Around the turn of the century, 1900 that is, the focal point of Freemasonry on Long Island was Jamaica Lodge, the only Masonic Lodge in our vicinity. It had developed from Masons moving to the area as well as from those whose families had been here as farmers and businessmen.
Enrollment in Freemasonry grew substantially after the Great War. Masons decided they would like to create their own local community Lodges. So, in time, names like Richmond Hill Lodge, Queens Village Lodge, Laurelton Lodge, Woodhaven Lodge, and Springfield Gardens Lodge were added to the Queens District Roster.
Back in the early 1920’s, a group of Masons used to meet in a hall over a barber shop in Rosedale and started a Masonic Club. They met for several years and along the way spoke of organizing their own Masonic Lodge. Real estate locations were researched and land was finally purchased on Springfield Boulevard in Springfield Gardens just south of the Long Island Railroad. It was a grade crossing then.
A building was designed, financed, constructed and instituted on November 21, 1925. There was big doings on that day. The Grand Master and the Grand Line were present for the laying of the cornerstone and Freemasonry began officially in Springfield Gardens.
Springfield Gardens Lodge No. 1057 has always been a very active Lodge. I didn’t realize how active until this compilation was made. In assembling this entire story, I didn’t attempt to generate a time line or sequence of events. Categories were created and events and stories were inserted under these headings. This will help you focus on the highlights of one cluster of events at a time.
If you were asked to be an officer of the Lodge, you started as chaplain and worked through all the chairs back up to the East. There were so many possible candidates for line officers available in the early days that you had to work hard to get selected. Officer dropouts hardly existed. Even during World War II, Springfield Gardens had a full line. It was only in the later 1960’s and early 1970’s that breaks in the line started to develop created by officers whose jobs forced them to move out of town or having to work night shifts. The Lodge had four degree classes a year, 20 new brothers every year. The officers had to prove their proficiency during one set of those degrees.
The other degrees were performed by different groups, Past Masters, the Fellowcraft Team, a team made up of only firemen, policemen or telephone men. Every once in a while they had scramble night for officers. The officers would be assigned their parts by selecting their parts by pulling it out of a hat. One newly made member selected the Middle Change Lecture as his first assignment. Also the Senior Deacon had to do the Middle Chamber once during his year or he didn’t advance to Junior Warden.
Offices in their travel through the 2nd Queens District wore tuxedos. On special visits to Springfield Gardens and Eastern Star Meetings, the officers also wore their tuxedos. We were all proud of that uniform.
The Masonic Club was the fun-loving group of the Lodge who held their meetings on Monday nights. In order to become a member, you had to go through an initiation period in the club room before the actual ritual initiation which was a fairly elaborate series of tests.
One big event was the Annual Clam Chowder Party held in February. Brothers were in the building for two days making chowder. Outsiders and Masons from other Lodges clamored for tickets to this event. Every once in a while, Walter Betts would offer a special with Clams Rockefeller, which were just delicious. Guys would come with large bottles to purchase leftover chowder. For several years, The Masonic Club rented a bus to attend Mets baseball games at Shea Stadium.
The Fellowcraft Team was formed to do the Hiramic Drama for the Third Degree. As time went on, the Team took turns doing the main ritual of each degree. The club was so large at one time; there were enough members to floor four teams. A few sub-groups that were organized to do degree work were the policemen, firemen, telephone employees, Past Purple and Past Masters. The Fellowcraft Club met in the Masonic Club Room on Thursday nights. The club ran two dances a year, the St. Patty’s Dance in March and a dance in November.
THE ACTOR’S CLUB:
Actor’s Club membership was by invitation only. Its membership was only men, the brothers of the Lodge. When we needed a part for a woman, you got assigned it, if you didn’t do it; you were out of the club (really).
The size of the club was limited (usually 25) because concerns in staging shows and the assigning of parts and support back stage. Supposedly you were considered because you were possibly a good actor because you could do ritual on the floor of the Lodge. That went t-hell-in-a-hand-basket real fast when push came to shove. The rule become more if you had the guts to get up on a stage in front of an audience and make an ass of yourself, you were in.
As the Club’s popularity grew in the Lodge, it became responsible for two Ladies Night Shows and a show for the children at Christmas. A Spring Show was performed for the Lodge and the October show for the Masonic Club. At first, the club put on quick adlib shows. After a while, the shows became big productions of an hour or more in length. Another hot show as the “A Hell of A Show.” The entire cast was dressed in devil costumes with tails, head horns, and red body outfits.
The Christmas Show each year was a big production. The Masonic Club, through the proceeds of their October dance, bought very expensive gifts for the children of the members of the Lodge. The shows the Actor’s Club staged over the years were true extravaganzas. If you didn’t get there early, it was truly standing room only with mothers, fathers and lots of screaming kiddies. Each year was a different theme; a complete train set, marching toy soldiers, The Seven Dwarfs, The Three Little Pigs, Rumplestilskin, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Snoopy, Fred Flintstone. We even had a visit from the two relatives of E.T., the Extra Terrestrial.
The Junior Warden received an annual budget of $1,600, if he was lucky to feed the Lodge for the full year. Remember, we are talking about 150-200 brothers at each meeting. Beer consumption was so high that it had to be purchased in quart bottles. During the Goodfellow-Albers period as Junior Wardens, 25-30 cases of quarts were required per meeting. Beer was more than 50% of the food bill; can you imagine what the volume was in the previous years? When Ladies Night for the Lodge came about, the Junior Warden would receive $300.00 and use all that money to buy supplies for the rest of the year.
The Kitchen Committee had 12-15 members. They never came up to a meeting; they were preparing their own dinners of steak and other good things. The Junior Warden had to supply a bottle of rye and scotch for their premeeting cocktails.
SPRINGFIELD GARDENS CHAPTER #686
ORDER OF EASTERN STAR:
This Chapter was instituted five years after the Lodge was instituted. Wives of members, for the most part, became members. The Chapter was a very active group. The 1970’s brought a change in how the Chapter was run with more freedom and fun for the members.
SCHOOL OF INSTRUCTION:
For many years, Springfield Gardens Lodge was the home of the 2nd Queens School of Instruction. It was easy to do when you own the building and have complete charge of all functions that take place. Prior to the main school, there was a Question and Answer Class conducted by R\W\Ernest Leonardi, who later became Grand Master. He was quite an instructor and the room was always packed for his class.
The Lodge with the greatest number of officers in attendance received the attendance banner that was placed in the East. The winning Lodge could take it back to their Lodge room for display, but had to bring it back by the next School of Instruction. The attendance flag stood in the East of Springfield Gardens Lodge for what seemed year after year.
PIVOTAL EVENTS IN OUR HISTORY
Three big turning point events in the growth of the Lodge has been the mergers of with Dunton Lodge in 1985 and Council-Hillside Lodge in 1994 and this year Jamaica Queens Village Lodge 546. We had always thought that we would be strong enough to exist on our own, but our membership roles showed declining numbers just as all other Lodges. Discussions were started with each of these Lodges and we found there was amicable understanding that made each union very favorable.
BLOOD BANK DRIVES
Springfield Gardens Lodge was awarded the highest contribution for NY State having donated over 1600 pints donated at one time in the late 60’s. When Blood Banks were held in our Temple, we cooked food for the donors plus distributed small liquor bottles as a “THANK YOU”.
THE LODGE PURPLE
The Lodge has been fortunate to have been honored over the years with many of our Past Masters having received the Purple of the Fraternity. This list swelled with addition of Dunton, Council-Hillside and Jamaica Queens Village Lodge Honorees. In recent years one Brother was honored as Grand Master of Masons in the State of NY, M\W\Stewart C. McCloud. We are honored to have R\W\Joseph J. Saglimbene as our current DDGM of the Queens District.
Springfield Gardens Lodge meets on the Second and Fourth Tuesday of the month (except July and August) at 7:30 PM.
Meeting Location: Scottish Rite Masonic Temple
28 Lincoln Ave
Rockville Centre, N.Y. 11570-5783
For Information contact:
W\Joseph James Saglimbene, Master
Cell: (347) 307 3867