Posted on 05 August 2015 by La Habra Journal
Despite its perception of secrecy, the La Habra Masonic Lodge has worked to support education and the community for decades.
By Shawn Hanley
La Habra Journal
The La Habra Cornerstone Masons is a fraternity of men dedicated to improving themselves and their community. Their simple creed,“Making Good Men Better,” sums it up. The familiar square and compass symbol may signify secrecy to some, but to the members of La Habra’s local lodge no. 659, it means brotherhood and philanthropy. Public education, not secrecy, is a priority with the Masons. “Masonry is dedicated to our public schools,” said Past Master Travis Halstead. The Lodge is active in lots of philanthropic activities, including blood drives, toy drives, recycling drop-off and partnering with a number of charities. “Every lodge in California has some sort of event with local schools,” Halstead said. At the La Habra Lodge, Public School Night is its yearly recognition of local education. Every April, the Lodge awards two scholarships to students from La Habra and Sonora High Schools and also recognizes outstanding teachers and school staff. However, the support and philanthropy the Masons provide schools might not be known by a large number of the population because of the organization’s long perception of being a “secret society.” Secrecy may be relative anyway these days. Halstead acknowledged that the public’s perception of the Masons as a secret society may be based on the fact that “we do have certain signs and words to let us know who is a Mason. Most fraternities have some sort of way to distinguish their membership. With the internet, people are able to find almost anything they want to know, our secrets included.” The curious can click onto the Lodge’s website and explore the guidebooks that explain that the “Masonry is an initiatic order. It is not a secret society but, more accurately, a society with secrets . . . Being part of the classic initiatic tradition is what distinguishes Freemasonry from other purely social, fraternal, or philanthropic organizations.” Senator Zavala, 26, who joined the Lodge a year ago, knows that the Masons can be misunderstood. “People’s imaginations run wild. Maybe the real secret is that the Masons are good and genuine people,” he explained. Halstead added, “I would love people looking for information to check our website. I also encourage interested people to attend our Stated Dinners the first Wednesday of each month.” Halstead is referring to the Lodge’s monthly meetings wherein members discuss Lodge business; these functions are not held in July and August. He also said that the Lodge hosts potluck dinners for the Masons’ families and friends. “This is a great time to meet the members in a relaxed atmosphere,” he said. “It is free and there is no obligation to stay.” Masonry’s requirements for prospective members are few. Belief in a supreme being is one of those requirements, but the organization is open to all faiths. Those wanting to join should be prepared to embrace one of Masonry’s most precious tenants, that each man has a responsibility to make the world a better place. According to Halstead, the Masons are just as committed to mentoring as they are philanthropy. “The Masons’ brotherhood is more genuine and real than you can get through any Facebook group,” said Zavala, now a third degree Master Mason and one of the younger Masons at the Lodge. “It feels rare today to find men who consider honor important. The Masons value that concept. These values make me strive to be a better man.” Women are not excluded from Mason life. Job’s Daughters, founded in 1920, is an international organization for girls ages 10 to 20, who are related to a Master Mason. The girls are active in fund raising, education and community service projects. Dianne Edgar recalled that her daughter Carri’s experience with Job’s Daughters was “the best thing that ever happened to her.” Dianne’s husband, Pete, is a Past Master. “Job’s Daughters is like a sorority,” she explained. “It encourages the girls to become involved in their community, learn leadership skills, and to be kind to each other.” Job’s Daughters are the youth arm of Bethel, or women’s chapter, of the Lodge. The Bethel Guardian and Council advise and supervise the younger girls. Carri, now 30, is the current Bethel Guardian of La Habra’s Bethel No. 333 “We all work together,” Edgar said, pointing out that the Masonry and Bethel view themselves as a united group and not an organization where men and women are divided. “The Masons support the girls at Job’s Daughters in lots of ways, and the girls help with the Mason fundraisers. We are a family.” A favorite subject of science and history channel programming, the Masons’ history is rich and complex. The Masons of California traces the group’s emergence this way: In the Middle Ages, the term “freemason” was awarded to highly skilled stonemasons who were hired as free agents to build castles and cathedrals in England and Scotland. Because of the inherent danger of their work, stonemasons formed local organizations, called lodges, to take care of sick and injured members as well as the widows and orphans of those who were killed on the job. Eventually, men who were not skilled stonemasons wanted to join the group for the many advantages it offered. These men were known as accepted masons rather than working masons. This is how the group began to shift from a craft guild to a fraternity. The Masons are ubiquitous throughout history. Who hasn’t heard that a great many of our founding fathers, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, were Masons? As America expanded west, so did the Masons. They established their first lodges in California about 150 years ago. Today there are some 340 lodges in California. Worldwide, according to the Masonic Service Organization of North America, there are about four million Masons. The Masons of La Habra have served the community for decades, and according to the members, will continue doing so for decades to come.
For more information, see www.lahabramasons.com.