Before the Town of Addison was even called Addison, the freemasons were here. In the late 1800s, the White Rock Masonic Lodge was located in Frankford. Members held service in what is now the northwest corner of the cemetery, conducted school and even built the Frankford Church in 1897. Once the Cotton Belt Railroad came to Noell Junction — later to be renamed Addison after postmaster Addison Robertson – -the White Rock Lodge and its members left Frankford to find jobs in the new railroad town. Addison Robertson, by the way, was a freemason and at one time all of the community leaders were also freemasons.
The current White Rock Lodge No.234 building sits on Addison Road, where Lindbergh Drive becomes Broadway Street. Across the way sits another important piece of the City’s history, the old Addison State Bank building. The lodge itself is nothing special; it’s neither grand nor imposing. For an organization that has been around since the 1700s, the lodge is not quite the palace one might expect. Countless rumors surround the freemasons; movies and popular culture have made them out to be some sort of bizarre cult, for lack of a better phrase, and yet the White Rock Lodge is a one-story, red brick building with nothing more than the traditional freemason symbol on the front.
The members themselves are some of the most welcoming people one could hope to meet. They sit talking amongst themselves around long, gray tables in a sort of common room with plain linoleum tile, and a lovely but modest dinner laid out against one wall. They smile, shake hands, laugh and joke, and in general are an exceedingly decent lot; even insisting any guests be first to help themselves to the food.
Bill McGaha, who has been a member of Lodge No. 234 since 1977, knows all of its stories and loves to tell them. He explains that the lodge used to be located across the street from its current location, closer to the bank building, until it burned down due to an oil heater accident. The current building was constructed using donations and labor from the masons, but the old building was more traditional.
“You would have school on the first floor,” explains McGaha, “and the lodge would have meetings on the second floor. That was the way that they all did it because you see on the second floor no one could see what they were doing.”
It is, after all, a secret society. Masons recognize each other using secret codes and handshakes, which in the age of the internet have become public knowledge. However, the freemasons continue the tradition of secrecy and strict rules of conduct in their meetings. According to White Rock Lodge’s Chaplain Perry Barker, the organization began in England in 1717 and spread throughout the world. In America, each lodge must be chartered by the state’s Grand Lodge. In the case of Texas, the Grand Lodge is in Waco. Each lodge receives an actual charter, which the Grand Lodge may revoke at any time. Barker points to the framed charter for White Rock Lodge on the wall.
“If a lodge’s charter is removed,” he explains, “all activity is suspended.”
Barker goes on to describe some of the rules of conduct in the meetings. Members who wish to speak must be recognized first and stand when they speak. Members have certain places they must stand, according to how they wear their aprons and what silver symbols they wear around their necks. Both of these indicate rank and function during a meeting.
Robert Carter, secretary of the White Rock Lodge, gives out a few historical tidbits, including how freemasons have contributed to the English language. He pulls out a plain wooden box filled with white and black marbles. Anyone who applies for membership with a lodge must be voted in by its members. They cast their votes using the marbles, which are then counted by the Worshipful Master or head of the lodge. Members vote white for ‘yes’ and black for ‘no’.
“It’s where the term ‘blackballed’ comes from,” Carter says.
Carter also points out that the fraternity is a nondenominational organization dedicated to charitable work.
“We don’t care what you believe in,” Carter says, “as long as you believe in something.”
The religious beliefs of White Rock Lodge members include Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. Barker points to a couple of chairs in the meeting room and explains that it is where a Jewish member and a Muslim member sit for each meeting.
“They’re friends,” he says, smiling.
As for community involvement, the White Rock Lodge freemasons are fiercely proud of their charitable organizations, particularly the Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital for which they routinely help raise money. The masons own the hospital and the facility is designed to be as cheerful and kid-friendly as possible. In addition, the lodge has organized blood drives, taken part in the Fantastic Teeth program, and the Community Builder’s Award.
The Fantastic Teeth program, created by the Masonic Home and School of Texas, involves lodge members gathering dental hygiene supplies such as toothbrushes and floss and handing the supplies out to participating schools in the area. The goal of the program is to teach children and their parents how to prevent painful and expensive dental treatments. The program has reached hundreds of children, and the response has been extremely positive.
The Community Builder’s Award is given to a non-mason who is extremely active in the community. Past recipients include police officers, a school principal and former City Manager Ron Whitehead.
Members of the White Rock Masonic Lodge fully intend to continue their charitable work and hope that their work will continue to benefit families and improve lives in the community.