Lodge history

Address to the Lodge by Rt.Wor.Bro. Pete Davey
At the 50th Anniversary Meeting March 16th, 2004

            Most Worshipful Grand Master, Distinguished Brethren, and Brethren.

            I have been asked by the Worshipful Master if I, as the Lodge Historian, would give a brief resume this evening of how this lodge was founded and some of its activities over the past 50 years.

            Now before you all yawn and decide to take a short nap, the key word in his request was the word “brief”, so let me assure you that it will be brief. If later you are interested in more definitive details, you will have to wait until the complete Lodge History of these first 50 years comes out in print later this year.

            First, I should tell you that I am one of the four surviving Founder Members of this Lodge. The other three being: Rt.Wor.Bro. Gerry Churley Originally from Unity Lodge No. 106; Very War.Bro. Worth Connolly, our perennial organist, who was and still is a member of our mother lodge Southern Cross No. 44, and Bro. Ralph Mander, who was our first chaplain, and who now resides in New Zealand. Bor. Mander was at that time a member of Lodge of Peace No. 322 in New Zealand and had been posted here in Vancouver by the Union Steamship Co. of New Zealand, by whom he was employed. He served as chaplain until his company called him home early in 1955, to take another posting. He was granted and honorary membership at that time. As for myself, I was and still am a member of my mother lodge Britannia No. 73 in Victoria.

            In order for me to tell you how this lodge came into being, I must first take you back not 50 years but 98 years, to 1906. At that time there were quite a number of Australians who had made their home here in Vancouver. Some of these had been attracted by the prospects offered by a thriving young city, at a time when much of the most populated area of Australia was suffering from not only a prolonged drought, but also a somewhat depressed economy. Some also came from Alaska and the Yukon after the great Gold Rush of ’98.

            Some of these Australians had formed a social club named “The Australian Club”. Shortly after the formation of this club, the Masons among them decided to form a Masonic lodge and in due course, The Grand Lodge of British Columbia granted permission for such a lodge to be instituted, and for it to practice the Australian ritual. Thus Lodge Southern Cross No. 44 was instituted on June 15th, 1906. This was the first lodge outside of Australia to practice that ritual.

            And now, “Fast forward to 1953”

            In the years following the end of World War II, Masonry experienced an exceptional growth rate, and by 1953 several new lodges had been formed in this jurisdiction. Lodge Southern Cross was one of the lodges that had experienced considerable growth, to the extent that there was practically a line-up of brethren anxious to become more involved by taking an office. In order to speed up the process, several of the brethren got together and decided to explore the possibilities of forming a new lodge to further expand the exposure of masonry as practiced in the Australian ritual.

            News of this intention was passed around by word of mouth, and in due course those interested were invited to attend a meeting to be held in what was probably the last place that one would expect such a meeting to take place – a funeral parlor -. This venue being graciously offered by Bro. Jack Chapman a member of Mount Hermon Lodge No. 7.

            This first meeting took place at the Chapmen Funeral Home on West Broadway, on Sunday November 1st, 1953, and was attended by 24 interested brethren, 13 of whom were form Lodge Southern Cross and the other 11 from lodges within the jurisdiction, and from Australia and New Zealand.

            The meeting was chaired by Brother James Allison, acting as temporary chairman, and with Brother Eric West acting as temporary secretary. Both of these brethren being form Lodge Southern Cross.

            The results of this meeting being positive, it was decided to move forward with plans for the formation of a new lodge practicing the Australian ritual. Over the course of the next two and one-half months, four more organizational meetings were held. Three of these were held at the Chapman Funeral Home and the fourth in the banquet room of the Dunbar Masonic Hall at 4470 Dunbar St.

            Some of the most important decisions made at these meetings were as follows:
  1. That the place of meetings would be the Dunbar Masonic Hall at 4470 Dunbar St., at a monthly rental of $30.00, which also included the use of the banquet room and all of its equipment.

  2. That the name of this new lodge would be Commonwealth Lodge.

  3. That there would be    two meetings a month, on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays, with July and August excepted.

  4. The following sues and fees were established;
    1. Yearly dues                       $15.00
    2. Initiation fee                      $125.00
    3. Charter-member-fee      $20.00 (for those members signing the application for the Institution of the new lodge)

  5. The following slate of officers was elected or appointed from a list submitted by a committee;
  6.            Wor. Master           Wor.Bro. Fred Simmons
                I.P.M.                       Wor.Bro. Ernest Beaver
                Sr. Warden            Bro. James Allinson
                Jr. Warden             Bro. Sam Cosh
                Sr. Deacon            Bro. Jim Currie
                Jr. Deacon             Bro. Eric West
                Chaplain                Bro. Ralph Mander
                Inner Guard          Bro. Bob Hawthorne
                Sr. Steward           Bro. Fred Eddy
                Jr. Steward            Bro. Arthur Bunbury
                Outer Guard          Bro. Gerry Churley
                Treasurer              Bro. H.J. Young
                Secretary               Wor.Bro. Jack Hamilton

  7. The secretary, Wor.Bro. Hamilton advised that he had in his possession a copy of the Australian ritual, dated 1900, that had been brought to Canada by Most Wor.Bro. J.J. Miller, and had been used by him at the founding of Lodge Southern Cross at it’s founding in 1906. He also advised that he had produced copies of this ritual which were then presented to the officers in order that they could commence practices for the various degrees

            The final organizational meeting was held on Jan. 10th, 1954, in the banquet room of the Dunbar Masonic Hall. Practices by the officers, on the opening and closing, and the work of the three degrees, had commenced in December and would continue through January, at which time it was felt that we were then ready to submit to an examination by Grand Lodge. The petition to institute this new lodge was therefore drawn up and submitted to the Most Worshipful Grand Master.

            In due course we were advised that a special meeting would be convened at the Dunbar Masonic Hall on February 11th, 1954, at which time the D.D.G.M. for District No.15, Rt.Wor.Bro. Leslie Liddell would be in attendance for the purpose of ascertaining the proficiency of the officers in all three degrees.

            The minutes of that meeting record an attendance of 15 officers, 19 members, 3 visitors, and the District Deputy, for a total of 38.

            The lodge was opened at 8:00 P.M. and over the next 3 hours and 50 minutes all 3 degrees were exemplified, with Bro. Cyril Morgan of Lodge Southern Cross acting as the candidate. A period of refreshment was called after each of the first two degrees.

            Prior to the lodge being closed in long form at 11:50 p.m., the District Deputy expressed his pleasure for the way the proceedings of the evening had been carried out, and that while he wasn’t able at that time to express his findings, we would no doubt hear from the Grand Secretary very soon.

            Shortly thereafter we were summoned by the Grand Secretary to an emergent meeting to be held at the Dunbar Masonic Hall on March 11th, 1954. The purpose of the meeting was the Institution of Commonwealth Lodge Under Dispensation. The minutes of that meeting record an attendance of 118, which include;
                        14 Grand Lodge Officers
                        42 Commonwealth Officers and members
                        57 Visitors from other lodges in B.C.
                        5 Visitors from outside B.C.

            Aside from the 14 Grand Lodge officers and the 42 Commonwealth officers and members present, the remaining 62 visitors came from 20 other lodges.

            On this occasion the lodge was opened in the M.M. Degree by Wor.Bro. Fred Marshall, the W.M. of Lodge Southern Cross, our mother lodge. The D.D.G.M. Rt.Wor.Bro. Leslie Liddell and his retinue of Grand Lodge Officers were then received into the lodge, and the D.D.G.M. began the Institutional proceedings.

            The dispensation from Grand Lodge was read out by the Grand Secretary, and the D.D.G.M. proceeded with the investiture of the officers.

            Following the proclamation by the Grand Chaplain, Very Wor.Bros. William Menzies, P.G.M., the D.D.G.M. then handed over the gavel of authority to Wor.Bro. Fred Simmons who proceeded with the rest of the business of the evening.

            He then called upon the secretary to read out the greetings and felicitations that had been received from lodges “Down Under”. The first being from the Grand Secretary for the state of Victoria. The next three were from lodges bearing the same name as ourselves; Commonwealth Lodge No.324 in Brisbane, Queensland; Commonwealth Lodge No.186 in Miraboo North, Victoria; and Commonwealth Lodge No.404 in Sydney N.S.W. The fourth was from mother lodge of our mother lodge, Lodge Southern Cross No.44 in Southern Cross, West Australia.

            This was followed by several presentations of various items of lodge furnishings, and, after the D.D.G.M had retired, the lodge was closed in long form in the M.M. Degree.

            Following the meeting close to 110 brethren sat down, in the dining room, to a sumptuous dinner that had been prepared by a group of wives of some of the brethren.

            The next meeting of the lodge was on March 18th, and would be the first regular meeting Under Dispensation. At this meeting it was announced that petitions for initiation had been received from 12 applicants.

            From that date to May 20th a total of 7 meetings would be held, 4 Emergent and 3 Regular.

            During that period the 12 applicants were balloted on and approve. Of these, 9 were initiated, 7 were passed, and 3 of these were raised. These first 9 were later designated as Charter Members.

            Regrettably, time has taken its toll, and there are only 2 of those original 9 still with us, and I am happy to say that both are also here this evening. They are; Bro. Bob Allinson, who is the son of our founder Senior Warden, Rt.Wor.Bro. James Allinson, and was the first candidate to be raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason, and Wor.Bro. Tommy Back who later became our 9th Worshipful Master.

            The meeting of May 20th would be our last until after the annual Grand Lodge communication in June.

            Following this meeting our application for a charter, together with all of our lodge records, was submitted to the Grand secretary, and we literally ceased to exist until after the Grand lodge annual communication in June.

            At the Grand Lodge annual communication that was held on June 1st and 18 in Victoria, the committee on lodges Under Dispensation submitted a report on 8 lodges that were currently U.D. at that time. Their report recommended that 4 of these be granted charters, and the remaining 4 be continued U.D. until the next annual communication. Unfortunately, Commonwealth was not one of those recommended for a charter, which would have meant that we would have to remain U.D. for another year.

            Their report was regularly moved and seconded, and in the discussion that followed our Wor. Master, Wor.Bro. Fred Simmons, rose to speak to the motion, at which time he very eloquently presented reasons why Commonwealth should also be among those being granted a charter. He then moved an amendment to the original motion, to add our name to those being granted charter. This was then put to a vote and the result was so overwhelming in favour that a counted vote was not necessary, and our name was then added to those receiving charters.

            Subsequently, we were officially notified that we were granted a warrant of constitution as Commonwealth Lodge No.156 on the registry of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia, and that a meeting would be convened by the Grand Master, Most Wor.Bro. Karl P. Warwick, at the University Masonic Hall at 4426 West 10th avenue, at 8:00Pm on Friday July 30th 1954, for the purpose of Constitution and Consecration. All of our books and records were returned to us at that time.

            Incidentally, the date of that meeting coincided with another memorable event taking place that same evening, the opening ceremonies of the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games that were being held at Empire Stadium here in Vancouver that year.

            The minutes of that meeting that were recorded by our secretary, Wor.Bro. Jack Hamilton, indicate a total attendance of approximately 140. Following the ceremony of constitution and consecration, at which the officers of Commonwealth were duly installed by the most Worshipful Grand Master and other officers of Grand Lodge, and we were presented with our Warrant or Charter, the Brethren retired to the banquet room where they were treated to sumptuous meal that had again been prepared and served by a group of wives of our brethren.

            During the course of these festivities many toasts were proposed and responded to, one of these being the toast proposed by our Bro. Gerry Churley to the lodges “down under” with whom we bear an affinity, namely, Commonwealth Lodge No.324 of Brisbane, Queensland, Commonwealth Lodge No.404 of Sidney, New South Wales, Commonwealth Lodge No.186 of Miraboo, Victoria, and Lodge Southern Cross No.44 of Southern Cross, West Australia.

            This toast was most eloquently responded to by Bro. Tom Donnet of Burnley Lodge No.299 in Richmond, in the state of Victoria, Who that evening was unofficially representing the other eleven members of the craft in the Australian contingent at the Empire Games who could not be with us that evening but sent their best wishes.

            Thus my brothers, after 5 organizational meetings, 1 Institutional meeting, 8 regular and emergent meetings while under dispensation, and lastly, the meeting at which we received our charter was Commonwealth Lodge No.156 in the Grand Registry of B.C. and the Yukon, officially launched.

            From that date in 1954 until the spring of 1956 our meeting place would be the Dunbar Masonic Hall at 4470 Dunbar St. Unfortunately, that building was leased from the Imperial Oil Company and in early 1956 we were advised that the lease would not be renewed as they had other plans for the property, and that we would have to find other accommodations. We would however be able to use the facility until our summer recess in June.

            Fortunately we were able to obtain accommodation in this new building that was then under construction, but would be ready for us to move into in September, after the summer recess. The only change necessary would be the days of our meetings. Instead of the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month, we would have to change to the 1st and 3rd Tuesday, which presented no problem, and which it remains to be to this day.

            This, our 50th Anniversary meeting, is our 547th regular meeting. In between we have held another 416 emergent meetings and countless meetings of the Board of general Purposes. In short brethren, it is the culmination of 50 years of dedicated masonry, and I trust that it is only the beginning of another 50 years or more of the same.

            I thank you Worshipful master for this opportunity of presenting to the brethren, and our distinguished guests, assembled here this evening, some of the history surrounding the founding of Commonwealth Lodge No.156, fifty years ago. And as I stated at the start, the complete details will be contained in “A History of the First 50 Years” that hopefully will be completed and printed for distribution to the members later this year.