Masonry provides its members with a wealth of tradition and historical foundations often surrounded by mystery and speculation. Members of lodges, both old and new, often have little or no knowledge of the events that led to their lodges early beginnings. Therefore, the following will provide an insight into a few of the events, times, places, and personalities that were the motivation in the establishment of Venice Lodge No. 301. This led to the granting of a dispensation on November 27, 1950 and the receipt of its charter on April 18, 1951 from Most Worshipful Cleveland Horn.An Early Vision The idea of a Masonic Lodge in Venice was held by few, and seemed an unpopular one, even one fraught with uncertainty. However, there was at least one Mason with the desire to see it become a reality. C. Allen Pattison had decided that there was a cause to pursue.
The population of the small community of Venice in 1949 was approximately 510 people. Back in those days a walking tour of West Venice Avenue from Tamiami Trail to the Beach would have led past Sinclaire Gas Station, Otis Bronson Restaurant(near Nokomis Avenue), the Kentucky Military Institute's parade grounds(Between Nokomis Avenue and Nassau Street),and Venice Nokomis bank(behind the bank was Ben Dunn's Pool Hall). Then turning west would be Venice Land Company, the theater building(owned by Mr. Retty), Stockman's Restaurant, and then Gulf Breeze Hotel(corner of Harbor Drive). On the west side of Harbor Drive a gazebo stood where high school graduation exercises were held. From that point westward there was only grass and trees, with the exception of a single home. It should be noted that the grass in the street required constant mowing, as there was no traffic to keep the weeds down.
On the south side of West Venice Avenue, there was only vacant property until one reached Nokomis Avenue, where a two-story building could be found(owner unknown). Proceeding westward was Lowes grocery, Carl Obendorf's dry cleaners, Bowden A&P Grocery, the El Patio Hotel, a bake shop, the arcade with Elihu Robert's Barber Shop, Papa's Drugs(now Dick & Meadows), Don Schrode Jewelers, then the bowling alley. On Nassau Street was a yard goods store and a candy store. Also on the corner of Nassau Street was the Blackburn Building. WAMR's broadcasting studio and some apartments were located upstairs. Proceeding westward(south side) could be found Joe Jossart Plumbing and Frank Rayburn's Shoe Shop, then vacant land to harbor drive. Across Harbor drive was the city building(a barracks moved from the Air Base) and then nothing but vacant land until Park Boulevard. Next came the Lambert house (the Listerine Man), the house of Congressman Knuson, the Lapelly house (President of NBC), and the Farmer's National Bank of Chicago. Finally, more vacant land until you reached the pavilion at Venice Beach.
Venice Avenue to the east was even less populated. On the north side nothing existed from U.S. 41 until the railroad station. Then there was the packing/produce house, the police station, and the waterworks all on that side of Venice Avenue. Also on that side were the "colored" quarters, the two-story Blackburn building, and a meat market. That was all until Herb Hanchey's Dad's house, then nothing until the Myakka River.
On the south side of East Venice Avenue from U.S. 41 was the Dick Rich Gas Station, a baseball field where the Masonic Temple now stands, Venice Lumber Company, Ma Beans Beer Joint, and then open land until reaching the farm area.
Early efforts toward organizing a Masonic Lodge in Venice began with one brother. The vision of C. Allen Pattison was clear, and his actions dedicated to the establishment of Venice Masonic Lodge. This dedicated Mason from Akron Lodge No. 83 had visited Sarasota Lodge No. 147 and made the decision to start a new lodge. He requested his demit from Akron in early 1949 in order to have enough time to start a new lodge, and then traveled by train to Jacksonville to attend a Grand Lodge meeting in order to learn the necessary steps in starting a new lodge. He met with H. Wayne Connor, Grand Master, and received very little encouragement or support.
His task of interesting other Masons in the area in requesting demits became an exercise in frustration. The requirement of a minimum of 25 members with demits seemed beyond reach, as most of the people contacted were reluctant to request demits from their home lodges.
Past Masonic leaders such as George Fish, Past Grand Master, informed Brother Pattison that unless you have money and a lot of energy, the quest was not worthwhile. Although returning from Grand Lodge disgusted, he nurtured the idea of starting a lodge in Venice. Continued contact with area Masons found them lukewarm to the idea.
A call to the Grand Secretary, George W. Huff, regarding requirements for starting a lodge, prompted another train trip to Jacksonville to secure the information.
The year was sliding away in September 1949 when Brother Pattison went to Bradentown Lodge were he met Oscar Smith, the Worshipful Master who, in turn, introduced him to Frank Schell of Palmetto Lodge. Each directed him to find out if there were enough Masons in the area who wanted a new lodge.
A New Year Begins and the Quest Continues The new year 1950 began with a January 17 trip to the office of George Huff, Grand Secretary, to receive the information previously requested. Specifically, fifteen Masons in good standing who would be willing to get demits. While lodged in the Roosevelt Hotel, with no train until the next morning, Brother Pattison spoke with Past Grand Master Stafford Caldwell and George Fish, Grand Treasurer, who offered the sobering advice to forget it unless you have lots of money, guts, and fortitude. We wonder today how our Masonic Brethren would react to such sage advice from the leadership. Would they persevere as did Brother Pattison? May a portion of that tenacity and vision continue to excite the conscience of each and every officer and member.
A first organizational meeting was called by Brother Pattison on January 30, 1950, at the Civic Center on Venice Avenue, the location of the present city building. Present were C. Allen Pattison, Tommy LaBayer, Vic Petty, and Joe Kester. A total of 4, far from the required 15. The next meeting was held on a Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. Present were C. Allen Pattison, Grady Hough, Lou Everett, and Duke Wilson. Again an attendance of 4, but 3 new names. The next meeting was scheduled for the beach casino as the city building was unavailable.
The first money entered into the picture after Brother Pattison had contacted District Deputy C.B. Scott (Palmetto Lodge No. 110) of the 19th district, which later became the 24th district and is now the 27th district. He said we needed a Treasury. Brother Pattison donated $25.00. But was advised to keep the money until officers were elected at the next meeting, to be held February 21, 1950. Present at that meeting, held in the civic center, were Lou Everett, Frank Robuck, Past Grand Master Stafford Caldwell, Stanley Bean, J.B. Roberts, Lonnie Clemmons, Job Huddleson, J.T. Blalock, and Tommy LaBayer. District Deputy C.B. Scott failed to show. The meeting prompted a heated discussion. Brother Blalock felt Venice was not in need of a Masonic Lodge. And reasoned that no one in Venice was capable of running a lodge. Frank Robuck said his grandfather, father, and he all belonged to the same lodge, and that he would never demit, nor would he ever attend Venice Lodge. Both of those Masons deserted the cause by walking out of that meeting. The next meeting was scheduled for March 7th at the trailer park.
Upon beginning any important undertaking we are instructed to invoke the aid of Deity. Brother Pattison led in prayer at the March 7, 1950 meeting held in the trailer Park. He voiced concern that it seemed as though he was the only Mason who wanted a lodge in Venice. Present at this meeting were A.E. Edge, Stanley Bean, Joe Kester, Lou Everett, and Brother Pattison. Brother Pattison brought the group up to date on the information he had gained by his train trip to the Grand Lodge office in Jacksonville.
As you can readily see, there were only a handful of prospective members in attendance at the early meetings. Since Brother Pattison had requested his demit, he was able to show the Brothers what a demit was. However, the search for Masons in the area loomed as a big undertaking. It appeared to Brother Pattison that everyone became suspicious when he tried to locate brother Masons. There were those who even denied ever being a Mason.
Upon locating an area Mason, and inquiring if he thought a lodge was needed, they almost all thought it might be a good idea. Most of these held membership outside the state of Florida. The mind set of most was clear when a contacted brother was asked to request a demit because of the need for fifteen Masons in good standing to start a new lodge, and most replied "Hell no". Most also said they might join, but "Get a lodge first". Some of these men had family ties to their northern lodge, or were loathe to remove their financial support from their home lodge. Some people didn't wish to bothered with a lodge down here and some were fearful of losing their status for their Masonic Homes back up north.
Success came slowly. Finally a brother agreed to get a demit, as he wasn't a regular at his lodge anyway. He knew Brother Pattison and agreed to help him. Brother Pattison now had a grand total of 2 demits. A third demit came from Brother Lou Everett. Slowly, the demits were nearing the number required.
Money was a subject the concerned all. When a brother was approached regarding the possibility of getting a demit and joining Venice Lodge a first concern was usually the upcoming need for building funds, money being a real concern at that time. Note, members of Florida lodges did not need demits.
It was agreed to meet in the theater building. Mr. Retty was a member and the fourth to agree to demit. Venice received its' dispensation on November 27, 1950. Undoubtedly, this was one of Brother Pattison's Thanksgiving rewards. Officers of the Grand Lodge were present for the occasion as District Deputy Frederic A. Riegel presented the U.D.
Prior to Receiving a Dispensation and Charter 25 March 1950 C. Allen Pattison elected chairman, Lou Everett, secretary. The secretary read a letter (the first from Grand Lodge) on requirements needed for starting a lodge (15 members). Members were asked to contact their brethren to determine interest. In response to questions on the expense of starting a lodge and initiation fees: Entered Apprentice-$35.00, Fellowcraft-$25.00, Master Mason-$15.00, and annual dues of $8.00. Brother Foster agreed to make the altar, gavels, aprons, and secure a Bible. The three pedestals were from Brothers Everett and Pattison. Jewels were to be purchased by the officers and donated to the lodge. Monetary donations were made by Duke Wilson ($20.00), A.E. Edge ($50.00), Lonnie Clemmons ($25.00), and C. Allen Pattison ($50.00). A committee was formed to work out dues, etc. Plans were made for contacting masons in Englewood, Laurel, etc. by placing an ad in the Sarasota paper and sending cards to the names of those obtained through Sarasota Lodge.
Three visiting brothers, Past Master Overstreet, Palmetto Lodge, District Deputy C.B. Scott from Palmetto, and Past Master W. D. Hausen of Sarasota were present to answer questions on new lodge development. Sarasota Lodge was to send a letter granting Venice an U.D. Venice was to draft their own by-laws, and if they proved sufficient, would be granted a charter. Sarasota Lodge had voted that Venice did not need a lodge. Of 22 present, 12 brothers were willing to demit to Venice.
New faces were present at this meeting and they were informed of the reasons for the meetings and starting a new lodge. It was decided that when 12 members had signed the application it would be sent immediately to Grand Lodge. A committee was appointed to consider a name. Members were C. Allen Pattison, J.B. Roberts, and Herb Sicks(secretary of Sarasota Lodge No. 147).
It was moved to change the meeting night to the first and third Mondays. Suggestions were presented to prepare a leaflet to summarize the previous meetings and activity and to place such information on the bulletin board. A favorable vote was taken to hold a fish fry, one week following the signing of the U.D. The first petition for membership was received but returned to the petitioner until the U.D. was received. Donation of $15.00 from C. Allen Pattison.
Motion made and unanimously passed to name the lodge Venice Lodge. The U.D. application was filled out. A talk by Brother F. Harp on the careful selection of officers preceded an election of officers. Those elected were: Forrest Chapman, W.M., C. Allen Pattison, S.W., and Elihu Roberts, J.W. All member masons and their families were invited to the fish fry at Venice Beach.
A progress report on proficiency in degree work in order to obtain a U.D. was given. The Grand Master referred the matter back to the District Deputy who requested that the officers meet and rehearse several parts. Brother Pattison agreed to learn the lectures. There was no one local to teach him, therefore he traveled to St. Pete to meet with Dr. Joy Adams, Past Master of Sunshine Lodge. Dr. Adams held a gold card and therefore could teach him all he needed.
A request was made to have the District Deputy Fritz Riegel come to Venice and to evaluate the progress made and to apply for the U.D. A vote of thanks was given the committee for the successful fish fry. Decided to have J.O. and K.D. Everett come to Venice to present the gavels. A committee was formed to construct a partition in the room above the theater, where the group was meeting. The District Deputy congratulated Brother Pattison on what he had learned so far.
Venice Lodge U.D. was opened and closed in the Master Mason Degree and then reopened in the Entered Apprentice Degree for instruction. It was noted that Mrs. Pattison had been supplying the refreshments for the meetings. Bills were presented for paint for the partition-$3.87 and painting-$6.00. Donation of $10.00 was made by Brother Chapman. There were 14 members present.
District Deputy Frederick Riegel was presented to the lodge. Bills for the partition, paint, and labor were approved for payment.
Lou Everett presented the three gavels donated by J.O. and K.D. Everett of Lima, Ohio(Lou Everett's brothers). Work included instruction in the 1st and 2nd sections of the Master Mason Degree. Voted to buy rubber matting for the lodge floor. It was decided that all members were to be assessed to pay all debts until the charter was received.
Practice in the Master Mason Degree.
Practice in the Entered Apprentice Degree.
A district meeting was planned at Sarasota on October 26. A committee was appointed to select the jewels.
A report by the committee on selecting the jewels to be purchased after the U.D. was received. It was decided that the secretary would also act as treasurer.
It was reported by Secretary Herb Sicks of Sarasota Lodge that the U.D. had been granted. It was suggested that a past grand officer be asked to preside at the installation of officers, and a supper be held after the installation. All members and visitors were to pay for each of the wives' suppers. Donation of $90.00 to buy necessary supplies and the rest to be borrowed from J.B. Roberts with a personal note.
A report was given by Brother Sicks regarding the time for installation of lodge officers. Moved and passed to set the time at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, November 27.
Installation of officers of Venice Lodge. At a special meeting of Venice Lodge the following acting Grand Lodge officers were present:
Emergent Communication of Grand Lodge opened in due form. The R.W:. Master Riegel announced that the Emergent Communication had been called for the purpose of presenting the Dispensation for Venice Lodge U.D.
W:. Brother Wendland of Bradenton introduced Brother Wendell Forrest Chapman to be appointed Worshipful Master, Brother C. Allen Pattison to be appointed Senior Warden, and Brother Elihu Roberts to be appointed Junior Warden. R.W:. Brother Riegel read the dispensation granting Venice Lodge its authority to work as a Lodge under Dispensation. Brothers Chapman, Pattison, and Roberts were seated in their respective stations as were all the other officers.
R.W:. Riegel thanked the Bradenton brethren for being present and cautioned the Venice brethren to be extremely cautious in electing members for their lodge, to ensure that no undesirable material be accepted. He impressed on all present the duty to fulfill their duty as a good Mason and citizen.
W:. Brother Wendland, as a member of Trinity Commandery No. 16, offered services of the Knights Templar to the new Venice Lodge U.D. He also cautioned the brothers to be most careful in electing members.
R.W:. Brother Riegel, Past Grand High Priest, offered services of Sarasota Chapter No. 35, Royal Arch Masons. He cautioned the brothers against the insidious teachings of atheism and appealed for a close adherence to the teachings of masonry.
W:. C.R. Harding offered the services of Sarasota Lodge No. 147. Brother Charles D. Simpson reminded us of the three great duties of a Mason, which if followed will make a strong lodge.
Brother C. Allen Pattison thanked the brothers who helped get the Venice Lodge started and pledged his full support to Venice Lodge U.D. He particularly expressed appreciation for the Masonic labors of W:. Brother F.M. Harp. R.W:. Brother Riegel also thanked W:. Harp for his long and faithful service to Sarasota Lodge No. 147.
W:. Brother Harp rose and expressed appreciation for the compliments and gave an instructive and informational talk on his experiences in teaching the Masonic ritual, appealing to the brothers to fulfill their duties and told how he enjoyed the work. He complimented Brother Pattison for his efforts in suggesting the idea of a Venice Lodge and in his efforts toward the completion of the formation of the Lodge U.D. He especially thanked W:. Brother Sicks, W:. Brother Harding, Brother Cooper, R.W:. Brother Riegel, and the Chapter and Commandery.
R.W:. Riegel announced that M.W:. Brother Gus J. Deckle, Grand Master, would be in Punta Gorda Lodge the following evening, and recommended visitations among the various lodges in the district.
W:. Brother Hicks spoke on subjects of interest to all brothers.
W:. Brother Sicks expressed his hope that the brothers would carry on the principles of masonry.
W:. Brother Wendland recommended that the members interest their ladies in the activities of masonry and to make visitations to other lodges.
Brother Simpson offered his services in conferring the E.A. Degree. Brother Wilson raised the question of collecting dues, and considerable discussion was held on that subject. R.W:. Brother Riegel called attention to the work of DeMolay.
Officers of Venice Lodge U.D.
Nothing further to come before the lodge at that time, therefore the officers of Venice Lodge U.D. closed the lodge in due form.
Regular meeting and reading of 7 petitions for:
and the appointment of examining committees for each. Talk by Brother Sicks regarding those committees using extreme care in their investigation of each petitioner. Also, Brother Harding urged that the committee speak to the petitioner regarding his home life, church activity, employment, etc.
Election of secretary - Brother Louis Everett
Election of treasurer - Brother Joseph Kester
It was noted that Brother Kester had not been in lodge in 30 years until coming to Venice. A ballot regarding the prohibition of smoking in the lodge passed by one vote.
Furniture and Accessories of the Lodge:
Donors and Procurers
*Note: Clyde Briner and C. Allen Pattison traveled to Miami to make the decisions in regard to the seating.
Donations totaling $230.00 had been made by 23 brothers. The loan of $65.00 by J.B. Roberts was repaid on December 4, 1950. More than 34 names of interested brothers were recorded in the minutes of those early meetings.
We recall that on November 6, 1950 Brother Sicks had informed us that our dispensation had been granted. Although Sarasota Lodge was opposed to the idea of a new Masonic Lodge in Venice, Brother Herb Sicks and Brother Ralph Harding were exceptions, and provided much help and encouragement. The dispensation permitted the lodge to hold meetings and practice the ritualistic work required for our proficiency.
On the 2nd Sunday in March 1951, Pinky Wilson of Tampa, the chairman of the Committee of Work, and a friend came to Venice to observe our proficiency. At 11:00 a.m. Brother Pattison, S.W., opened a Lodge of Master Masons, conferred both sections of the M.M. degree, gave the lecture, and examined in the catechism of the Master Mason degree, and closed the lodge.
Brother Pattison then opened a Lodge of Fellowcrafts, conferred the degree, gave the lecture, examined the catechism of the Fellowcraft degree, and closed the lodge on that degree prior to opening a Lodge of Entered Apprentices. Elihu Roberts conferred the Entered Apprentice degree, Brother Pattison gave the lecture and examined in the catechism and closed the Lodge of Entered Apprentices. Pinky Wilson and friend were taken to Fisherman's Wharf for supper. Pinky Wilson told Brother Pattison to come to Tampa to receive his gold card.
The lodge had 7 petitions. Bill Hall was the first candidate and Ford Smith the second. Smith later became Worshipful Master and the Lodge Instructor.
On April 16, 1951 Brother Pattison again traveled to Jacksonville. On April 17, 1951 Grand Lodge granted Venice Lodge No. 301 it's charter. Brother Pattison immediately called Elihu Roberts to give him the good news, that Venice did indeed have a new lodge.
On Monday June 15, 1953, Dr. Joy Adams of Sunshine Lodge was elected an honorary life member of Venice Lodge No. 301 for his participation in the formation of Venice Lodge and instructing Brother Pattison. Two weeks later, Worshipful Brother Herb Sicks and Worshipful Brother Ralph Harding, both Past Masters of Sarasota Lodge No. 147 were, in like manner, elected honorary life members of Venice Lodge No. 301.
Thus ended a period of dedication and oft time discouragement, as the wheels of progress in the formation of a new Masonic Lodge turned ever so slowly. However, the vision of W:. Brother C. Allen Pattison was strengthened by faith and the will to pursue the challenge and reap the reward of having accomplished the task set before him, that of establishing Venice Masonic Lodge No. 301 whose members may now look back to its 47 year history with pride and give thanks for a job well done.
May the remainder of this century and the years beyond document like accomplishments in the annals of Masonic history.
Dates: 1st & 3rd Mondays
Time: 7:30 p.m.
118 E. Venice Ave.
Venice, Florida 34285-1924