By Bro. Tom Glidden
Abraham C. Treichler Lodge No. 682, Elizabethtown


This is a story about the impact of the Masonic Fraternity upon one individual life. It's the story of a young boy in the Depression years of the 1930's and the tragedy that shrouded his life. It's a story of the Masonic Fraternity removing that tragic shroud and literally giving him a new and infinitely better life. It's a story of "Triumph Over Tragedy" because of Masonry.

This boy's mother died when he was six years old. His father died when he was 14. But, there is more to this tragedy than becoming an orphan. When his father died, it was also the end of the household. He had no parents and no home ­ no place to live. In accordance with his father's will, a guardian was appointed. The guardian decided that heart-broken boy was to work for his room and board at a greenhouse and nursery owned by the guardian's sister.

The father's death was shortly before Christmas 1938. Soon after Christmas, the boy was digging and mixing fertilizer two or three hours after school each day, ten hours on Saturdays and six days a week in the Summer. That was a dramatic change in his lifestyle. Instead of free time to spend with friends, as all teenagers liked to do, he was busy with a shovel. Just a few weeks earlier, he was living in a 13-room house with a housekeeper; now, he was digging in the dirt and fertilizer in exchange for meals and a place to sleep in an unfinished attic. The digging and his school work left him little time to grieve, but the physical drain and the double trauma of losing his father and his home were just overwhelming. He had no hope that the future would be any better.

How do you get out of a mess like that? ... during the Great Depression of the 1930's!

With the help of the Masonic Fraternity, the boy was saved from a horrible life and a hopeless future...because his father was a Master Mason.

How could that turn his tragedy into triumph? One evening, a man from his father's Masonic lodge came to see him. The Mason had a brochure and an application for Patton Masonic School in Elizabethtown and he described all of the many features and advantages of Patton School. It all seemed just too good to be true!

The brochure described Patton's 160-acre campus two miles from the center of Elizabethtown. Two dormitories housed 60 boys, two in each room. The classrooms and shops were about 200 yards from the dorms. Compared to a high school, Patton had a longer school day and a longer recess for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. The Summer recess was the same. There was an incentive plan to increase the length of the holiday recesses through high grades and good behavior. The three-year course included 3,000 hours of training in a trade and 400 hours of mechanical drawing. But, unlike other trade schools, all of the college entrance requirements were included. All of the usual high school sports were available. The students were free to leave the campus in the evenings and on weekends. All of this with no tuition ­ no cost.

His father's lodge made all of the arrangements and when the school year began in September, the boy traded his shovel for Patton. He found that everything was even better than he had hoped. The dormitory rooms were comfortable and spacious. There was a library and a large paneled recreation room in each dormitory. The food was great; there were only 12 boys in each academic class, and about half that many in each shop class. In the various sports, about half of the games were with high schools and half with private boarding schools (prep schools) in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland. The boys liked it at Patton. An important factor was that every man on the staff was a Master Mason ­ and he cared! During those formative teenage years, their positive influence, guidance, and direction were priceless. Imagine a school where every teacher, every coach, every member of the staff was imbued with the great Masonic principles of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.

The work ethic was taught in the shops and in the dormitories. Each boy cleaned his bedroom and small part of the dorm before school every day. That usually took about 20 minutes and there was a two-hour work session on Saturday morning. The work programs, along with a demerit system, taught responsibility. The students soon learned that they were responsible for their actions and failure to comply with the rules resulted in a penalty ­ just as it does in adult life.

At Patton School, the Masonic Fraternity truly did provide him a "Triumph Over Tragedy" because he received the foundation for his future life. He had lived in the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area for 15 years before going to Patton and when he was graduated, he no longer had any family to return to there. Shortly after his graduation, Philadelphia Electric Company contacted the three trade schools that they considered to be the best in eastern Pennsylvania, one of which was Patton. They selected four seniors with machine shop training from each school. From that group of 12, they planned to hire a total of two. PECO gave each of those young men a six-hour battery of tests and a series of interviews. As an indication of the effectiveness of the training at Patton, PECO decided to hire all four of the young men from Patton instead of just hiring two as they had planned. This young man, with his 3,000 hours of machine shop training was one of the four selected. With a machinist's tool box and a full set of precision tools provided by his father's Masonic lodge, he began a machinist apprenticeship with PECO. They gave him 3,000 hours of credit towards their 8,000-hour apprenticeship.

He went into the Army in WW II. After his basic training, he went to two different Army machine shop schools and an instructor training school, spent most of the war as a machine shop instructor at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, and went to the Philippines near the end of the war. He was convinced that it was because of his Patton training that he was selected for the Army schools and the instructor job. After the war, he became an instructor at PECO and, after some 20 years at Temple University Evening School, was in charge of a staff at PECO responsible for training and testing men in 12 different trades. He had a very challenging and rewarding career. But, he knows that any success he had is because of the grace of God and the foundation laid at Patton.

That foundation resulted in many material benefits in his life; but more importantly, a provision in Mr. Patton's will also provided many spiritual benefits ­ that Bible instruction would be mandatory at the school he endowed. In a three-year course, the entire Bible was studied. To a great extent, this is why this fellow became a lay preacher for 35 years. Attendance at Sunday School also was required, which led to the most important thing in his life. An incredibly wonderful girl attended the same Sunday School. Now, they have been married for many years.

This has not been the story about some mythical student at Patton School. Sixty-two years ago, I was that 15-year old boy. And, for 62 years, I have been continually thankful that my father was a Mason. If my father had not been a Mason, how do you think I would have gotten rid of that fertilizer shovel? Try to imagine what I might have been without Patton Masonic School. I cannot find adequate words to express my gratitude to the Masonic Fraternity for its influence in my life.

trium2Fifty years after my being graduated from Patton School, we returned to Elizabethtown. In January, 1991 we moved into our new cottage in the Retirement Living Community at the Masonic Homes.

The entrance to our community is from a hilltop road at the highest point on the 1,400-acre Masonic Homes grounds. When I was a student at Patton, many times I walked to the top of that hill. There, I enjoyed looking down on the Masonic Homes. At the right (today) is the 550-bed Masonic Health Care Center; to the left is the Residential Living Community, with its beautiful granite buildings and the 400-seat Sell Chapel, all arranged around the Village Green. Looking past that, I was able to see the majestic Grand Lodge Hall with its 40-foot high ceiling in the dining hall. Below that, I would see the magnificent formal gardens.

Stranding on that hill, I not only saw the vast panorama of the Masonic Homes, but I also saw another hill that rises from the other side of the valley below. On that other hill, I saw my beloved alma mater, Patton Masonic School. Fifty years ago my future wife and I liked to go for a walk on Sunday afternoon. We especially liked to walk on that hilltop road above the Masonic Homes and look from one hill to the other. Sixty years later, we are so glad that we can now walk about 200 yards from our cottage to that same hilltop road and, again, look from one hill to the other.

Those two hills represent a lot more than just wonderful memories. The two hills are the key to understanding my very full life. On one hill, I experienced "Triumph Over Tragedy" because my father was a Mason. On the other hill, our lives will continue to be enriched because I am a Mason.

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