Jacques DeMolay Lodge No. 1390, A.F. & A.M.
“Celebrating 60 Years of Texas Freemasonry”
Jacques DeMolay Lodge No. 1390, A.F. & A.M. was chartered December 3, 1959. Nearly a year before, a group of masons began to meet at the house of Robert Byers to organize the new lodge. There were many interested members for the new lodge. Many of the masons were members of Chinar Grotto, and through their connection, arrangements were made to use the community room of the Grotto’s Cerebral Palsy Center on California Street. The Grotto proved to be a strong supporter of the proposed lodge. Not only did it arrange for the organizers to have a place to hold its meetings, but it also bought. prepared, and served the meal the night the lodge was set to work.
Brother Robert R. Byers, a Past Master of Memorial Lodge No. 1172 as well as a Past District Deputy Grand Master of the 3Oth Masonic District, was elected Chairman. He had the full, wholehearted cooperation of everyone, but he did lean heavily upon several brethren. William Curtner, a Past Master of Park Place Lodge No. 1182 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master of the 3Oth Masonic District; Frank Martin, a Past Senior Warden of Memorial Lodge No. 1298; Beverly B. Moore, a Past Grand Monarch of the Grottos of North America; Harry Belk, who was the Senior Warden of Rosenberg Lodge; Wilbur Wright. Jack B. Schwartz, Ralph Coppock, Baldwin DeYoung, Cecil Southerland. and many others who had labored long in the quarries of Masonry. Brother Jack Schwartz was elected Secretary/Treasurer, and would pass around a wire basket to take up a collection and announce that only folding money would stay in the basket.
Several names were proposed for the new lodge, but at the end, the group sponsoring Jacques DeMolay won by a substantial margin. This would be the second lodge to bear his name in Texas, the first was DeMolay Lodge No. 199 of Gonzales County, which was set to work under dispensation in 1836, but passed from the role of active lodges after only twelve years. It was hoped that the new lodge would prove more viable.
It was the intention of the organizers to obtain a dispensation under which to set their lodge to work. Unfortunately, the Grand Master of Masons in Texas, refused to grant the dispensation. Brother Martin pointed out that every lodge that had been organized in the proceeding ten years had faced opposition. Even Anson Jones Lodge, the lodge of the Grand Master had some trouble during its formation. It was then decided by the organizers that they would take the much more difficult road. that of bypassing the Grand Master, and directly petitioning the Grand Lodge of Texas for a Charter. The lodge was fortunate to have a strong ally in the person of Albert DeLange, a Past Grand Master of Masons in Texas. Brother DeLange was on close terms with many of the organizers, and he did much of the background work on behalf of the lodge. His support was so strong, that in his later years. when his later prevailed him from participating in the installations of other lodges, he always managed to serve as the Installing Office of Jacques DeMolay Lodge. It is fairly certain that Brother DeLange, as well as John Crooker, another Past Grand Master, made a personal appearance before the petitions committee when it met to consider the lodge’s request for a charter.
The organizers established the dues and fees schedule for the lodge in August. four months before the charter was granted. Robert Byers suffered a heart attack during his formative period, so it was left to B.B. Moore, Frank Martin, and some others coordinate the most important phase of forming the lodge; that of securing approval of its neighboring lodges. Out of the thirty-nine lodges that constituted the 3Oth Masonic District, Jacques DeMolay Lodged planned to have concurrent jurisdiction with twenty-nine of them, and needed the permission of the majority of those to have the authority to meet It was decided that each man would visit the lodges where he was known best and hand deliver the letters requesting that permission. The feeling was that this method would provide the best overall results. It did. Twenty-six lodges gave the needed approval.
The task of finding the lodge a “permanent” home proved to be even easier than securing approval for its existence. Robert Byers was a close friend of Van Brodgen, the Charter Master of S.P. Waltrip Lodge No. 1328 -in fact, Brother Byers had helped with some of the detail work in obtaining a place for Waltrip Lodge to meet when that lodge was formed. It was through this association that the request was made to meet at the Waltrip Lodge building on Old Katy Road. The original agreement was for the lodge to meet in the building for six months, after which it could request extensions for the same amount of time.
In November the petition for charter, bearing the signatures of 102 Master Masons, was sent to Grand Lodge. The last organizational meeting was held on November 19, with eleven members present. and t was quickly concluded so those members could attend the Scottish Rite meeting. This meeting was Sparsely attended for the obvious reason: there was nothing left to do. On December 2, the day before the lodge’s petition was presented, the annual 3Oth Masonic District Banquet was held, and it was announced, in the presence of the Grand Master. that Jacques DeMolay Lodge would receive its charter the following afternoon. Everyone was very confident about the outcome, so it was inevitable that some small kink would develop. The next day, when the resolution granting the lodge’s request was presented, the Grand Master interrupted the proceedings with a point of information. He wanted to know if this ‘was a request for a new charter of DeMolay Lodge No. 199, or a request for a new charter. Once it was clarified that it was indeed a request for a new charter, the resolution was adopted. and on December 3, 1959, Jacques DeMolay Lodge become the 1,390th to be chartered by the Grand Lodge of Texas.
The lodge was set to work nine days later, on December 12th with its greatest supporter, Albert DeLange, presiding in the East. At the end of the installation, it was announced that all Master Masons who wanted to be charter members, but had received their certificates in good standing or demits too late to present them to Grand Lodge, could come forward and present them then. Three brothers availed themselves to this opportunity, and the lodge’s charter membership was closed at 105.
The tone for the first year was set at the lodge’s first meeting, when five petitions for the mysteries were read. From that point on there was rarely a meeting in which a petition was not read. In all, thirty-five petitions for the degrees were received, translating into twenty-four Entered Apprentice, thirteen Fellowcraft, and thirteen Master Mason degrees being conferred. In addition, twelve Master Masons affiliated, and at the end of 1960, Jacques DeMolay Lodge had a membership of 128.
Jacques DeMolay Lodge met twice a month, on the first and third Fridays. Unlike the present day Lodge, There was no established format of having a program at each stated meeting. or even once a month. There were special nights, such as Scottish Rite Night, and at times guest speakers were invited to address the lodge, but for the most part, the meetings were strictly business. Despite this, the average attendance for a meeting was thirty three. The secret for this was that the membership was determined that their lodge would be a friendly place, and that it would never open without some kind of refreshments being served in the dining room. They firmly believed that fraternal relations and friendships were cultivated over a cup of coffee and a good meal, and not necessarily in the lodge room.
The lodge accomplished much during its first year of existence, but to adequately describe those achievements would require a virtual recitation of the minutes. As was noted before, growth was the main activity of the lodge in 1960, and it is interesting to see that the lodge of today is experiencing a similar boom in membership. Many men of all ages are being introduced to the virtues of Freemasonry through Jacques DeMolay Lodge, and it was for that very reason the lodge was formed in the first place.
On December 16, 1960, the lodge celebrated its first anniversary. The keynote speaker that night was Albert DeLange, who made a fine speech about remaining steadfast to the doctrines of the Fraternity. But it was a comment made by Henry Felts, the Senior Warden of S.P. Waltrip Lodge, that was the most interesting. Speaking on behalf of S.P. Waltrip Lodge, he congratulated the lodge on its fine showing. and he then predicted that one day it would rate with the best. What Brother Felts did not realize was that he was issuing the lodge a challenge. On behalf of those 105 Masons who believed that Jacques DeMolay Lodge was necessary for the promotion of Freemasonry in Houston, it is a challenge we must accept.
Jacques DeMolay Lodge met in S. P. Waltrip Lodge at 9222 Old Katy Freeway from 1959-1968. Then from 1968 – 1976 they met in Jacques DeMolay Lodge Building, 3412 Yupon. From 1976-1981 the lodge met at the Houston Scottish Rite Temple on Caroline and Polk. From 1981-1986 the lodge met at Reagan Lodge No. 1037 on Heights Blvd. The years 1986 to 2007 the lodge met at the Houston Scottish Rite and between 2007 to 2014 at Holland Lodge No. 1, 4911 Montrose Boulevard. Currently, Jacques DeMolay Lodge No. 1390 meets at Houston Scottish Rite located at 2401 W Bellfort Ave, Houston, TX 77054.
An Oral History
I am not a Charter Member, but I had something to do with the naming of this Lodge. Dad Harry Belk, a very active DeMolay Adviser since the 1930’s, was a Charter Member and on a visit to his office in the Humble Research Center he was telling me about the group about to start this new Lodge. Our DeMolay Chapter had just returned from a trip to New Orleans where I met some members of “DeMolay Lodge” in New Orleans, and I suggested to Dad Belk that the group consider the name, especially since the first Worshipful Master to be was a Senior DeMolay and PMC of Reagan Chapter. Dad Belk did submit the name as a suggestion and it was chosen as the Lodge’s name.
I actually visited the Lodge when it was meeting at S. P. Waltrip Lodge out on what was then called the Old Katy Road. Later the Lodge moved into a very small building in Montrose. When the old Baptist Preacher (his name escapes me right now) was Master. Reagan Chapter was invited to come and confer the DeMolay Degree. We brought a good group of boys and did confer the degree. There was only a handful of Masons present if my memory is correct, and it was difficult to confer the degrees in out normal manner due to the lack of space. However, they were most hospitable and made the boys and advisors feel most welcome.
Later, the Lodge sold or lost that building (I’m not real sure about the details) and there was some consideration of surrendering the Charter. The Lodge did move into the Scottish Rite Temple at Polk and Caroline, but only a handful of men were active. Brother J. W. Chandler asked me if I would visit the Lodge, make them feel welcome to the Scottish Rite, etc. He also suggested that I consider affiliating with the Lodge because he thought they really needed some help. I did visit at a Stated Meeting a few months after they moved to the Scottish Rite, and attendance was poor. They were a great group of guys, but little was really happening. Past Masters were filling many of the appointive offices, including the Junior Deacon. I did apply and was accepted as a member by affiliation. I was later elected the Worshipful Master, out of line. I had absolutely nothing to do with this. Some of the old Past Masters nominated me to be Senior Warden, and I was elected. It caused some problems and hurt feelings, and I understood. However, it was not of my doing, and I went to work. I was able to get some very important affiliations, such as Bill Scheel, Jack Dillard, and others. I’ll not try to name all, because I would certainly overlook some important people. Likewise, we soon began to receive petitions from Senior DeMolays — especially those active in the Priory. Being the Secretary of the Scottish Rite certainly helped, and other began to affiliate. When I was elected WM, I went to work and invited personally hundreds of people from my church and DeMolay, as well as other Masons, and we had the largest Blue Lodge Installation I have ever witnessed for only one Lodge — about 500 people. I had worked hard in advance establishing an interesting program at each Stated Meeting, and we averaged 84 or 85 at each Stated Meeting. Of course, more visitors than members. My Steward was Andy Schatte, and he took charge of all meals and never charged the Lodge one cent for the food that year. We have good meals — most catered. During the year it became necessary to move due to the sale of the Scottish Rite and I made arrangements for us to be accepted as a tenant by Reagan Lodge No. 1037. Out meetings were well-attended, and I think well accepted. Without bragging too much, I really felt that I left the Lodge in much better shape than I found it just three years earlier.
During this time I was very, very busy at the Scottish Rite with large classes and meetings, and many activities. I was also still active and busy with Reagan Chapter of DeMolay, and I had two young boys that required more and more of my time. I determined that instead of meeting each and every week, we would only meet when necessary to do the work on candidates, and would confer numerous degrees in one evening. I remember on e where I opened Lodge at 5:00 PM for at least one Master, to be followed by several other degrees. I was that it would be impossible to get a degree team present that early, due to people being at work, etc., and I remember that when we opened the Lodge about 4:30 PM we had 56 people present. I never again worried about what time to open or close. By being busy on a few nights, with much work to do when we would eat while work is till going on in the Lodge room, men from all over town who wanted to work would always be present to help us. Likewise, by not meeting just for the sake of meeting, out regulars knew that if we had a called meeting it was important. I have always believed that most Lodges work at finding a reason to make someone come to Lodge, when by a little planning a man could have a night at home with the family. The first thing taught in the EA is to divide our time, and it often forgotten by many Lodges which seem to attempt to take up as much of a member or officers time as they possibly can. I mention all of this about fewer meeting because I thought then and still think today that it is important. However, I must admit that not many Lodges or Masters of our Lodge have followed this advice.