O.K. Houck Lodge #707

During the latter part of year 1920, in a section of the city of Memphis, Tennessee known as New South Memphis, Tennessee a small group of dedicated Masons were organizing for the purpose of establishing a new Masonic Temple; and on December 17, 1920, twenty-three of these Masons of New South Memphis met at the proposed Masonic Temple, or the “Old Schoolhouse,’ at 152 E. McKellar Avenue, to finalize the organizational planning.

O.K. Houck

A. N. Swindler, Chairman, presided over the meeting and agreed to look after signatures to petition for dispensation.  C. R. Woods was elected Secretary.  L. E. Green, Treasurer, reported that he had collected $2625.00 to date, and had paid out $2531.50 for the Old Schoolhouse building and grounds.  Committees were appointed and authorized to remodel the building at a cost not to exceed $1750.00; and to purchase all funiture and furnishings for the new Lodge, limited to $750.00.  Names for the new lodge were suggested by those present, and it was agreed by all that the new Lodge should be called "O. K. Houck Lodge.”  O. K. Houck was a prominent businessman, owner of the O. K. Houck Piano Company which at that time was the the largest dealer of music instuments in Memphis.  He was active in several Masonic organizations, being a member of DeSoto Masonic Lodge, invested a Knight Commander of the Court of Honor in the Memphis Scottish Rite and serving as Illustrious Potentate of Al Chymia Shrine in 1915.  He died in 1919.  A committee was also appointed to draw up By-Laws.  The first Monday night in each month was agreed on as the Stated Meeting Night.

This very important organizational meeting adjourned, with every man ready to go to work and make their dream of a Masonic Lodge in New South Memphis a reality!

Within a few weeks, they received Grand Lodge dispensation to function as a Masonic Lodge for a period of one year.  The first meeting of O. K. Hock Lodge U.D. F. & A. M. was held on February 7, 1921 A.D. (A.L. 5921) at the Masonic Temple in New South Memphis.  It was opened in due form on the Third Degree by A. N. Swindler, W.M., with the following present:  A. N. Swindler, W.M.,; J. A. Schultz, S.W.; H. C. Allen, J.W.; L. E. Green, Treasurer; C. R. Woods, Secretary; L. C. Freeman, S.D.; J. C. Ballew, J.D.;  O. G. Andrews, Chaplain; L. S. Parham, Tiler; E. C. Buettner, S.S.; C. S. Mitchell, J.S.; and bretheren as per the Lodge register.  The Furniture and Fixture Committee was instructed to buy shades for the windows, everyone present donating fifty cents toward the expense.  After a lengthy discussion, this committee was also instructed to cover the floor with linoleum and use carpet for runners, with a rug in the center of the room and another for the preparation room.

At this first meeting there were six petitions received and referred to committees.  The petitioners were as follows:  W. E. Canfiedl, G. B. Ayers, G. T. Collins, C. O. Bailey, M. Evensky, and Raymond Cooper. The Worshipful Master appointed the three stationed officers and all Past Masters of the Lodge to the Inquisitory Committee, to meet on Thursday night before the regular Stated Meeting and have before them every applicant for affiliation or the degrees.  The meeting was closed in due and ancient form, and on March 14, 1920, O. K. Houck Lodge U.D. F. & A. M. was called and opened in due and ancient form on the First Degree.

The Stewards were instructed to retire and introduce separately, Mr. C. O. Baileym W. E. Canfield, G. T. Collins, and Raymond Cooper.  This was done and they received the E.A. Degree in Due and Ancient Form.  These were the first degrees conferred by O. K. Houck Lodge.

A. N. Swindler

Reviewing the activities of O. K. Houck Lodge #707 during the period of 1921 to 1929, one cannot help but feel the enthusiasm and excitement as they moved into the Lodge Building, carefully planning and organizing, to begin building our great Masonic Temple in South Memphis.

With an awareness of the importance of community participation, caring, and sharing, each of which are  qualities conducive to friendship and brotherly love, the Lodge extended the use of the backroom to the Boy Scouts of South Memphis; the Order of Eastern Star was permitted to use the Lodge Building for their meetings; the Raines Chapter #185 Royal Arch Masons was also granted permission to use the Lodge as their meeting place.  The Davant Avenue Methodist Church used the lower floor of the Lodge for a month.

On June 24, 1921, at the first observation of the Festival of St. John the Baptist, Masonry’s first Patron Saint, there was a collection taken for the benefit of the Masonic Widows and Orphans Home at Nashville, Tennessee.  On Decemeber 27, 1921, the first St. John the Evangelist Festival was observed at an open meeting of the Lodge.  It was essentially and Educational meeting, with members of the School Board in attendance, encouraging community participation in school affairs.  An orchestra provided entertainment.  

On January 30, 1922, O. K. Houck Lodge was called to Order and Opened in Ample Form on the Third Degree by the Most Worshipful Grand Master, Brother Walker M. Taylor, who proceeded to Constitute, Create, and Dedicate the Lodge, and Install the Officers.

Continuing on through the years of the Twenties, it was encouraging  to those brethren, to look back and experience a warm feeling of pride at the progress they were making for O. K. Houck Lodge and for Freemasonry.

During the first Decade of the Lodge, there were 298 Degrees conferred, consisting of the following:
    103 Entered Apprentices; 98 Fellowcrafts; and 97 Master Masons.
    153 Total Membership as of December 31, 1929.

O. K. Houck Lodge #707 entered into the year 1930 with a determination to continue the growth of the Lodge.  The Great Depression of the Thirties had already started taking a toll.  Many industries were closing in every section of our country, and thousands of families were feeling the effects of a failing economy.  There would be millions of jobless people, before the depression was over.

The Lodge, fully aware of the need for compassion, adjusted the cost of Degrees, and lowered the Lodge Dues to a level that was affordable during the existing economic conditions, caused by the depression, to assure a retention of membership levels at the highest possible number.  The operating expenses were planned and held to a minimum.  Living under these extreme financial conditions, it seems a mircle that the Lodge managed to pay off the mortgage on the Lodge property.

During the Thirties, the brick wall on the north side of the Lodge developed a large crack in the northeast corner.  It was repaired by installing a large steel cable and turnbuckle, to pull the wall back together.  The boiler house, boiler, and stack were removed from the east wall of the Lodge Building.  Gravel was placed on McKellar Street, between the Lodge and the new Highway.  A sign was made for the front of the building, with the Masonic emblem and the Lodge name on it.  One brother stated that he and his partner would do all the labor and hand the sign, if the Lodge would furnish the material; another brother and the Power & Light Co. members agreed to install the lights and wiring free.  P.M. Brother Wiley O. May reported that the painting of the Lodge Building, on the outside, was completed; that the cost of material was $14.94, and there was enough paint left over to practically paint the Tiler’s House.

During the Thirties, the Lodge conferred 227 Degrees, consisting of the following:
    79 Entered Apprentices; 74 Fellowcrafts; and 74 Master Masons.
    136 Total Membership as of December 31, 1939.

With the depression fading, and the economy on the rise, it became evident in the early Forties that interest in Freemasonry was increasing.  In the year of 1930, only 17 Degrees were conferred, as compared with the 60 Degrees conferred in the year of 1940.

During 1940 and 1941, our Nation began increasing the Armed Forces in preparation for National Defense.  Many of the members began entering the different branches of the service.  One Brother, home on leave from the Army, visited the Lodge and gave a short talk on the responsibility of men, not in the service, combating Fifth-Column activity.

On December 8, 1941, the day following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Brother R. L. “Mike” Allen reported that the Under Secretary of State had requested that the Masons aid in every way possible to sustain the morale of the civilian population during the present War crisis.  On February 23., 1941, during the Degree work, the Lodge was called at ease, and a radio turned on so all the brethren present could hear an address of the President of the United States.

The Lodge was in the middle of another crisis, a world-wide crisis!  There is an unexplainable tendency for men to join the Masons during times of war.  During the course of World War II, there were approximately 700 Degrees conferred by O. K. Hock Lodge #707 from 1941 to 1945.

The Lodge continued to grow and prosper.  The activities were similar to those of years past, only more diversified.  It was suggested that a pianist be appointed and a choir organized, to furnish music for the Degree work.  A suggestion was made to have a spotlight installed over the Senior Warden’s Station in the West, to allow plenty of light to inspect the ballot box.  The first telephone was installed in the Lodge Building in 1945.  A recording system was purchased to provide music for the Degree work.  A gold Life-Membership card was presented to the Secretary, Life Membership cards were also issued to the Charter Members and to the Past Masters in 1947.  Parking space was provided on the lot around the Lodge, and a fire-escape was installed on the back of the Lodge in 1949.

During the Forties, the Lodge conferred 1742 Degrees, consisting of the following:
    627 Entered Apprentices; 562 Fellowcrafts; and 553 Master Masons.
    1742 Total Membership as of December, 31, 1949.

During the Fifties, O. K. Houck Lodge #707 continued to receive Petitions for the Degrees at an ever-increasing rate.  In April of 1952, there were 24 Petitions for the Degrees.  In fact, the increased activity at the Lodge brought complaints from the neighbors for being inconvenienced by so many Masons parking their cars along the streets during the Lodge meetings.  The Lodge authorized construction of a suitable parking lot on the Lodge property, at a cost of $2,165.00.

In 1951 the Lodge floor was renewed.  In the early Fifties, our Secretary, P.M. Wiley O. May was aware that a well-informed membership would maintain a high level of interest.  He proposed, founded, edited, printed, published, and distributed our Lodge’s newspaper, entitled “The O. K. Houck No. 707 Headliner.”  It was printed on a monthly basis, and is a source of information regarding Petitions, Degree Schedules, Special Notices, and inspiring Masonic related articles.

In 1954, a new addition was made to the Lodge Building, at the ground floor level, on the west sid of the Lodge.  It consisted of a storage room, Secretary’s office, Fellowcraft Lecture room, and an Entered Apprentice Lecture room.  Late in 1954, the Lodge Room was air-conditioned.  The water-cooling tower for the air-conditioners was mounted on top of the new addition.  In 1955 new furniture for the Lecture rooms was built and installed.

In 1954, O. K. Houck Lodge experienced the second largest gain in membership in the entire state.  During these fruitful years, the enthusiasm and dedication of the Lodge members was manifested in many ways.  One was there faithful attendance at the District Meetings, winning Attendance Banners year after year, with increasing numbers of members each year.  A review of the member-count attending, beginning in 1950, is as follows: 73; 244; 180; 286; 501; 381; 414; 498; 470, and in 1959 there were 451 of our members at the District Meeting.

The Secretary, on April 1, 1957, expressed his sincere appreciation to the Brethren of the Lodge for the honor he received by being elected Right Worshipful Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge.

During the Fifties, the Lodge conferred 2109 Degrees, consisting of the following:
    743 Entered Apprentices; 689 Fellowcrafts; and 677 Master Masons.
    1200 Total Membership as of December 31, 1959.

The Sixties were especsially meaningful to O. K. Houck Lodge #707, for in 1960, our Secretary, P.M. Brother Wiley Odell May was elected Most Worshipful Grand Master of the State of Tennessee on March 24, 1960.   Our Lodge was further honored in having four of our members appointed as Grand Lodge Officers.

When M.W.G.M. Wiley O. May made his Official Visitation to District #1 in Shelby County, 703 members of his own lodge, O. K. Houck Lodge #707, were there to honor him.  This was over 75% of his Lodge members, their families and friends, in the North Hall of Ellis Auditorium.  There were over 3000 in attendance!  Needless to say, O. K. Houck Lodge #707 won the Attendance Banner that year too.

In 1961, O. K. Houck Lodge #707 presented tehir orginal Lodge Altar to Berclair Lodge, U.D.  As M.W.G.M. made the presentation, he informed Berclair Lodge that over 1800 Obligations have been given a this Altar.

O. K. Houck Lodge, in 1961, removed the benches from the Lodge Room, and replaced them with theatre-type seats.  The bench seats removed were given to Purdy Lodge, which was being rebuilt after a fire.

Other activities of the Lodge during the Sixties are as follows:  In 1961, a soft-drink box was installed on the lower floor of the Lodge by the DeMolay Chapter; and the Eastern Star Chapter requested to install an electric water cooler on the lower floor of the Lodge.  The Lodge Room paneling was installed in 1965.  In 1967, two new Warden’s Columns were installed at the Senior Warden’s Station.  On May 19, 1969, a surprise anniversary party was held honoring our P.G.M.-Secretary, Brother Wiley O. May, for 40 years membership in the Lodge.

During the Sixties, the Lodge conferred 1089 Degrees, consisting of the following:
    410 Entered Apprentices; 346 Fellowcrafts; and 333 Master Masons.
    1251 Total Membership as of December 31, 1969.

The Seventies offered a new challenge to the brethren of O. K. Houck Lodge #707.  There was a chance that by 1980, our Lodge would have the largest membership in the state.  On February 14, 1970, M.W.G.M. Brother John Riley and R.W.J.G.W Brother Joseph C. Mobley were received at our Lodge by W.M. Brother William B. Clay.  There were approximately 150 in attendance for breakfast, and Entered Apprentice Degrees for six candidates.  

By 1970, O. K. Houck Lodge won the Attendance Banner at the District Meeting for the 20th consecutive time.  Our P.M. Brother J. T. Lewis was the District Chairman for this year, and was complimented for the excellent manner in which he conducted the District 1 meeting.  In October 1970, O. K. Houck Lodge conferred the Master Mason Degree in the Gravel Pit for Whitehaven Lodge #599.  On May 17, 1971, Brother William A. Starrett, Jr. presented our Lodge with a new Altar Bible.  In 1971, our Lodge had 35 Proficiency Card holders.  Albert Pike Lodge #714 of Little Rock, Arkansas visited our Lodge to confer the Third Degree in Arkansas Form.  There were 140 Master Masons present.  In 1972, W.M. H. E. Norris reported on a recent Masonic funeral; while in progress it was being given in sign language to four relatives of the deceased, who were deaf.  In February 1973, it was proposed that the Lodge and property be sold for $75,000.00.  The Lodge sidewalk was completed in June, 1973, at a cost of $435.00.  It was reported that Dr. James A. Shelton, a Brother of our Lodge, had donated a gift to LeBonheur Hospital for Children in the amount of $10,000.00.  A new lectern was made and donated to our Lodge by our Brother Garner W. Kimbrell.  A donation of 400 gavels was made by our Lodge to be distributed throught the State of Tennessee.  Two of our Lodge Brothers, Carl Whittington and Howard Blankenship, provided the material and labor for this project.  On December 29, 1975, at the conclusion of the Third Degree at our Lodge, P.G.M. was congratulated on his 70th birthday.  In attendance was M.W.G.M. Brother George R, Baddour, P.G.M.G Edward Rothrock, W.M. Arlie C. Taylor, and Jon and Mike May, sons (and Brothers) of our Secretary.  The general attendance was approximately 100.  Many testimonials and gifts were tendered, including an artist’s rendition of “The Inspector.”  This was the first screw-type propeller-driven riverboat of the U.S. Engineers.  Our Secretary served as a water tender on this boat.

Wiley Odell May received the Grand Cross on October 11, 1979, the highest individual honor bestowed by the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction.

During the Seventies, the Lodge conferred 1319 Degrees, consisting of:
    504 Entered Apprentices; 414 Fellowcrafts; and 401 Master Masons.
    1338 Total Membership as of December 31, 1979.

In 1980, if Brother William Albert Starrett, Jr., Worshipful Master of O. K. Houck Lodge #707, had made an activity list, in chronological order, of those events he would be involved with during his year as Master of the Lodge, it would probably have read as follows:  Stated Meetings; conferring Degrees; conducting Degree Schools; attending Grand Lodge; attending District Meetings; attending Masonic funeral services visiting the sick, attending Lodge fish fry; attending “Knife and Fork” Degrees; attend Grand Lecturer’s Visitation; attend Special Degreesl visit other Lodges; attend Lodge; and attend Lodge for Election of Officers.  Throughout his tenure in office, there were unknown and unexpected occasions, arising spontaneously, which were his constant care.  The activity list of the Master of our Lodge is considered equally the responsibility of each member of our Lodge; for together, we meet on the level, walk by the plumb, and part on the square.

In April 1980, an addition to the storage shed was built, to facilitate the Lodge fish fry operation.  Brother David L. Luman was suthorized to complete this project.  Our W.M. Brother William A. Starrett, Jr. announced that the annual Charles W. Parrott Award would be presented to Germantown Lodge #95 for their achievements in 1979.  Our Worshipful Master also announced that O. K. Houck Lodge had won the Attendance Banner for the 30th consecutive time.  On August 14, 1980 at the initiation of Mr. Gerald Roy Lardry, our visitors were Brothers Dave Black, Jr. and Joe C. Moore of Summer Avenue Lodge #729, and Brother Noble Stephens of Indianola Lodge #450, Indianola, Mississippi.  On October 6, 1980, a status report was made by Brother David L. Luman regarding the Waldrup estate.  October 18, 1980, special dispensation was issued for the Lodge to visit Biloxi, Mississippi and confer the Third Degree on our F.C. Brother Stephen Benjamin McMicking in Fellowship Lodge #630 of Biloxi, Mississippi.  Twenty of our members made the trip.  December 8, 1980, the Lodge of Sorrows was closed for 1980, and a Lodge of Sorrows was reopened for 1981.

During the Sixtieth year, 1980, our Lodge conferred 133 Degrees, consisting of the following:
    50 Entered Apprentices; 39 Fellowcrafts; and 44 Master Masons.
    1360 Total Membership as of December 31, 1980, the largest Lodge in the State of Tennessee.

O. K. Houck Lodge #707 merged with White Station Lodge #765 in 1994 to form White Station-O.K. Houck Lodge #707

© Unity Lodge #95 F. & A.M. 2014