The History of Oso Naval Lodge
It all started in 1941. Naval Air Station Corpus Christi was nearing completion and the training of naval aviators was under way. This activity caused a large influx of construction workers, civil service employees, and military personnel. Among these newcomers to our community were several members of the ancient fraternity of Freemasonry.
During the latter part of the year, plans for the organization of a new Masonic Lodge in Corpus Christi, for the benefit of military and civilian personnel at the then new Naval Air Training Base, were begun. The first organized meeting was held in the Ground School Administration Building at the Naval Base on November 3rd 1941 with 38 Masons from more than 15 Grand Jurisdictions in attendance. Additional meetings were held during November and on Saturday, December 6th (the day before Pearl Harbor), an article appeared in the Corpus Christi newspaper stating that there was to be a meeting of Oso Naval Lodge at 7:30 PM at the Temple of Corpus Christi Lodge.
It appears that sometime between November 3rd and December 6th a name had been selected for the new Lodge. The fact that the Lodge was to be for the benefit of Masons connected with the Naval Air Station and the Air Station adjacent to the Cayo-Del-Oso evidently had something to do with choosing that name. Therefore should it be so named "Oso Naval Lodge." During the months that followed several meetings were held which resulted in the required number of Charter Members being obtained, the paperwork and many other details completed and forwarded to the Grand Lodge of Texas for consideration. Lt. Clark P Sherwood, Dr. Irving M. Dietz, Archie R. Connell. Edmund E. Moore, J.C. Thompson, and Bro. James H. Adams, District Deputy Grand Master during 1941, were among the leaders in this effort.
Their hopes came to fruition on July 18th 1942, when a Dispensation granted by the Grand Master, Dr. E. M. Wood, was delivered by Right Worshipful Rogers Kelly, who was at that time Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge.
The five principal Officers of the Lodge on the Night the Lodge was set to Work under Dispensation were:
Bro. Irving M. Dietz WM
Bro. Archie R. Connell SW
Bro. Edmund E. Moore JW
Bro. J. C. Thompson TRES.
Bro. Clark P. Sherwood SEC.
One of the first orders of business was the appointment of the first Building Committee.
On Sunday July 26th 1942, a special dedication service for the Lodge was held in the Chapel at the Naval Air Station. One hundred forty one Masons, Families, and Friends attended this service. The Sermon Subject was "The Four Cardinal Virtues of Masonry".
On the evening of December 12th, 1942, a very special meeting was held for the presentation of the Charter and to install the Officers of the lodge. This meeting was presided over by Rogers Kelly, Grand Master. Bro. Kelly presented a striking figure, presenting the Charter during a time of war in the Full Uniform of a Lieutenant of the U. S. Army. By June of 1945 there were 229 members, 76, or 33%, of whom were on active duty in the Armed Forces.
During the next four years the lodge was very busy with Degree Work and the various affairs of the Lodge. Nearly all of the Called and Stated Meetings were held on Saturdays. Some days both Called and Stated meetings were held beginning in the morning and lasting all day and far into the night. The demands of six and seven day work schedules during war time left very little free time and certainly the Officers and Members of the Lodge must have been very dedicated to give up their Saturdays for Masonry. Dozens of Military men received their Degrees during the next four years and some are still members of the Lodge.
The various Building Committees were always on the lookout for a suitable location for the lodge. In August of 1946, the Building Committee was instructed to select, prepare, and present to the Lodge various plans for a Lodge building and also to take option on a suitable building site. In September of 1946, the committee reported that arrangements had been made to purchase a suitable plot of ground. The ground was at that time under cultivation, as it was originally a cotton field! The streets had not been laid out and in order to locate the site it was necessary to obtain a map of the area and measure a certain distance from Minnesota (now Texan Trail) on one side and Alameda on the other to determine its exact location. As the city was rapidly growing in this direction this plot was considered a choice location. On December 6th 1947 at a called meeting, the selection of a set of plans was made and the Building Committee authorized to employ an architect and proceed with plans for a definite type of building and present these plans at a later date.
In April of 1948, preliminary plans were sent to the Grand Lodge where they were approved. They had previously approved of a single story building and Oso Naval Lodge became the first Ground Floor Lodge in Texas. In August of 1948, a complete set of plans and detailed drawings were presented to the Lodge and were approved. The building was constructed over the next year.
Funds for the building were, at this time, coming in very satisfactorily and a considerable amount of help in this area was received from Oso Chapter #868 Order of the Eastern Star.
Additional building material such as steel, tile, brick, lumber, etc. was procured, some being purchased with money from the Building Fund, while quite a bit was contributed by Members and Friends. In fact, most of the tile, lumber and quite a bit of the brick were donated. It was at this time some of our members became acquainted with real manual labor, which resulted in a lot of sore muscles, aching backs and blistered hands. But, it also resulted in getting the brick and tile unloaded from box-cars and placed on the ground at the building site and moving lumber from the lumber yard to the site. Some members donated the use of their trucks for moving these materials. Much of the work of constructing our current building was done by the members of the lodge.
On August 20th, 1949, the cornerstone was leveled by the Officers of the Grand Lodge. This stone was donated by Bro. Bert T. Schorlemmer, who served as Tiler of the Lodge for many years. During the next few months the building progressed somewhat slowly due to the cold, wet weather, and accompanying mud. However, it was understood that with time, patience, and perseverance they could overcome these difficulties.
On June 30th 1950 the first meeting in the new Lodge Building was held, and the Officers of the ensuing Masonic Year were installed and the Stated Meeting nights were changed from the First and Third Saturday to the First and Third Tuesday of each month.
On December 12th 1950, the Lodge Building was officially dedicated by Officers from the Grand Lodge even though the building was not entirely completed. However, the Building Fund was depleted and more money was needed to complete payment for the furniture and fixtures as well as the air-conditioning equipment. Permission of the Grand Lodge was obtained for the Lodge to borrow the sum of $6,000.00 for this purpose. This loan was repaid in full over the next two years and the 10th Anniversary of the Lodge found it free of any debt.
The Lodge has grown and prospered during its existence. The First Entered Apprentice Initiated and the First Master Mason Raised in the Lodge was Bro. Andrew Jackson Pope Jr., a recently retired Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court.
We who are privileged to use this magnificent and beautiful edifice and enjoy the comforts of these facilities owe a sincere debt of gratitude to those who were responsible for its beginning and to those who worked so hard for its completion.
We are also deeply indebted to those who, down through the years, have managed the affairs of the Lodge so well and established a reputation for Good and Square Work which we as members of this Lodge enjoy today. Our debt to them can never be paid.
Oso Naval Lodge continues to grow to this day. Thanks to the contributions of the brothers and a substantial gift given in memory of charter member Brother Roy E. Hanys, the dining area and kitchen have received a much-needed renovation, while the building as a whole has seen many positive changes in its more than sixty years of existence. One thing remains the same: We come together at every stated and called meeting for the sake of brotherhood and fellowship, just as our brothers did in 1941, and just as our brothers will in 2041 and further.
So mote it ever, ever be.
This history of Oso Naval Lodge was originally compiled by Brother St. Elmo Glaze, Past Master of our Lodge.