In The Beginning
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
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.
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.
The Quest Begins
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.
Where Comes the Support?
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
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
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.
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.
Asking the Aid of Deity
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.
Demits Come Slowly
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.
Thanksgiving, November 1950
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.
Log of Early Meetings in 1950
Prior to Receiving a Dispensation and Charter
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
6 April 1950
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
20 April 1950
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).
9 May 1950
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.
16 May 1950
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.
22 May 1950
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.
3 July 1950
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.
17 July 1950
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.
7 August 1950
Frederick Riegel was presented to the lodge. Bills for the partition, paint,
and labor were approved for payment.
21 August 1950
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.
4 September 1950
Practice in the
Master Mason Degree.
18 September 1950
Practice in the
Entered Apprentice Degree.
2 October 1950
A district meeting
was planned at Sarasota on October 26. A committee was appointed to select the
16 October 1950
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.
6 November 1950
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.
20 November 1950
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.
27 November 1950
officers of Venice Lodge. At a special meeting of Venice Lodge the following
acting Grand Lodge officers were present:
R.W:. F.A. Riegel, District Deputy
W:. C.R. Harding, Senior Grand Warden
Lloyd Hicks, Junior Grand Warden
W:. Herbert H. Sicks, Grand Secretary
Charles J. Simpson, Grand Chaplain
Julian Kicklighter, Senior Grand Deacon
Weeks, Junior Grand Deacon
George A. Williams, Tyler
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
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
Officers of Venice Lodge U.D.
W.M. Wendell Forrest Chapman
S.W. C. Allen Pattison -
S.D. James Dempsey
J.D. Stanley Bean
Chaplain J.B. Roberts
George A. Williams
Nothing further to come before the lodge at that time, therefore the
officers of Venice Lodge U.D. closed the lodge in due form.
4 December 1950
Regular meeting and
reading of 7 petitions for:
William C. Hall
John Thomas Hill
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
- Flag - Bill Hall
- Officer Jewels - donated by the officers
- Altar - C. Allen Pattison and Louis Everett
- Pedestals - C. Allen Pattison and Louis Everett
- Bible - Lonnie Clemmons
- Aprons - officers
- Staff holders - Bill Hall
- Secretary's desk - C. Allen Pattison
- Staffs and emblems - Venice Lodge
- Master's chair and 3 others in the East - Mr. Retty
- Senior & Junior Warden's chairs - Mr. Retty, Gulf Breeze Hotel
- Columns in the West - Mr. Wright
- Lily-work and pomegranates - Elihu Roberts
- Half-round for columns - C. Allen Pattison
- Lesser lights - C. Allen Pattison and Lou Everett
- Master Mason picture - C. Allen Pattison
- Ballot box - Mr. Wright
- Seating arrangement - Clyde Briner
*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.
Charter-the Final Steps
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
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.
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