1 Preserving Our Past by Mike Moore 1877 Reunion Class As a progressive Scottish Rite Mason, I am always looking to our future, but the historian part of me always looks backwards in time back to where we have been; the individuals who brought us to where we are today and the history of what we have become. So, when I had the opportunity to do some archive work for the Denver Consistory a few years ago, I jumped at the chance to serve. I knew it would be a big project. Very little had been done with collecting, preserving and cataloguing the Class Reunion pictures and various items surrounding the Consistory s life in Colorado through the last 127 years. We had some framed pictures on display in an old entryway, but other than that, not much was to be seen or known of by the general membership of the Valley. With the push to always get in new members, anything more than two or three years old was often pushed out of sight and stored away.
2 The work that needed to be done was not hard, but time consuming and monotonous: locating class pictures, moving them to one area, separating the best ones from multiples, arranging by year, cleaning years of dust and mold, and preserving all that we could find. A number of the class pictures are beyond repair and unfit for display since years of neglect and water damage had hurt their surfaces. These were set aside and we hope in the future to repair the damage as much as we can and then have them in an area for those who follow after us for a reminder what happens when historic items are not taken care of. It was messy, dusty, dangerous (with all the broken glass and some mold that was found on the old frames and pictures), but very rewarding. Many questions arose after it was started, like: how do you take piles of pictures, organize, label, make a master set, display some and then figure out what you are missing? Today, we have over 150 Reunion Class pictures spread around our historic building for all to see. One wall shows over 10,000 new Scottish Rite brethren from the 1930 s to present. The history of the Denver Consistory is now available for all to see and be proud of. In some rooms, they look down at us much like the pictures on the walls of Harry Potter s Hogwarts School. The multiple copies are now organized and easily accessed; which we sell very reasonably to those who have lost their original one. Periodically, we hear from family members who are searching for information on their grandfathers and great-grandfathers who belonged to our group. They want to know of any information on a specific Brother/relative who had joined a number of years ago and it is always a happy caller when they are told that not only do we have some information for them that can t be found anywhere else, but there is a photograph to be found with him in it. June 1917 The collection of Reunion class pictures show the flow of American culture, fads, various wars and lifestyles that the newly made brothers had through the years. Haircuts, styles of (or lack of) facial hair, uniforms, clothing and the backgrounds in which they were taken all changed during this time, but one thing reminded the same all the men shown in these were good men seeking what the Scottish Rite had to offer. The Denver Consistory felt it was our responsibility to protect and preserve this rich history. So a course of action was set to do this. We cleaned and repaired all that were framed. The unframed class pictures were put into boxes with dividers for each of the bi-yearly classes which help to locate specific ones when needed and covered the boxes with plastic. A digital picture of each of the class pictures was taken in case something happened to the originals. We made a complete set of the class pictures we have physically, found some of what we are missing
3 through other sources and made a list what we are still missing which we are always on the look for. Our first class! Interestingly, a few of the class pictures were found wrapped in thick brown paper and bound with twine which had never been opened since they were made in the 1890s s. Some of the glass was broken on these bound ones, but the original mats and most of the decorative plaster frames were still in good shape a real treasure! During the war years, the class pictures included members in their uniforms. Some during World War II had the commissioned officers in front or center row, the non-commissioned around them, regular soldiers and then civilians in back of the seating arrangement. About 1986, we see the change from black and white to color photographs. The archive committee found a source of funds to repair and display a number of these class pictures, and with that generous donation a number of a second set of pictures went on display with new mats and glass. Although budgets and finances are tight all over, the infusion of funds was a great help in the project. Thirty-two more pictures are now on display because of the grant and we expect another 25 to be done with the funds provided. In the collection, we have not only Reunion Class pictures, but patents that date back to around 1900, one or two framed silk patents; various secretary portraits from different decades (some labeled and named, others not), a few ornate certificates of various groups like DeMolay, and other articles of historic importance for our region.
4 When newly found pictures are put out, it is always nice to see small groups of individuals standing in front of one or more pictures, pointing out how their friends have aged (but not themselves), the odd hair styles and different individuals through the years. They all walk away with a new aspect on how we got to where we are and a wider view of the organization as being much bigger than just themselves. What a powerful tool! Many hours were spent doing all this. With free labor by individuals, the work was done over a series of months. A project like this is always an ongoing one that will never end, for with each new class comes new information that needs to be added and kept safe, and in the future there will be those who will add and modify all that has been done up to now. But our history is now safe until more expert hands and future advances can carry it to the next set of motivated individuals who can use their skill and personality on it.
5 Today you can look around the temple and see many faces of men who joined our fraternity through the years. All are fancied up in their best dress and maybe looking a little overwhelmed by all they were learning. I would encourage other valleys to do the same. We need to protect our Masonic history, or it will disappear. And unlike some of the truths we seek, any history lost will not be re-found. Once a generation s history disappears, all the information about that group is greatly reduced or lost. So it behooves us to do all we can now and take advantage of those men, and their memories, who have served in our fraternity to add to what we know. Physical pictures go a long way in telling us who they were and where we have been. Why we preserve our history, once damaged is hard to replace. Why is all of this important? It keeps our history fresh and alive. Most other groups do little or nothing when it comes to Masonic history and it is up to us to do all we can to preserve it. Much of what Masons do today is to protect and keep alive the lodges and their physical buildings, but not much with photographic aspects. When we preserve and display these pictures, the memory of those brothers who has passed to that unknown country live on in a small way and are a source of encouragement and help to us and all new Scottish Rite members. We always say we have a good, rich history, how better than to see this than in the faces of those who took the degrees before us? I find it fascinating to see all those who found the degrees a source of better living, enlightenment and who were a help to the community around them, throughout all the ages.
6 I want to thank the Consistory s office for all they have done to help with this project. They gave me a small, dusty, unused area that I have labeled the closet to do the work in; offered any assistance needed and most of all gave me encouragement. Behind the scenes efforts often go unnoticed, but without their help, this would never have been done. With each new Reunion, we add to our collection. And now we have started on other projects to complement this one. The Consistory has found and organized all the Reunion programs to go with the pictures. Down the road, we hope to have an interactive roll of all the various men who came into the consistory, what class they were in and any picture or information we might have associated with them. History never ends and as long as we have new members coming in, learning, progressing and growing; there will be a need to continue this.
7 Mike Moore is a 32nd degree K.C.C. H., a 2008 Scottish Rite Fellow, Past Commander of the Colorado Council of Kadosh, a writer and historian with eight books to his credit and well over 200 articles published on the old west and Freemasonry. He is a Past Master of Englewood Lodge #166, a member of Colorado s Grand Lodge Speakers Bureau and the current Senior Grand Steward for the Grand Lodge of Colorado.