AUDUBON-PARKSIDE LODGE #218 HISTORY
Compiled by RW Raymond C. Thorne PGT
Chapter 7 -- 1970-1979
On Saturday, February 14, 1970, Audubon, as part of their 50th Anniversary celebration, held a dinner at Excelsior Scottish Rite Temple. Despite snowy weather that made travel slippery, 150 people showed up. Worshipful Master Nate Nixon gave a history of events 50 years ago. The evening ended with a film supplied by the National Audubon Society.
Parkside honored two 50-year members on March 5, 1970, Charles M. Heritage and Russell C. Batten, PM. A Charter Member, WB Batten was Worshipful Master in 1926. His pin was placed on his lapel by his blood brother Frank, also a Charter Member.
At the April 17 communication, Audubon was visited by a delegation of 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Masons from the Valley of Southern New Jersey to honor Rev. and Brother James Wagner. Although living in the area and a member Audubon since 1951, he was a member of Harrisburg Valley.
Ordained in 1921, Rev. Wagner traveled the world visiting missions and church leaders as vice president of the National Council of Churches and a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches. In 1958 he received the Knight Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. On Friday, May 22, 1970, Audubon Lodge celebrated its 50th Anniversary. The evening started with a dinner at Compton’s Log Cabin on Cuthbert Boulevard. Then, back at the Temple, MW Edward G. Rainey, GM, was received, along with the elected Grand Line, PGM’s Morgan T. Morris and William Davies and members of the appointed Grand Line.
Historian William C. Saunders, PM, gave the history of Audubon Lodge. Charter Member Harry Dick was recognized West of the altar and then afforded a seat in the East. (The other living Charter Member, John L. Koerner, was living in Arizona.) Slides showing the conversion of the building from the Highland Theater to Audubon Masonic Temple were shown, narrated by Brother Clate Dorsey, who oversaw the work. RW William F. Landenberger, DDGM, presented four lodge members with their 50-year pins. George S. Leacock, Worshipful Master in 1945, presented 25-year pins to 12 members raised in his year. MW Rainey closed the meeting, Brother Dick sounding the final gavel.
On Thursday, June 4, 1970, Parkside started its formal 50th Anniversary celebrations, exactly 50 years to the day of its chartering. Worshipful Masters of the 18th and 29th Districts were received, as were RW Landenberger and several other Right Worshipfuls. Four brothers received their 25-year pins from James McKissock, PM, Worshipful master in 1945.
Five of the seven living Charter Members were received and honored. RW Landenberger congratulated the lodge on its 50 years. Then Brother Arthur E. Armitage, Sr., introduced the speaker of the evening, the Honorable W. Orvyl Schalick, Judge, Superior Court of N.J. and Assignment Judge of Camden, Gloucester and Salem Counties. Refreshments were served after the meeting by members of Collingswood Court, Order of the Amaranth.
On Saturday, June 13, Parkside held their 50th Anniversary Dinner in Excelsior Scottish Rite Temple. John T. Zander, PM of Henry S. Haines Lodge, provided the organ music. Entertainment was provided by the Audubon High School Chorale.
Over the summer of 1970, air conditioning was installed in Audubon Temple, a selling point to get members out in warm weather.
Audubon gave Masonic Funeral Services September 29, 1970, to Elton Ellis, Worshipful Master in 1944 and Trustee at the time of his death. It was the tradition for many years for WB Ellis to make a gavel for the newly-installed Worshipful Master. The last recipient of such a gavel was Richard E. Turner, when he was installed at the 1970 Annual, December 4.
The day before, December 3, 1970, the date of Parkside’s Annual Election and Installation of Officers, the lodge received a severe shock. About noon, William E. Collings, Jr., Senior Warden and Worshipful Master-elect, suffered a fatal heart attack. Albert J. Maran, Junior Warden, agreed to assume the East. After expressing sadness at the loss of Brother Collings, pledged to the lodge he would do his very best to uphold the tradition of his predecessors.
The reception of the visiting Worshipful Masters of the 18th and 29th Districts at any Annual is usually a few minutes of fun. But this night, when they were admitted, they turned and faced the West, knelt and Wallace Wilson, Worshipful Master of Collingswood, offered up a prayer in memory of the departed brother. It was a very moving moment.
Two days before their March meeting, Parkside lost Edwin R. Allen, Worshipful Master in 1951 and Treasurer from 1966 to the time of his death. WB Maran appointed Brother Jesse H. Sagers to fill the unexpired term of Treasurer.
On September 2, a delegation of officers from the Excelsior Scottish Rite Bodies were admitted to Parkside’s meeting so they could confer a raising. Occupying the East was the Commander-in-Chief of Excelsior Consistory, Harold D. Elliott, 2nd.
A month later, October 7, a delegation of 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Masons visited Parkside to honor Judge and Brother William E. Peel, Jr., who not only received his 25-year pin that night but was honored for being coroneted a 33rd Degree Mason.
Because of changes in the New Jersey Tax Code, the Borough of Audubon levied property taxes on Audubon Masonic Temple for 1970. The Temple Association paid the taxes, but appealed it. On October 22, 1971, the Temple Association convinced the county court that the Association was indeed non-profit and that the organizations meeting there practiced sufficient charity for the Temple Association not to be taxed. Arguing the case for the Temple Association was lodge brother David F. Greenberg, Esq.
On January 4, 1972, Audubon conducted Masonic funeral services for William E. Beringer, Jr., Worshipful Master in 1949. Like his father before him, he died occupying the Junior Warden’s station.
The first mention of a 60-year wreath in Audubon’s minutes was an account of a visit by the Worshipful Master, George F. Corkery, Jr., and RW Landenberger made to Brother Karl Zimmerman September 8 (as it happened, Brother Zimmerman’s 81st birthday). Brother Zimmerman was raised in Industry Lodge #131, Pa., in 1913 and affiliated with Audubon in 1947.
At Parkside’s Annual, December 7, Secretary Elmer J. Dobbins, PM, read a report of the West Jersey Masonic Association, inviting a committee from Parkside Lodge to attend their meeting regarding their new Temple, which was in the planning stages. When completed, the lodges still meeting in Camden would relocate to this site.
Audubon Lodge, for their first time, returned a Past Master to the East when William P. Elberson, PM, occupied the Oriental Chair for 1973. The Senior Warden’s station was also occupied by a Past Master, WB Richard E. Turner. This Annual was held in Excelsior Scottish Rite Temple by dispensation of MW Vernon Cornine, Grand Master.
On January 4, 1973, two representatives from the West Jersey Masonic Association made a report to Parkside Lodge on plans for the new Temple and invited them to the groundbreaking in Cherry Hill on January 21. WM Ernest E. Law appointed a committee to study the feasibility of joining the Association.
The Scottish Masonic Club of Trenton again visited Audubon on March 16 to raise two brothers. Over 150 were in attendance.
At Parkside’s April 5 communication the Feasibility Committee recommended against Parkside joining the West Jersey Masonic Association. The lodge approved the recommendation.
From early in the 1970’s through the early 1980’s, the Parkside Craftsmen’s Association revived, holding meetings and occasional dinners. There were also mentions in the mid-70’s of Craftsmen’s Ladies Nights. Audubon honored four 50-year members May 18, 1973: Charlie Abel, Herman Meyers, Harry E. G. Munch, and W. Raymond Thorne.
On June 7, after Parkside presented 25-year pins to two members (one recipient driving up from Virginia), and the reception of many brethren from Caldwell Lodge #59, the Scottish Masonic Club was admitted to raise three members.
At Parkside’s November 1 communication Charter Member Frank A. Batten was presented with his 60-year wreath, by RW Hamson. Speaker of the evening was WB Harold D. Elliott, 2nd. The Past Master of Mantua Lodge would return the following month for Parkside’s Annual.
When WB Elberson stepped down from the East for the second time at Audubon’s 1973 Annual, he was presented with a beautiful square and compasses gavel holder plaque handmade out of several types of wood by Brother Leonard S. Chapman, Sr., who had been elected a Trustee that year.
For the next two decades or so, Brother Chapman would make a gavel for the incoming Worshipful Master and a gavel holder plaque for the outgoing Worshipful Master. He also made gavels for use in the East, West and South, as well as the beautiful ballot box we still use.
WB Elberson’s successor, Richard E. Turner, PM, would also receive “crossed gavels” (so-called because of the arrangement of the gavels on the square) at the 1974 Annual.
At Parkside’s June 6, 1974 communication, RW Samuel E. Fulton, PDDGM, Charter Member, received his 60-year pin, presented by RW Landenberger, PDDGM. Also present were the lodge’s other 60-year members, Frank A. Batter, Charter Member, and George W. Bowen, PM.
Speaker of the evening was Harold D. Elliott, 2nd, Most Excellent Grand High Priest of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of New Jersey. He would be elected an Honorary Member of Parkside Lodge on November 7. The same honor would be granted to RW Landenberger on March 6, 1975.
Audubon’s Past Masters occupied all but one of the chairs as they raised three members October 4, 1974. Three different PM’s occupied the East for each section and the lecture. The meeting was closed by Harry H. Mund, PM, who was also celebrating his 50th Masonic birthday that month.
At Audubon’s 1974 Annual, Robert J. Fobell was installed Worshipful Master by his father, who lived in Ohio and was a Past Master in that Grand Jurisdiction. He used New Jersey ritual by memory for the installation. Audubon changed their by-laws on January 3, 1975, eliminating the regular communication in December. The Annual Communication, the meeting when the lodge elects its officers for the subsequent year, would be the second communication in November. The Installation of Officers would still be held the first Friday in December, on an emergent.
At Parkside’s communication September 4, RW Hamson, RW Landenberger, three PGC’s, members of the Camden Shrine Club and members of the Excelsior Stage Crew witnessed the lodge’s Marshal, Thomas P. Pierce, PM, receive his 50-year pin.
On May 21, 1976, Audubon gave Masonic Funeral Services for RW Franklin P. Kramer, PGT, Worshipful Master in 1939, who also served as the titular head of the three York Rite Bodies, as well as Shrewsbury Priory #4. Active in Scottish Rite, he was a Past Sovereign Prince of Excelsior Council Princes of Jerusalem. He was also the first president of Audubon Masonic Temple Association, overseeing the conversion of the New Highland Theater to Audubon Masonic Temple, and a faithful attender of lodge meetings who took an active part in the workings of the lodge.
Audubon gave Masonic Funeral Services July 7, for Brother Harry Dick, the last Charter Member in the area. The last time Brother Dick attended his lodge was when he was honored May 7.
On September 2, Parkside received from Past Masters Al Maran, Ernie Law and Tom Pierce steps and columns that illustrate the Fellowcraft Degree. Our lodge still uses these displays. They were used that night when Brothers EA Gary S. Steelman and Robert G. Paul were crafted. Brother Steelman was Worshipful Master in 1981 and Brother Paul was Worshipful Master the following year.
Parkside received another visitation from Excelsior’s 33rd Degree Masons on November 4, to honor Illustrious Earl L. Cox, PM, who had been recently coroneted a 33rd Degree Mason.
At Audubon’s Annual installation, December 3, Daniel W. Hughes was installed Worshipful Master by a fellow State Trooper, RW Kenneth H. Sternkopf, PGC, who, despite being wheelchair-bound later became Grand Master.
RW Alvin H. Frankel, PDDGM of the 29th District, became an Honorary Member of Audubon on March 4, 1977. RW Frankel had, for many years been the Installing Master at the lodge’s Annual Installation (the previous December being an exception) and would continue that practice for decades more. The meeting was closed by Hulah L. Smith, PM, who at the time was 87 years old.
On May 5, RW Thomas P. Pierce, recently installed as Grand Chaplain, acting in the absence of the District Deputy Grand Master, presented 50-year pins to five members of Parkside: Thomas Z.Bartlett, PM, Arthur E. Armitage, Sr., Forrest Lane, Sarkis A. Reed and Jesse H. Sagers, Treasurer. Among those present that night were three Past Grand Chaplains, as well as two Past Potentates of Crescent Shrine who were members of Parkside: Brothers Armitage and William E. Peel.
Audubon held its Annual Banquet at Excelsior Scottish Rite Temple ten times between 1966 and 1977. (The 1970 Banquet was held in the Westmont Fire House.) These dinners, catered by Degenhardt’s, of Philadelphia, were very popular. Because of the tax code, Excelsior’s Trustees asked the lodge to have its Annual Meeting there in 1973 and 1974.
Audubon did not have dispensation to move its charter the following years. Since the Trustees didn’t want to risk their tax exempt status by having a dinner catered at their temple for an organization not meeting there, the lodge was requested to hold its Annual Banquets elsewhere.
Starting in 1978, Audubon held its Annual Banquets at Jacoby’s in Mt. Ephraim and stayed there when Degenhardt’s took over the establishment.
Audubon’s Treasurer, Edwin H. Johnson, PM, retired at the 1977 Installation. Worshipful Master in 1935, he had served as Treasurer since 1945. He was 84 when he stepped down and was replaced by Harry H. Mund, PM, who was much younger--74.
On March 2, 1978, MW Harry E. Besley, Grand Master, the elected Grand Line, most of the appointed Grand Line, including RW Harold D. Elliott, 2nd, Grand Pursuivant and Honorary Member, 15 Grand Chaplains and RW Hamson, were present to honor RW Tom Pierce, Grand Chaplain. There was also a large number of past RW’s, and Worshipful Masters and Past Masters from lodges in several districts. As it happened, there were ten past, present or future Grand Masters attending that night.
MW Besley received his Honorary Membership card that night. Among the many highlights that evening were solos by WB McKissock and RW Elliott’s address to the honoree. Incidentally, WB McKissock received his 50-year pin two months later.
Hulah L. Smith, PM, received his 50-year pin June 2, 1978. At 88, his mind was just as sharp as the day he was raised.
WB Constantin Chepurny, served back-to-back years in Audubon’s East, 1978-79. He would be the lodge’s third Worshipful Master to receive crossed gavels.
On February 16, 1979, Audubon made RW Wilfred Hamson, DDGM, an Honorary Member. Parkside did the same November 2.
Parkside’s Worshipful Master, Roger E. Hollopeter, proposed to his lodge February 1, 1979, that a stair lift be installed to assist those who needed help going to or coming from Collingswood Temple’s Banquet Room on the second floor. Parkside authorized $1,000 for the project, an amount to be equaled by Collingswood Lodge. This chair lift was used by members and visitors to organizations meeting in Collingswood Temple for about 25 years. On October 4, 1979, Russell Cooper Batten, Charter Member and Past Master of Parkside, received his 60-year wreath. WB Batten recalled some of the trials and tribulations of Parkside’s early days. Lodge member RW Samuel E. Fulton, PDDGM, was also present. This was the first Official Visit of the new District Deputy Grand Master, RW Daniel W. Hughes.
The next night, October 5, Grand Master Edgar N. Peppler made an Official Visit to Audubon Lodge to honor RW Daniel W. Hughes, Audubon’s first District Deputy Grand Master and first Grand Lodge appointee in 16 years. After a dinner at Jacoby’s, the Grand Master was received, along with his entire Elected Line and many of his Appointed Line.
Both lodges showed a slight increase in membership for 1979 over 1978. But that year would be the last time either Audubon or Parkside would show an increase in membership, no matter how slight.
Audubon ended the decade of the 1970’s with 512 members, 190 less than when the decade started. Parkside averaged a loss of six members a year during the decade, starting with 281 members and ending with 227. While the number of new members into both lodges each year was decreasing but still respectable, the number of deaths had risen dramatically. The average age of both lodges was rising, and more of the older members were retiring from active service, moving away or dying. In some years the number of deaths was more than twice the number of raisings.
The pillars of both lodges were falling and, for the most part, not being replaced. The fraternal links binding the members of each lodge together were being severed faster than new ones could be forged. The effects were being felt at a growing rate.