Recording Moments of California Masonry

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Woodworker Robert Sanborn works on the grand marshal's baton in his home workshop. Photo by Winni Wintermeyer.

7/27/2021, 10 a.m.

“They symbols I’m carving aren’t arbitrary,” explains Robert Sanborn, who this summer completed work for the 20th and final time on the hand-carved grand marshal’s baton used during the installation of officers at Annual Communication. The baton is an exact replica of a gift from the Grand Lodge of Scotland to mark the opening of the California Masonic Memorial Temple in 1958. The 27-inch-long baton, made of California black oak, includes a thistle at one end, an acorn at the other, and a four-sided mace featuring the St. Andrew’s cross, the square and compass, and the logos of both grand lodges. Near the top is a carving of a pineapple, a nod to the days when Hawaii fell under California’s Masonic jurisdiction. Sanborn (who is not a Mason), a furniture maker and art teacher in San Francisco, spends more than a month carving each instrument by hand. Having created each year’s piece since 2000, this year’s baton will be his last, as he’s officially hanging up his toolbelt.


Past Master Wellington Yee and Florencio de Guzman of Modesto No. 206 do a COVID-friendly variation on the Masonic grip before the lodge's first in-person meeting in more than a year. Photo by Winni Wintermeyer.

5/6/2021, 7 p.m.

Fifteen months after all in-person Masonic events were suspended due to COVID-19, California lodges received the all-clear to resume meeting in May with safety precautions in place. Among the first groups to gather for a stated meeting was Modesto No. 206, which hit the ground running. A week after hosting their first in-person stated meeting, the lodge held a joint first degree conferral for Arvin Yadao and Joseph Libutan. A second-degree conferral was planned for the following week. “We’ve been staying busy,” says lodge master Marcial Gullem, Jr. “As soon as the grand master sent the proclamation, we sent our plan in and two days later, started holding weekly ritual practice.” As for getting back into the swing of things, Gullem says it’s like they’d never left. “It feels good. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.”


Photo credit: James McCrae

Photo credit: James McCrae

1/14/21, 10:00 a.m.

The mood was bright at the Masonic Home in Union City, when residents received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine from Walgreens pharmacists. Resident and Master Mason Douglas Jackson from Rio Linda Lodge No. 786 was the first resident to receive the shot. Applause and laughter filled the halls as each resident and staff member was vaccinated. “You would think we just won a million dollars,” said Executive Director Soledad Martinez.

Over 500 doses were distributed to residents and staff on both Union City and Covina campuses over a two days on January 14 and 15.

Gary Charland, president and CEO of the Masonic Homes of California said, “I am so grateful this day has come for our residents and staff who have done a heroic job of keeping our residents healthy and safe. This is one step closer to protecting everyone from the virus, which has taken so many.”


An orange glow envelopes the California Masonic Memorial Temple. Photo by Winni Wintermeyer.

9/9/20, 2:05 p.m.

The Bay Area was cast in Martian tones on September 9, as smoke from numerous fires burning across Northern California and Oregon poured into the region’s high atmosphere. Ash in the sky formed a blue-light-blocking filter, throwing an eerie pall over the area that lasted most of the day. By midafternoon, the California Masonic Memorial Temple in San Francisco was engulfed in the orange glow.


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