Up the stairs we go, into the secret realm – where the Masons of Yarmouth hold their meetings. It’s a regal-looking room with 1800s red plush velvet furniture, a throne and altar – though my guides inform me this group has no religious affiliations.
Close to a decade ago, the Sou’West Shrine Club, with close to 30 members, secured the former Hebron Baptist Church for its Masonic Lodge.
There are approximately 1,200 Shriners in Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island; six million in North America. Shriners are one of several offshoots of the Masons. You must be the latter in order to become the former. Vice president Ken Wheelans, treasurer Dave Hall and Shriner Donnie Hamilton are only too happy to dispel a few myths about the Masons.
Anyone can become a Mason, as long as they pass the rites, however members are not permitted to solicit newcomers. “We can’t ask them to join. They have to ask us,” said Wheelans. “”The whole purpose is to take a good man and make him better,” he added. “We’re supposed to conduct ourselves in such a way that we will attract good people,” added Hall. An investigation committee reviews applicants and votes on possible new members by secret ballot.
Meetings are held once a month. Other groups use also the building, including the Order of the Eastern Star, which is the female equivalent of the Masons, although women must have a male family member who is a Mason to belong. The Masonic Lodge upstairs is strikingly regal. Most lodges in the world are referred to as blue lodges because of the blue attire and regalia. They are associated with the Grand Lodge of England. The Yarmouth lodge is one of three red lodges in Canada associated with the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
Masons in Yarmouth date back well over 150 years. The late Lofty Porter was the only Yarmouth resident to become potentate (head of the Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island chapter). Beyond Yarmouth, famous Shriners include Buzz Aldrin, Arnold Palmer, Mel Blanc, Buffalo Bill Cody, Nat King Cole, John Diefenbaker, Clark Gable, John Wayne and Harry Truman. At one time in Nova Scotia, in order to become a judge or an RCMP officer, you had to be a Mason. In the lodge, members are not allowed to speak of politics or religion.
Shriners are renowned for the medical facilities they build and support for burned and crippled children. A $127-million Shriners Hospital for Children is under construction in Montreal and will include a surgical-skills laboratory – the only one in the Shriners network of 22 North American hospitals. All of this is accomplished with no government money, says Wheelans. “Shriners have to raise $2 million each day to support these hospitals. Many people donate and life insurance policies benefit the cause as well,” he said.
Small fundraisers are held locally including the fezzero and a lottery. Four-year-old Shaylee, daughter of John and Nancy Morehouse oif Brighton, Digby County, recently became a Shriners’ child. She has cerebral palsy and the Shriners not only funded her initial treatment at the IWK Hospital, they are providing continued assistance for travel, lodging expenses and future treatments.
“It doesn’t matter who comes to us,” said Wheelans. In the past, the Shriners assisted a one-year-old in the Yarmouth area who had lost both her arms and legs. “We paid all her trips to Montreal. She went from a child who was abandoned to someone who graduated university with the help of the Shriners,” said Hall. “We’re always on the look out for a child who needs help,” added Hamilton.
For more information on Shriners, visit the website: http://philae-shriners.com/, call 902-454-7811 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
(source: Carla Allen, 6-7-2013, VANGUARD, http://www.thevanguard.ca/Living/2013-07-06/article-3304669/Shriners%3A-Making-people-better/1)