The little shop on Main Street seemed to be lost in time. The place hadn’t changed since it was opened in 1946. The turquoise colored walls which were adorned with photographs, stuffed animal heads, and fish from various hunting and fishing trips had watched thousands of customers walk through the glass door over the decades. Each one with a smile and a greeting on their lips to the barber who was busy cutting the hair of another customer.
After he placed his hat on the rack near the door and took his place in one of the chairs in the waiting area. Some of the men would have a good chat with the other waiting customers or read the paper or an old fishing magazine lying next to the ashtray on the end table. They would laugh and joke and talk about their day to the nearby sound of the hair clippers. Once the customer paid for the cut to the tune of the bell ringing in an ancient cash register, the barber would sweep up the clippings of hair. After he put his broom and dustpan away, he would yell “NEXT,” and the next man would step up while the barber cleans off his leather and chrome chair, each man knowing his place in the first-come, first-served line. Once the man had taken his seat in the old weathered barber chair, the barber would snap his cloth before draping over the customer and would start the process all over again.
Many times the barber wouldn’t have to ask his customer how he wanted his hair cut. Chances are the man had been coming to the shop for decades and each time he got his haircut the same way he always had. It was sort of an unspoken agreement between the two men of “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” As the barber picked up his clippers the conversation began. Usually about a recent ball game or a vacation or sometimes the discussion of current events. It is believed by man men who patronized this shop over the years that if the politicians had any sense they would come by and listen to what was said here since they had solved all over the world’s problems many times over.
The turn of the doorknob sounded a bell on the door as the 50-year member opened the door of this time capsule to the past. The aging barber was alone in the shop and had fallen asleep in his barber chair while reading the newspaper. The peeling of the bell awakened him with a startle.
“Well, Hello, John! Come on in. Today’s your lucky day, no wait today. Come on in and have a seat!” as he vacated his chair and motioned to him to come in.
As the old man made his way into the shop, he began to smile. The smell of hot shaving cream and hair tonics took him back to his childhood as he walked across the old creaking linoleum floor. If you tried hard, you could still detect the faint smell of the cigars that used to be smoked by the waiting customers. The old familiar smells of this place never failed his mind back to his childhood when his father took him into the shop for his first haircut.
After placing his hat on the metal hat rack, the old man took his place in the barber chair. He smiled, thinking about when he was a small boy, and the barber would place a wooden board across the armrests of the chair for the boy to sit on to be high enough to get his haircut.
The 50-year member knew the barber, Norm Becker, his whole life. The two men had gone to school together and after graduation both went their separate ways. Norm went to barber college and began to work with his father, who had started the shop after he returned from the war. Norm worked with his dad until the end of the 1980s when the elder barber passed away. Then the shop became Norms shop. The 50 year member went off to college and upon graduation came home and started a family. The two men joined the local lodge about the same time, and thanks to their time at the lodge together had rekindled their life long friendship.
Over the years, both men were active in Masonry. Both went through the chairs of the lodge and served “their year” as the lodge’s Master”. Since they left the East, both men continued to be active in the blue lodge and various other Masonic bodies. The two men could now joke how once they were once the young kids the old Past Masters would complain about and in a blink of an eye now they were the old crotchety ones sitting in the North of the lodge during the meetings.
“Same old cut as always, John, or are you going to mix things up a bit?” Norm said with a smirk. “Nah. Like you always say Norm. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” “Well I wasn’t sure.” Norm said “Probably not a good idea anyway. You start changing your looks, the missus is gonna think you are like a Tomcat out on the prowl.” They both laughed. Norm continued: “And we both know your heart or the rest of your body couldn’t handle that.” The old man smiled. “I think you are just trying to show me some of those fancy new haircuts you have been learning about for the kids that are coming in.”
Norm continued to cut the silver hair of the 50-year member. “It’s amazing isn’t it! A few years ago I was thinking about retiring. The shop was getting just like lodge. I had fewer and fewer customers each year as they began to pass away. Then all of a sudden. These young kids.. well, I shouldn’t call them kids. I remember how mad it used to make me when my dad used to do that when I was younger. But all of a sudden, these younger fellas started leaving the beauty shops and started to look for barbershops. They wanted to learn thing like their grandfathers did. That’s about the same time the lodge started to get busy.” The 50-year member smoked and was genuinely glad for his Brother’s good fortune. “I have been surprised at how much these young men have enriched my life since they started joining the lodge. I have begun fond of several of them. They have taught me so much. They even make me feel a bit younger.” Norm laughed, “Lord knows you needed that, you old fuddy-duddy.” “Just by using the term fuddy-duddy shows you aren’t no spring chicken yourself.” The 50-year member said, with that type of sarcasm, that one can only get away with when talking with an old friend.
Norm continued, “They have really made me step up my game. I’ve had to start looking at all the barber magazines and learn all the new and trendy haircuts. I even started giving shaves again! I hadn’t given a man an actual shave since the seventies. And they want it done with a straight razor, not a throwaway razor. I was scared to death the first couple of times. I really had to sharpen my skills again. Only one thing troubles me about the whole thing.” “What’s that?” The 50-year member asked.
Norm said, “Well like you said, I ain’t no spring chicken. There is a young fella starting here next month when he finishes barber college. If he does a good job and he likes the work in a couple of years, I’m going to sell the shop to him and retire. So I’m set financially. But what I’m worried about is the lodge.”
Norm continued, “For a long time, I have worried whether Masonry was gonna die with us. When these young fellas began joining a few years back, I breathed a sigh of relief. I thought for sure Masonry was gonna be fine, and the lodge and all the other groups were going to be fine, so fellas like you and I could take a step back and let them have their turn. But it seems like after we raise them, they never come back.”
The barber further explained, “I’m working harder for the lodge than ever, but it doesn’t seem like we are getting anywhere. I’m still worried about the Fraternity.”
The 50-year member listened to his friend’s concerns and asked him “Norm if one of those young men walked into this shop and asked for a certain type of haircut, and you told him the only haircuts you give was the cuts the guys liked in the ’50s when your dad ran the shop, like flat tops and crew cuts, would they come back here?” Norm laughed. “I doubt it. Shoot I wouldn’t even come in!”
The 50-year member then asked Norm “Well, if the guy came in and wanted a straight razor shave, would you tell him you wouldn’t do it because you used to do it in the old days and then stopped and you won’t do it now, even though so many guys came in and asked for it?”
” That would be financial suicide.”
The 50-year member said: “Well, if it doesn’t make sense here in your place of business, then why in the devil’s name do we do it in Freemasonry? These young men come into the lodge and ask, or better yet beg for what we say in public Freemasonry delivers, and we either tell them no. We don’t do that anymore, or we have been doing it this way since Brother Harry Truman was president. It doesn’t matter what you want; it’s what you’re gonna get. Sit down and be quiet.”
The 50-year member continued, “If we want Freemasonry to continue on after we’re gone, we need to deliver what these young men expect and are begging for, or better yet what we tell these young people what Freemasonry does. If we do that, we’re gonna be fine.”
There was since in the shop. The background sound of a Frank Sinatra was almost drowned out by the buzz of the building’s fluorescent lightning was almost deafening as the barber’s hands dropped to his side as a stunned look came across his face. Norm, in astonishment said in a quiet voice, “You know. I never thought of it that way. We keep hearing them going on about how they want education or how they want fancy dinners or an elegant lodge room. I thought they were kinda like my kids were in their teens when they were always bellyaching about something. I never thought of them like young men who were voting with their feet, or like you said with their wallets. Why hasn’t anyone else ever thought of this before?”
The 50-year member explained, “Oh, some have. There was even a book written by some young Masons who explained how if the Craft was run more like a business, we might be better off. But most of us old guys and many of us who wear the gold collars hear business and the automatic thing “profit” and think we are talking about running the Masons like General Motors and they shut their minds off. If they would bother to listen to their “customers,” which are the due paying members
We wouldn’t have a membership shortage. As a matter of fact, the numbers might even look like when we were youngsters.”
Norm smiled as he looks the began to take the drape from his customer. “Well John, you convinced me. Well your done. That will be fifteen bucks please.” The 50 year member looked at Norm “Fifteen? It’s been ten bucks for years.” Norm laughed. “Yep, and it’s like you said we have to keep up with the times. Oh yeah, these young fellas tend to tip me along with the payment these days. ”
The 50-year member reached into his wallet and handed Norm the money. As for your tip, How about I buy you a beer after lodge next week? I figure that’s a safe bet. At your age you will have forgotten all about it but then.” Norm laughed “Or you will and I will remind you that you said you would buy me two of them! Get out of here you tightwad!” The men were laughing as the 50-year member took his hat from the rack and walked into the street.
WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana’s Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco, Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne’s Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this, he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.
An Excellent Opportunity!
The Illinois Lodge of Research has a long history of providing unique learning events. On April 15th, 2023–we will have one such event. This event is free and will include presentations and a unique tour of one of the most iconic Scottish Rite Valleys in America. We’re proud to announce the first event of the year, The ILOR Traveling Symposium. Our speakers for the day will include:
One of my guilty pleasures is the pride that comes from helping others succeed. In this, I specifically mean mentoring in Masonic, professional career, and even friends and family mentoring. I am blessed to continue benefiting from mentors and guides throughout my life, and when I finally got it through my thick skull I could and should give back? The joy and gratitude doubled, maybe tripled. Mentoring others may not be your strong suit, but I learned listening deeply and quietly without interrupting or just asking for additional detail brings depth and contemplation in all participants in any conversation.
I learned a valuable lesson from my studies in the Scottish Rite’s Academy Of Reflection: sometimes it is just listening and letting the person express their thoughts. Other times it is asking a gentle question to explore something they said. I personally benefited much from analogy and allegory when my own mentors would relate a story back to me, and I appreciate the nuance of a well-placed question such as “what were you experiencing at that moment” or something as simple as “how did that make you feel?”
Giving advice seems appropriate as we tend to want to “fix” the situation presented to us, but good listening takes that conversation to a deeper level. I learned that I wanted to express my own thoughts and experiences along with the person speaking, and I learned often my own experiences were best kept to myself until the conversation was at a long pause or stopping point. Only after the whole picture could be expressed did anything I might offer be relevant.
Then, after fully exploring the situation or experience, the solution or path forward often manifested for the individual. Mentoring became a challenge to me to simply sit in mostly silence as the person saw my perspective through a few questions, and they often found their own solutions without any guidance from me. This was a moment that mattered. This self-discovery of an idea or direction that I helped guide often paralleled my own advice, yet all I did was encourage the person to explore their own thoughts. We all benefit when we discover moments that matter.
Occasionally my own experiences came into play with a related story of how I approached a similar issue, and I tried to relate experiences in a manner that could draw a parallel analogy. That didn’t always work. What did work was honesty in describing my own situational failures and how I learned overcoming mistakes helped make me who I am today. I make plenty of mistakes that turn into lessons both embarrassing and not.
Ego wants us to tell our own story. The lessons of the Entered Apprentice include the silence and patience with which we can listen with quiet intention, not interrupting others while they tell their story. Ego can be difficult to overcome, and direct practice in listening turned out to be a skill I developed with some rough edges still poking through. I continue to find myself talking more than listening at times, and my own lessons become my own moments that matter to me.
We as Masons should focus on these moments that matter to us, to our Brothers, and to friends and family. To strangers, simply giving someone a compliment may be the moment that mattered to them. Asking strangers to pass along the good to someone else may brighten someone else’s day. That moment mattered to someone downstream, and the beauty of giving a stranger a good moment never gets old. You may never realize how much a compliment mattered in that moment to others, but if you don’t give it you will never manifest that kindness.
Our challenge remains to recognize moments that matter. We influence people around us, and we affect them with our attitude. Are you approaching people with gratitude and love, or are you hauling the heavy load of ego into your conversations and encounters? Are you taking time to find the moments that matter to you through contemplation and reflection? Are you helping others with moments that matter?
Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30-plus years of teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12-year span. Randy is a 32nd-degree KCCH and Knight Templar. His Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two symbolic lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, a full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an open ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.
The cornerstone has long been considered to be an essential element of many buildings, a tradition that has long survived throughout many ages and cultures. While we as Masons are familiar with our symbolic teachings surrounding the cornerstone, which I will touch on later, I thought it might be helpful to explore some examples of the use of cornerstones in history.
Ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures would lay their foundation stones in a tradition similar to that of a “ground-breaking” ceremony as a “foundation ritual.” The purpose of which was to call upon the favor of their Gods to protect their structures from destruction by the elements or any other malevolent force. During these “foundation rituals” stones would be hollowed out and filled with vessels containing an array of different symbolic items pertaining to the intended use of the building and the Deity it was dedicated too. These stones were then placed in different corners of the buildings, at the entrance of the structure, or in some instances at a different point of importance depending on the type of structure being built.
In the customs and traditions of Freemasonry we see many examples of both the operative and symbolic uses of the cornerstone. One of our few ceremonies that are open to public is that of the laying of the cornerstone, of which one of the earliest mentions dates back to the entry in Mist’s Weekly Journal of May 26th, 1722. It stated “The first stone of the foundation at the same corner above ground being twelve feet above the other, was laid with a great deal of ceremony by the society of Freemasons, who on that occasion, were very generous to the workmen.”
The cornerstone is also a deeply meaningful symbol within Masonic philosophy. The newly initiated Entered Apprentice is placed in the northeast corner of the lodge. This in itself has several meanings. Newly made Masons are the foundation of our entire Craft, for without new members to carry our traditions forward into the future, our work dies with us. The laborer of today is the overseer of tomorrow. Thus, we are to take pride in the laying of these new Masons as cornerstones of our lodges, and to guide their placement within the craft with studious attention and care.
This placement is also a symbolic halfway point between the darkness of the North and the light of the East. This first step of the initiate marks a transition from darkness and error, to that of light and truth. The charge he receives reiterates this by stating how he should live, walk, and act in the outer world. In this moment, he is a neophyte that is receiving its first nurturing rays that will perpetuate his growth on his Masonic journey towards light.
We all as Masons, from the youngest Entered Apprentice to the Worshipful Master of the lodge, are ever erecting our spiritual temples. We labour in this daily, brick by brick, through our charitable acts, selfless deeds, caring spirits, and truthful dealings with one another. May the cornerstone of our spiritual temples be steadfast and built upon the principles of integrity, stability, and longevity.