Why I Am A Mason – Mouth To
Ernest Borgnine, 33˚
Member of Abingdon Lodge #48 Virginia USA
In 1946, I traveled with a
friend down to a little town called Abingdon, Virginia, to see what the Barter
Theatre had to offer. It offered nothing except hard work and board. My
friend, not accepting the work they offered him, stayed one day – I stayed
five years. In that time I grew to love the town and all it offered. The
people, in particular, were simply marvelous.
Occasionally I would be
assigned to go down to the printing shop and get posters made for the upcoming
shows at the Barter Theatre. One day, in talking to the owner of the print
shop, one Elmo Vaughan, I found that he belonged to the local Masonic Lodge,
No. 48, in Abingdon. My father was also a Mason and had advanced to the
Thirty-second Degree in Scottish Rite Masonry, and I told this to Elmo. He was
pleased, and sensing his pleasure, I asked him if maybe I could join. He said
nothing, continuing his work, and a short while later, I took my posters and
The next time I saw Elmo, I
asked him again about joining the Masonic Order – again he said nothing – and
again my work took me away. We became good friends and finally one day I
passed by and again I asked if I could join the Masons. Instantly, he whipped
out an application and I hurriedly filled it out. I didn’t learn ’til later,
that in those days, you had to ask three times.
I was thrilled! Not only was
I going to be the first actor ever in Lodge No. 48, but I could just imagine
my father’s surprise when I would spring the old greetings on him! I wanted
only to surprise my Dad – and was I surprised, when after I was made an
Entered Apprentice, I found I had to remember everything that happened to me
at that event and come back and answer questions about it!
I was assigned to a dear old
man of about 92 years of age who, I felt, must have been there when the Lodge
first started. He was really of the old school – and he started me out with
the foot-to-foot, knee-to-knee and mouth-to-ear routine of teaching.
Besides doing my work for
the Barter Theatre and a little acting to boot, I was also going to that dear
Brother for my work in Masonry. I would tramp all over those lovely hills and
work on my “Whence came you’s” and one day – oh, one fine day – I stood
foot-to-foot with my Brother and answered every question perfectly! I was
ecstatic! I was overjoyed and couldn’t wait to get to Lodge to show my ability
as an Entered Apprentice.
After I quieted down, that
dear Brother said, “You’ve done fine, but aren’t you really only half
started?” I couldn’t believe him! I knew my work; what else was there? He said
“Wouldn’t it be better if you knew all the questions too?”
I couldn’t believe my ears!
All that hard work and only half done? He gently sat me down foot-to-foot,
knee-to-knee and mouth-to-ear and taught me all the questions. That didn’t
come easy, because I was almost doing the work by rote, but with careful
listening and by really applying myself, I was soon able to deliver all the
questions and answers perfectly!
The night that I stood in
front of the Lodge and was asked if I were ready to answer the questions of an
Entered Apprentice, I respectfully asked if I could do both – questions and
answers. I was granted that wish and later found that I was the second man in
my Lodge to have ever done so! I am truly proud of that, never having
demitted, I am still a member in good standing in Abingdon Lodge No. 48.
I tell this story not for
the merit it might gain me, but to tell you that learning the Entered
Apprentice obligation taught me a great lesson in acting as well: that before
I ever attempt to do a part I should work, rehearse, feel, almost live that
part to know what I am talking about!
As I’ve advanced in Masonry,
I have found we are an elite group of people who believe in God, country,
family and neighbors. We work hard to help our fellowman; and through our
charitable work, such as support for the Childhood Language Disorders Centers,
we have made it possible to help many children grow Into good American
citizens. We should always be proud of the Order we belong to. Where in all
the world do you find so many great men and Brothers who have helped the whole
wide world? But – we are hiding our light under a bushel basket!
Recently I attended a dinner
for a friend, and I ran across a Brother who identified himself in a hushed
voice. I asked why he spoke in a whisper when talking about Masonry, and
suddenly I realized he wasn’t the only one who had ever done that. I speak out
loud about Masonry to everyone! I’m proud of the fact that I belong to an
organization that made me a better American, Christian, husband and neighbor;
and all it took was a little self-determination by going foot-to-foot,
knee-to-knee, and mouth-to-ear!
Borgnine passed away on July 8, 2012 at the age of 95. He was raised in
Abingdon Lodge #48, Grand Lodge of Virginia in 1950.