The Beaches Lodge, as we all know, was formed in 1905 but did not move into its original temple located at Queen and Balsam until 1907.
After likely much discussion and several meetings, and with 28 Masons applying for affiliation, it is recorded that in May 1905 The Beaches Lodge inaugural meeting was actually held at the corner of Gerrard and Bolton – after agreeing to pay $15 a month rental fee to Orient Lodge.
Their first ladies night was held the next May at the Balmy Beach Canoe Clubhouse which cost $2.00 per couple and they charged “extra ladies” 75 cents.
Upon forming, in 1905 the brethren agreed to set their initiation fee at $30.00 and yearly dues were $5.00. In July a committee was formed for the laying of the cornerstone of their own temple, and by 1914 membership had reached 225.
With respect to selecting our name, The Beaches Lodge (keeping in mind local residents voted to call the area The Beach a few years ago), in 1905 “the beaches” comprised: Woodbine Beach, Kew Beach, Scarboro Beach and Balmy Beach, and so the name it seems made sense. But, at that time our lodge could have easily been called either Migpah or Omega Lodge, if several proposed amendments – following the approval of The Beaches Lodge – had passed. Other names debated included: Strathcona, Victoria, Unity, Equity, Maple Leaf, Mystic, Temple, Keystone, Suburban and Minerva Lodge.
But it was Migpah that struck me as a peculiar choice. Unsure about its origins or meaning, you’ll find it in a book called Life, Three Sermons, and Some of the Miscellaneous Writings of Rev. Jesse Greene from 1828, and contained in this phrase: “and let this covenant be such as one as was entered into by you and Bro. Lopp, when you heaped together a few pebbles on the sand beach above the mill, calling them Gabed and Migpah, after the pillars of Jacob and Laban, on the mountains of Gilead.”
As well, back in the day, Freemasons in full regalia regularly conducted cornerstone laying ceremonies, with typical pomp and ceremony, in Toronto and across the country, as well as around the world. Reported in our Grand Lodge Proceedings from 1906 many Freemasons attended the official laying of the cornerstone in Balmy Beach, including the Grand Master, MW James H Burritt, who according to ancient tradition consecrated the stone with corn, wine and oil and pronounced it “well made, truly laid, well proved, true and trusty.”
There were many citizens also in attendance on that special day who, prior to the consecration, witnessed the Grand Secretary deposit “the scroll in the cavity of the stone, together with a box containing certain newspapers, records and coins.”
Sadly, it seems the temple burnt down in the 1960s and, speaking of coins, the only image of it appears on an old Masonic Penny minted in 1908 for the companions of the Beaches Chapter who also met at the same location.
Today, as Historian for The Beaches Lodge, while trying to update our records, I’m trying to track down a photograph of the old temple, as well as locate the Honour Roll, not to mention the time capsule and its contents.
In those days, around the time of Murdoch Mysteries, less than one in ten Canadian homes had a telephone, and Canada did not have a standing army, but did have a militia of 3000 men – and nor did we have income tax. A private heading to the Boer War made $30 a month, roughly equivalent to a farm labourer, and a telegraph operator could look to make $70 a month, whereas railway conductors made just over $100.
Although a “competent” accountant was making roughly $2000 annually, the average wage across Canada was 22 cents per hour, and so the average worker made between $200 and $400 a year.
The Beaches’ temple was designed by renowned local architect Charles Wagner, who also designed several notable churches still with us today: ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST CHURCH on Gerrard, ST. JOHN’S ANGLICAN CHURCH on Woodbine and WAVERLEY ROAD BAPTIST CHURCH in The Beach, as well as many other homes and buildings in Toronto.