HISTORY OF MT. ZION LODGE
The following is a narrative depicting the actual meeting in which Mount Zion Number 28 was resurrected. It was originally Rideau Number 25 at Burritts Rapids, briefly, Rideau Number 2, and eventually Mount Zion Number 28 in Kemptville. All names and offices are genuine and descriptions, as far as possible, accurate
— R. W. Bro. Winston Kinnaird
CHAPTER 3: MOUNT ZION BUILDING THE NEW TEMPLE
“The next order of business is reading correspondence, petitions and applications,” announced Worshipful Brother Eric Smith, Master of Mount Zion Lodge Number 28. “Worshipful Sir, I have one item of correspondence that surpasses all others in importance to our body,” replied Worshipful Brother Willis Hamilton. The secretary then read that fateful letter of which all brethren were already aware.
December 1, 1976.
Mount Zion Lodge No. 28
As Mount Zion Lodge has been aware for several years, business growth has put increasing pressure on Advance Printing for extra space requirements. We now regret to inform you that it is necessary for your organization to find other facilities in which to hold your meetings. Consequently, Advance Printing will occupy the entire space currently used by Mount Zion Lodge effective January 1, 1978. We trust that you will be able in the next twelve months to find suitable facilities elsewhere. It has been a privilege to have such an outstanding organization as tenants; and we wish you every success in the future.
President, Advance Printing Inc.”
“Well, brethren,” said Wor. Bro. Smith when the meeting had moved to General Business, “We have known for some time that this day was coming. As a matter of fact, we received our first notice to vacate thirteen years ago, October 17, 1963. At that time a committee to locate a suitable lot for a new building was appointed. This committee consisted of Gideon Purcell, Keith Forbes, Harold Brown, Stan Price, Willis Hamilton, Verdon Crozier, and Garnet Ferrar. Two months later a new five-year lease was signed with the Advance and the building project seemed to have been forgotten.”
“Worshipful Master, that is very true,” said Wor. Bro. Ken Thompson rising. “We considered purchasing the Patton House, but Grand Lodge advised us that it was unsuitable. Then, in June, 1968, we met to consider purchasing the Armouries. That, too, was considered unsuitable. When Harold Brown reported that a lot near the hospitable was available, no action was taken once again.”
Immediate Past Master, Andy Jenkins, rose and added, “Then in October of 1974, we received another notice to vacate within three months. That got everybody moving; although we subsequently renegotiated extensions to the present time” W. M. Eric commented, ” That was when the Advance moved all those supplies into what used to be our banquet room. It is sure hard to enjoy food when there is such a strong odour of ink and chemicals permeating the air. … So another committee was appointed, this time consisting of George Van der Vaart, Jimmy Thompson and me.”
W. Bro. Lowell Craig addressed the meeting. “That is when the great debate really started to get hot. We were pretty well divided on whether to play it safe and rent or to take the bull by the horns and build. This debate is still continuing and I fear that we are going to lose some very active members through hard feelings no matter which decision is reached. There are even some who think we should surrender our charter and join Merrickville; but they are not really healthy themselves; and look at that long flight of stairs over the bank building there. It is even more difficult than those we have climbed tonight.”
W. Bro. George Van der Vaart sprang up. “Dat is right, und if ve leef it to everyone else, nutting still von’t be done. Ve haf to get on mit it. I told you before, I talking mit Keith and Forest Christie in de arena und Keith say that Ken Seymour has small piece of land on Van Buren Street und he let us haf it for one dollar if ve let the scouts and guides und all dose kids use it for free. So ve got de land und let’s get on mit it.
“Ve haf two committees, Finance mit Winston Kinnaird, Ed Tutin, Eric Smith und Joe Patterson; und Building committee mit Lorne Dool Jim Thompson und me. Let’s reorganize these committees und get to vork.”
Winston Kinnaird agreed, ” Through the work of Joe Patterson we have contacted members of the fraternity and the community who have indicated a willingness to support the project but we still have a daunting task ahead of us to raise enough money. We are going to have to come up with some plan so that we can proceed without worrying about running out of money half-way through.”
Bruce Turner rose. “Brethren, we have talked about this thing for years. I agree with George. The time to act is now. I move that Mount Zion Lodge build a new Masonic Hall and that we begin taking all necessary steps now.”
“I second de motion,” said George.
“Brethren, you have heard the motion. All in favour? Carried. I hereby appoint George Van der Vaart, Bruce Turner, Stan Price, Jim Thompson and Doug de Pencier as the Building Committee in charge of executing the project.”
With the closing of this meeting, Mount Zion had cast the dice and was committed to erecting a new building. As the brethren made their way down the dingy, creaking stairs and out into the swirling snow on Prescott Street, in their hearts they experienced a sense of purpose, a knowledge that the course of history for Freemasons in Kemptville had been altered forever. At the same time there was a dread that, if they failed, their beloved institution may cease to exist.
The next few days were hectic. Costs were investigated; rental buildings were inspected; resources were examined. The committee met and discussed their findings. Everything was so discouraging. Costs were too high, grants were too low or nonexistent and there was not enough money to complete the project.
Then Bruce Turner remembered something. “I remember a group back in Bradford who sold debentures on a building and they raised the money easily.”
Stan Price replied, ” But how does a plan like that work?”
Bruce said, “Just a minute and I’ll make a phone call.” In a few minutes he returned. “We can sell debentures of $500 to $1 000 and repay them after the project is completed. As we raise money after the building is completed, we can hold a draw and repay whomever’s name is drawn.”
“Do you think it would work?” asked Jim.
“Well, let’s give it a go,” answered Bruce, ” and here is a cheque for $1000 for the first debenture.”
“All right,” said Stan Price not to be outdone, ” here’s mine for a thousand dollars, too”
“And mine,… and mine,… me too,” joined in the others.
Soon there were nine cheques for $1000 to begin the venture project. Each of the men chose five names of members whom they would approach to purchase debentures. Within one week the men met again and produced a list of forty-five people willing to pay between $500 and $1000 for debentures. They had raised almost $50,000.
Ken Strike addressed the group. “I have made some inquiries. The first thing we have to do is to establish an organization separate from Mount Zion and register it as a charitable foundation. By making the building public and available at no cost to Scouts and Guides, we can qualify. Then when we pool all our debentures and charitable donations, we can apply for a Wintario Capital Grant. If we qualify, we will receive a 33% grant toward the costs, after we have spent the money and then applied for the funds.”
All of a sudden, financing the new building seemed to be within reach.
There were still many logistical problems to solve. What were we going to do with all our furniture? Where were we going to meet while the building was under construction? What kind of building would we build? Who was going to be in charge of the project? How were we going to pay off the debentures?
“Brethren, we are now open for General Business,” declared Worshipful Master Larry Leeson. “It is now October, 1977. We have to be out of here in two months. What progress have we made lately on all fronts?”
“Worshipful Master,” began Very Worshipful Brother Keith Forbes, ” I have been in touch with some of the brethren from Merrickville. As you recall, when their building was damaged by fire, we invited them to use our facilities here over the Advance. They were gratified by our offer and made use of it. Now, they see the opportunity to repay the favour. They have offered us the use of their building in Merrickville for as long as we need it.”
“Brother Secretary, send a letter to Merrickville thanking them for their kind offer.”
“I will do that, Worshipful Master,” agreed Secretary Jim McMullen, “and I will also inform them that our first meeting in their building will be in January, 1978; we expect that Maitland Chapter will also be availing themselves of the offer.”
George Van der Vaart rose. “Vorshipful Sir, as you can tell, ve haf already taken a lot of furniture from our lodge. It is stored at my farm. Ven our last meeting is over, in two monts, ve can pick up all de rest of the stuff and store it dere too.
“Regarding de rest of the plans, ve haf organized a separate corporation to take charge of de entire project. It is called de Temple Board of Management (Kemptville) Incorporated. Ve haf applied for letters patent and hope to be incorporated vun of dese days, probably about March. I am chairman und Lyall Christie is secretary und Stan Price is treasurer. Bruce Turner is chair of building committee mit Ken Strike chairing Finance committee. Also on de committee are Doug de Pencier and Rudy Finzel. In addition, from my farm ve haf cut big timbers to use as beams to support de building. In dis vay ve save more money.
Bruce Turner spoke up, ” We have a brother in town who, though not a member of Mt. Zion, is an architect. I have contacted George Buscombe and he has agreed to help us with the plans.”
Secretary Jim McMullen commented, ” I know what our motto should be, “Pull your weight, we build in “78′”
On December 15, 1977 a stalwart, determined army of Masons assembled within the lodge room above the Advance Printing Office. As the wind whistled outside and the building creaked under its force, they looked to each other for encouragement. It was so cold that their very breath could at times be seen when one of them sighed under the importance of the occasion. The familiar room looked sparse with so much furniture already gone. The ornate Masonic carpet was worn and threadbare in spots. Record books were piled in corners waiting to be removed to other locations and boxes of old regalia and paraphernalia waited transportation to a new location. Only the historic warrants still silently proclaimed their authority from the walls as if nothing could impede the progress of Mount Zion.
Senior Warden Doug de Pencier addressed Master Leeson. “Worshipful Master, this is the last meeting we will hold in this room. Since June 3, 1910 this has been our home. I calculate that we have had 810 meetings here, including our meetings on the festivals of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. We are moving on to a better, if more challenging, venue. I will be the first Master of Mount Zion in many years to govern in Merrickville; but I will do so knowing that we will soon have a building of our own.”
“Speaking of which, Worshipful Master,” intoned Bruce Turner, “we are having some trouble with Grand Lodge approving our plans. First of all, the Chairman of Grand Lodge’s Building Committee, I think his name is Durnford, or something like that, seems to have been around since the Temple of Solomon itself. He seems to think we should be using the plans handed down by God to David.
We could do that if we had Solomon’s resources to work with; but that just isn’t the case. He even questions George Buscombe’s qualifications as an architect. Needless to say, George had a few choice words to say about that.
Another problem is that because the timbers George gave us came with the stipulation that they must not be cut, Brother Buscombe’s plans have had to incorporate the beams which do not stretch the entire length or width of the building. That means that joists have had to be incorporated between them and the resulting configuration is something with which the chairman is unfamiliar. Needless to say, he doesn’t like it.
He doesn’t like the spray-on ceiling insulation either. It is a material he doesn’t recognize and doesn’t understand the acoustic properties we need from it.
Eric Smith, Brother Buscombe and I have made many trips to Hamilton and Toronto to explain the plans but we are not having much success. I must add that Brother Buscombe is charging us the minimum fee that the society of architects will allow. For that we must be very grateful.
You know, in other parts of the province, new buildings are built and Lodges rent them without problems from Grand Lodge. Why don’t we do the same thing?”
“I agree,” added Ken Strike. “I have been doing some research and we can form a charitable organization to build and own the building. This organization would qualify for the Wintario grant; then the organization would rent the building to the Temple Board of Management to run the operation including rental for Mount Zion. In this way we circumvent the bureaucracy which has been giving us so much trouble. We could name the organization the Masonic Hall Corporation of Kemptville.”
“A goot idea,” spouted George Van der Vaart. “I move ve do dat.”
“I second the motion,” added Bruce Turner.
“All in favour? Carried” declared Worshipful Master Leeson. “Our next step is to call for tenders for the construction of the basic shell. George, you contact George Buscombe for the necessary details and put out a tender call. We will award the tender in three months.”
For the next three months the brethren were occupied in canvassing for more money, locating materials and finding people to help when the time came to start the actual construction. On March 8, 1978 the letters patent were issued by the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations to the Masonic Hall Corporation of Kemptville. Two weeks later the tenders were opened and the contract was awarded to Arie Gerkink and Sons of Iroquois. They poured the footings, built the cement block walls in the basement and washrooms, installed the beams in place to support the upper floor of the building. The rest of the walls were completed and the trusses and roof framing were put into place. To accommodate future expansion if necessary, an alcove of beams and cement walls was built in the basement . These could be utilized for support should it become desirable to extend the building back. All this was accomplished by the end of the summer.
Many dedicated brethren gave their talents and made the erection possible. Rudy Finzel came over after work to install the plumbing. Don Malcolmson was the master electrician who installed the wiring while Richard Green provided carpentry expertise. Gordon Forbes oversaw installation of facilities for a P. A. system. Lyall Christie supervised the finished carpentry and Howard Crawford did the painting.
On September 16, 1978 the sun rose pale and cool over the horizon to the east. Gathered on the site were several eager workers as the first construction bee organized by the building committee sprang into action.
“Lucien Giroux and Doug Helmer, our non-masonic friends will oversee our work,” stated Bruce Turner, “and the rest of us will hammer wherever and whatever we’re told. Rudy, Stan and Lorne Dool, and I will be sub-foremen to watch what you are doing. O.K. Let’s get started. Get the plywood sub-flooring on. Start raising those studs. Get to work on the walls.”
The air rang with the pounding of hammers, the whine of saws, the clatter of wood being dropped into place, and the grunts of men who hoisted, swung, pushed, pulled, lifted and moved material into position. Orders were shouted at enthusiastic but inexperienced workmen. Howls of pain were followed by mild oaths as hammers hit the wrong nail and studs swung wildly smacked unsuspecting workers on shins, backs and the odd head.
The smell of fresh sawdust, hot saw blades, spilled coffee and sweaty bodies permeated the air. And everywhere men were pounding, carrying material, measuring, sawing, arguing, discussing, swearing, shouting and having a great time!
By the end of the day, the general framing of the building had been completed and the next step would be to add the finer details in the days to come.
“I hope these cupboards fit,” panted Richard Green to Bruce Turner as they unloaded the precut structures from the back of their truck. “I’m pretty sure we had the right dimensions before we started building them at your place.”
As they struggled down the steps at the new hall, they heard the sound of a powerful saw chewing through wood.
“What is that?” asked Bruce. “I didn’t think anyone else would be here today.”
As they rounded the corner, there was Edwin Pitchers from Merrickville cutting up a piece of material. “I thought I could give you a hand,” said Edwin. “So I brought my saw down and by the time you get those upper cupboards in place, I will have the lower ones finished and ready for installation.”
“I think that is a pretty good deal,” answered Richard. “It is amazing that so many helpers appear whether they are from other lodges or even non-masons who just want to help.”
Night after night and weekend after weekend workers showed up to carry their weight.
“Today we will have the paneling finished in the basement,” said Lorne Dool. “Ken, would you bring in the last few sheets of paneling, please?”
Ken Strike put down his hammer and went out with Lyall Christie to bring in the final sheets of material. They carried the sheets down the stairs and set them in a corner. Ken went back to where he had been working. “Where’s my bloody hammer?” he inquired.
“I haven’t seen it,” replied Eric Smith. ” Where did you put it?”
“It was right here where I was working.”
“Well, it’s not here now. It must be behind one of the sheets of panel that went up while you were outside. Do you want us to tear them off and find it?”
“Nah, never mind.” answered Ken. “Some year some Mason will replace this paneling and will be completely befuddled to find a perfectly good hammer “at refreshment’ behind it.”
“Bruce, we have a problem here,” stammered Stan Price. “These plans show the kitchen where the bathrooms should be and the bathrooms where the kitchen should be. We can’t go on until the plans are redrawn. Now we’ll never finish in time.”
“I can solve that, Stan,” replied Bruce. “That just came out of the blueprint machine reversed. Just turn the plans upside down and everything will fit fine.”
Another problem solved.
Winter closed in on the town and as snow swirled around the parking lot and ice formed on the creek, the band of workers pressed doggedly on. Worshipful Master de Pencier having worthily fulfilled his term, was replaced by Stephen Kinnaird and his cast of supporting officers. The inside of the lodge room slowly took shape. Walls were finished, floors were secured. Ceilings were plastered and coated. Lights were installed. Long rolls of carpeting were hauled into place and
secured. Woodwork was painted. Soon it was time to start moving in the furniture.
” There, the last bit of wiring is finished,” exclaimed Don Malcolmson proudly. “Let’s flip the switch and see how it looks.”
“O. K.” said George. ” Here goes.”
Suddenly there was a sound like air escaping from a tire. An acrid smell of burning rubber filled the air, and everything went black.
“Oh, no!” wailed Don. “I can’t believe it! There’s a mistake somewhere. We won’t ever find it in the dark. We’ll have to come back tomorrow in daylight and see if we can find it.”
The next day, Don, George Van der Vaart, Lyall Christie and Bruce checked out every inch of wiring but nothing seemed wrong except that there was still no power.
“All the connections seem right.” said Don “I don’t know what can be wrong. Wait a minute. There are some wires behind the paneling where the master sits. We haven’t checked there. I guess we are going to have to remove that piece of panel.”
They worked diligently to remove the sheet without damaging it and exposed the wiring.
“There!” exclaimed Don, “Look at that.”
Right in the centre of one of the wires going to the glimmering star in the East, was a small hole. One of the eager carpenters had driven a nail through the wire and had shorted it out. Not surprisingly, no one would admit to installing that particular piece of panel.
“Brethren,” intoned Master Kinnaird, “Our new home is nearing completion. We have to make arrangements for dedication ceremonies and all the necessary formalities. Brother secretary, you will look after those duties.”
“Yes, Worshipful Sir,” replied Jim McMullen, ” I know that the building committee of Grand Lodge will want to inspect before sanctioning it. I expect that after the problems they gave us in the first place and the way we did an end run around their bureaucracy it will be a difficult inspection.”
“We also owe a debt to Eric Smith for making so many trips to Hamilton with Bruce to answer their questions,” said Stephen. “When we proved that our plans complied with the building requirements of Kemptville, that solved most of our problems. You might notice a small door under the steps to the basement. Grand Lodge required the pumping facilities for our plumbing to be in a separate building. By installing a cement wall under those steps and putting our pumps in there, that qualified as being a separate building as far as the town was concerned. As a result, Grand Lodge had to go along with it.
“We also owe much to those men who supplied us with materials. Doug de Pencier made lumber and other materials available. Stan Price brought in his big machinery to do the grading. These saved us thousands of dollars,” continued Steve. “Now, all we have to do is pay for our building. It looks like our total cost is going to come out at $158 000. Out of that, $52 633 is covered by our Wintario grant. That leaves us a little over $100 000 to pay.”
Jim Thompson rose, “Worshipful Master, we have had a few enjoyable times at Oxford Mills at our fish fry. Could we try doing it on a larger scale and make it a profitable enterprise?”
“Excellent idea!” added Bruce Turner, ” I think I could make arrangements to use the facilities in Limerick Forest. We can use Lands & Forests picnic tables and possibly get help transporting them from the inmates in Burritts Rapids.”
“I will contact them right away, said Pat Mc Derby.
“I will look after the license,” volunteered Ken Strike.
“I will provide and set up the stove for cooking,” contributed Lorne Dool.
“All of the necessary supplies will be made available at Your Independent Grocer and you may use our refrigerated truck,” offered Keith Beveridge. “And we will make up a fruit basket on which to sell tickets. That will raise a little money as well.”
“Brethren,” noted Master Kinnaird, “I believe we have begun a tradition. In future years, the Annual Masonic Fish Fry will be an institution in Kemptville, and to think it will help us pay off our debentures at the same time as we have a good time.”
With plans to retire the debentures resolved, the lodge turned again to polishing up the newly erected building. The furniture was refinished and brought from the Van der Vaart farm. Grand Lodge was notified Mount Zion’s new home was ready and they made plans to visit.
“Hmm ,” said the old man in charge of Lodge buildings, ” it doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would. Of course it isn’t up to city standards, but I guess you could hold a meeting here alright. Wait a minute. What’s that stuff on the ceiling? That is a fire hazard. No way will I pass this. It isn’t safe. It will burn like paper.”
“If we can convince you it won’t burn, will you change your mind?” asked Jim McMullen.
“Yes, but I know it will burn ,” said the inspector.
“Here is a sample, and here is some steel wool, and here is a torch. Have a go at both,” offered Jim.
The torch was lit and its flame adjusted to a hissing blue flicker. The flame licked around the ceiling material and through the steel wool. Eventually, the steel wool curled up and turned black, but the ceiling material retained its integrity.
“Well I’ll be darned,” mused the inspector. “We never had stuff like this in my day. I guess the ceiling is safe after all. OK, you are approved.”
“On behalf of the Government of the Province of Ontario,” smiled M. P. P. Norm Stirling, “On this nineteenth day of May, 1979, I would like to congratulate the Masons of Kemptville for their efforts in building this community hall which will be a welcome addition to such worthy organizations as the scouts and guides of the area. It is projects such as this that helps Wintario help us all.”
One month later, June 27, 1979, Most Worshipful Brother R. E. Davies, Grand Master of The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Canada in the Province of Ontario, rose in response to the toast proposed by Winston Kinnaird. “Thank you for your toast, Worshipful Brother Kinnaird, we are always happy to attend celebrations such as the dedication of a new Lodge Room. It is through cooperation and dedication as brethren of the greatest institution in the history of Mankind that we continue to progress. Obviously the brethren of Mount Zion have overcome many difficulties in their quest to find a new home. You have achieved a wonderful success here in Kemptville, and I have no doubt that you will continue to succeed for many years more. Congratulations.”
After the dedication ceremony, the large turn-out of brethren and visiting dignitaries filed out of the building. Many paused to study the sparkling woodwork, the shining furniture and the fireproof ceiling.
As the sound of the departing cars faded into the distance, Bruce turned to George Van der Vaart.
“Well, you old goat. We did it!”
George turned to Bruce and a huge smile lit up his weathered, craggy face.
“You’re right, you son of a gun, ve sure did!”
The foregoing would not have been possible but for the helpful recollections of Right Worshipful Brother Bruce Turner, Very Worshipful Brother Keith Forbes, Worshipful Brother Ken Strike, Worshipful Brother Steve Kinnaird, Worshipful Brother Jim McMullen, Brother Rudy Finzel and Brother George Buscombe .
The minutes of the Masonic Hall Corporation of Kemptville and of the Temple Board of Management also provided valuable information.
All conversations recorded are the product of the author’s imagination but as far as possible, the factual content is believed to be accurate subject to the vagaries of memories recalling events which took place almost twenty-five years ago.
May 17, 2001
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