Tom Rice was a youth living in the U.S. when he first saw Freemasons. They impressed him so much that he decided someday he would be one of them.
“They were courteous, they talked to everyone with respect,” Rice recalled. “They seemed like good people, strong contributors to the community ... To see men (of) that calibre, I said ‘I’m going to join one of these days.’”
He was maybe 12 or 13 at the time. Now 30 and living in Meteghan, Rice is senior warden for Hiram Lodge #12, the Freemason group based in Hebron, Yarmouth County.
In an effort to promote awareness about Freemasons – including their charitable work and community-based activities – an open house will be held at the Hebron lodge Saturday, May 5, from noon to 4 p.m.
Members will be on hand to meet people, answer questions and give guided tours of their Hebron facility. Visitors will have a chance to learn about the significance of lodge furniture, ornaments, jewels and working tools used in private Masonic ceremonies.
Another purpose of the event, Rice said, is to try to dispel some of the myths surrounding Freemasonry, myths popularized by books and movies like The Da Vinci Code.
Rice acknowledges that Freemasons have secret rituals – and that the notion of secrecy perhaps makes Freemasonry a bit of a mystery to people – but he shakes his head at some of what Hollywood and others have come up with.
“There’s a lot of conspiracies around it,” he said. “It’s almost funny to read some of them.”
Hiram Lodge #12 has 42 members, or brothers as they’re called, ranging in age from early 20s to 70s and 80s. They have an official meeting once a month, but members get together informally more often than that, whether it’s for a weekly lunch or a lobster supper, maybe a road trip, Rice said.
“I think a lot of people, especially young people like myself, that are trying to find their way in life, it provides a way for people to have positive influences in your life,” he said.
The local lodge is a regular contributor to the Yarmouth Hospital Foundation, gives bursaries each year to two graduating Yarmouth high school students and makes donations to various local non-profits.
Rice, a New Hampshire native, says many college/university fraternities draw their rituals and rites from Freemasonry.
“You’ll find down in the States a lot of people that are still looking for that all-male fraternal bond after they leave university ... a lot of them join Freemasonry,” he said.
As for the upcoming open house, Rice hopes people will stop by, including those who perhaps drive by the Freemason building on a regular basis and who may wonder what goes on there.
“There’ll be some Shriners here as well because Shriners are Masons,” Rice said. “We’ll have information on the other concordant bodies we have. We should have light refreshments.”
Laughing, he added, “It’s going to be laid back so I probably won’t be wearing a suit.”