ILWACO — Ilwaco Freemasons have taken a trip back in time.
Occident 48 lodge members recently opened a time capsule that had been sealed in Pacific County six decades ago.
Inside they discovered photographs of the building of the Raymond lodge, a newspaper article about its dedication, and other mementos from 1956.
The only item of value — other than historical interest — was a one cent coin from 1956.
That lodge was chartered in 1908 and later merged with Gavel 48 of South Bend, taking its name but retaining its building. This February, facing dwindling membership and attendance, Gavel merged with Occident 99 in Ilwaco, whose members agreed to adopt its number, 48.
Master Ed Cox of Ocean Park and District Deputy Michael Carmel of Long Beach led work parties this spring to clean out the Raymond building prior to putting it up for sale. Sorting through dusty memorabilia, the time capsule was discovered, along with a heavy stone plaque, by two former officers of the Raymond lodge, North County residents Walt Twidwell and Jim Banas.
The plaque was a cornerstone, laid by Herbert A. Davis, Grand Master of Washington Masons, when a new building for Raymond 170, Free and Accepted Masons was begun in 1955. The building was dedicated the following year when the time capsule was sealed.
The contents of the capsule were unveiled at the monthly meeting of the lodge in September.
Cox and his second in command, Ron Robbins, also of Ocean Park, decided it would be better to partially open the metal box ahead of time — but they did not peek. “We took it into a garage and opened it a little while before the meeting,” said Robbins, the senior warden. “We were afraid of using heat to break the seal of the copper box in case we damaged what was inside, so we pried it open. But we didn’t take the stuff out.”
Because of their closer links with the Raymond lodge, three North County members, Banas, Michael Turner and Alan Nevitt were given the privilege of revealing the items at the meeting.
“Everybody thought it was pretty cool,” said Cox, who was eight when the time capsule was sealed. “We didn’t know what to expect, so we were quite surprised it was all Masonic stuff and nothing else from those times.”
The capsule contained a proclamation from the Grand Master, a booklet listing the 184 people who were members of Raymond lodge in 1956, a program from that year’s Grand Lodge meeting in Kennewick, and a copy of the Raymond Herald and Advertiser from June 14, 1956, featuring a front-page story about the dedication of the new Raymond building. Officers of Raymond 170 listed in the mementoes were master Truman Price and wardens Frank Hobart and Robert McCoy.
There were also eight black-and-white photos, most showing the building of the Raymond lodge, 80 percent of which was done by members, the accompanying newspaper article noted.
“The new edifice is more than a mere accumulation of concrete, wood, brick, stone and glass,” the article read. “It represents the dream of Raymond Masons for nearly half a century — a lodge home of their own.” Three of the charter members were alive when the building was dedicated.
Raymond resident Nevitt, 85, said he does not remember the time capsule being assembled, but he did recall working on the roof of the building. He was in his 20s, and his father, Leslie Nevitt, was secretary of the lodge; both are listed in the booklet of members’ names that was discovered inside the capsule. “It was so many years ago, I don’t remember much, but it was fun to see the stuff that had been preserved,” said Nevitt, who was master of Raymond 170 many years ago.
Turner, a Pacific County attorney, has been master of both Raymond and Gavel 48 lodges. “I was very interested to see the newspaper and the pictures showing the different stages of construction,” he said. “I knew some of those men who built that lodge. They were stalwart Masons ... but they weren’t impressed with themselves — they were just the ‘salt of the Earth,’ the type of people you would want as neighbors.”
Arrangements are being made for the contents of the time capsule to be displayed at Ilwaco and Raymond Timberland libraries. Members hope these displays will offer an opportunity for residents and visitors to glimpse into the past while learning about the positive community projects performed by Masons in Pacific County.
• For what else was happening in 1956, check out www.thepeoplehistory.com/1950s.html
• For details of Pacific County Masons news, check out www.ilwaco-masonic-lodge.com