentine, Don Gillen, Thomas Embree, Roger Reynell, M.W. Samuel M. Lewis, Jr., James Dickenson, William Johnson & John Bornman
In the autumn, we discussed the possibility of having the name of the Lodge mounted in large letters outside on the west wall of the temple. The name would be visible to anyone passing through on highway 17-92. Steps were taken to proceed with this project.
Before leaving office, Wor. Bornman was instrumental in procuring a special Tyler’s apron to be presented to Bro. Ken Brittain as a token of appreciation for his long and faithful service in the office.
At the annual O. E. S. Grand Chapter in 1991, Wor. Otis Erickson was honored by being elected Worthy Grand Patron.
At intervals throughout the year we had many interesting speakers visit the Lodge. Among them were: a representative from Florida Boys’ Ranch; a Major from the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office; Mrs. Sandra Miguel of the Seminole County School Board; and Mrs. Angie Romagusa of the South Seminole Christian Sharing Center. Both women explained how our contributions to their organizations were handled and what uses were made of the money. Two of our most interesting and timely visitors were two young veterans of Desert Storm, who showed pictures and talked about their experiences during that conflict.
At the close of the year, our Secretary reported that, during 1991, in addition to our regular Masonic charities, the Pennies program, MH 100, etc., South Seminole Lodge made outside charitable contributions of more than $2,2OO.
The year 1992 would have been a routine year except for the fact that the Worshipful Master decided it was time to show our faces to the other lodges in the area. Wor. Billie Mew, accompanied by as many brothers as he could round up, visited most if not all the lodges in the 16th District, as well as some lodges out of the district. These visits culminated in a trip to Mount Dora for him and about fifteen of the South Seminole brothers.
In closing this history of the South Seminole Lodge for this period, it may be of interest to mention the activities and accomplishments of some of our brothers outside our particular Lodge. Several of our brothers became Worthy Patrons of Rachel Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star. Two brothers, Wor. Don Grable and Gordon Magyar, have served as Potentates of Bahia Shrine Temple.
In Scottish Rite, M.W. Samuel Lewis and R.W. Tom Embree have each been appointed Knight Commander of the Court of Honor, and Wor. Carl Strom wears the white hat of Honorary Inspector General, 33rd Degree. Ottis Erickson and James Dickenson have also been named to the Court of Honor. Three of our brothers, the late R.W. Francis Oddo, R.W. Thomas Embree and M.W. Samuel Lewis served as District Deputy Grand Masters for 16th Masonic District.
Grand Family appointments were held by R.W. Thomas Embree as Jr. Grand Deacon in 1987 and M.W. Samuel M. Lewis who served as M.W. Harvey B. Eddy’s Grand Marshal in 1982. He held the same office for M.W. Roy Connor Sheppard in 1985. In 1989, Wor. Carl Strom was appointed Grand Musician, the first to hold that title. The highest honor, of course, went to M.W. Samuel Lewis Jr., who served as Grand Master of Masons in Florida for 1989-90.
After twenty-five years it was stated, “If we can make the same amount of progress in the next 25 years, we will really have a record of which we can be proud.”
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou
South Seminole Lodge #364 of Freemasonry
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