Sunset Lodge starts its history as Ocean Park Lodge #369, F & A M. Ocean Park would divide to create Triangle Lodge. As membership in Freemasonry dwindled during the last part of the 20th Century, many lodges consolidated to combine their membership. Palms Lodge and Adams Lodge would combine to form Palms-Adams, which would later consolidate with Ocean Park Lodge. Finally, Triangle Lodge would also consolidate with Ocean Park Lodge to form what is now Sunset Lodge.
In 1903 a prominent group of civic leaders and businessmen determined that a Masonic Lodge was needed in the then City of Ocean Park, California (which is now a part of the Venice Beach and the city of Santa Monica.) They petitioned the Grand Lodge of California for the right to form a committee to look into the feasibility of such an undertaking. The men involved were no lightweights. Abbot Kinney, who founded the City of Venice, California (now a part of the City of Los Angeles) along with the owner of Adohr Farms, (one of the west coasts largest dairies of its day) and other prominent business and civic leaders. These men set about the task of organizing and forming a lodge.
In a short time, they had completed with the necessary requirements and were granted a dispensation. Ocean Park Lodge U.D. (Under Dispensation) was founded. At the 1905 Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge, the charter was issued. It was now official, Ocean Park became the 369th Lodge chartered under the Grand Jurisdiction of California.
In case of a raid …
The original Ocean Park Masonic Temple was located on Marine Street in the city of Ocean Park. However, not all of the building was in Ocean Park. In those days city boundaries were not determined as they are today. No consideration was given to street layouts. Boundary lines ran were they ran. In this case, the bulk of the building was located at the southernmost end of the city of Ocean Park with the front door on Marine Street. It backed onto an alley. The boundary between the cities of Venice and Ocean Park ran north through the alley and transected the building. About eighty-five percent of the building was in the city of Ocean Park. The remainder was in the city of Venice.
Lodges are symbolically laid out from “West” to “East”, with the Master stationed in the symbolically “East” end of the room. Geographically, the Lodge room ran North and South. The chair in the lodge where the Master sat, referred to as the “East”, was geographically situated in the South end of the room which was in the City of Venice. A popular joke at the time was, “If the joint was ever raided” the membership could “make their escape to the East” (actually the Southern end of the room). They would thereby be within the city of Venice and safely outside the jurisdiction of the Ocean Park authorities.
The Formation of Triangle Lodge
The Lodge flourished and it’s membership grew. In the early 1920’s a disagreement developed between some of the members. The particulars of the dispute have been lost in antiquity. However, as a result of the dispute, a group of members broke away from Ocean Park Lodge and formed Triangle Lodge which met in the City of Venice. (Ironically, Venice California was founded by Abbot Kinney, one of the founders and Charter Members of Ocean Park Lodge.)
The differences between the two factions dissolved and in a short time they were holding joint activities and attended the functions and programs put on by the “rival” Lodge.
Peaches, the Policy, and the Legend
During the Great Depression, the members of the Lodge felt the hard economic times as did the rest of the nation. It is the custom at Lodge meetings to serve refreshments. One member owned a peach orchard and, in the spirit of helping his brothers, he brought a crate of peaches to every meeting so that no expense would be incurred either by the Lodge or its members. At the end of the depression, there was an unwritten law that peaches would never again be served at Lodge.
This “law” lasted until 1971. The newly installed Junior Warden, ignorant of this “policy”, innocently served peaches at the first meeting of his term in office. He became the target of a great deal of ribbing by the “old guard” survivors of the depression era peach overload. He rose to the challenge and served some form of peaches (cobbler, pie, ice cream, sherbet, parfait, nectar, ham glaze, etc.) at every single meeting held that year. A new “tradition” was forged and peaches became a principal fare henceforth, albeit not every night.
Legend has it that the British Monarchy will survive so long as there are ravens in the Tower of London. Therefore ravens are always kept in the Tower of London. A local legend proclaimed that Ocean Park Lodge would survive so long as there were peaches in their Temple. Therefore at least one symbolic can of peaches was always stored in the kitchen cupboard. As a part of the process of consolidating with other lodges, the name of Ocean Park Lodge was changed to Sunset Lodge, and on the day the new Lodge name became official it was discovered that the symbolic can of peaches had mysteriously vanished.
Sunset Lodge Today
In 2005, Sunset Lodge celebrated our Centennial, and a turning point as our lodge moved toward the future.
Freemasonry flourished in the 1940’s and 50’s, as men returning from the war in Europe and Asia sought means to keep alive the camaraderie they had shared in battle. These men also had a sense of duty to country and community, and found Freemasonry, with its emphasis on service and ritual, to be a welcome addition to their lives. The membership in Freemasonry, throughout the country, grew in numbers that were without historical precedent.
The 1960’s and 70’s, the ear of the Hippies and the Vietnam War produced a “counter culture movement”, and Freemasonry became viewed as a part of the establishment. For a generation, men did not seek to join our Fraternity. Once the WWII generation began passing away from our ranks, the bubble burst and many lodges fell upon hard times. Lodges combined their membership through consolidation just to survive.
By the turn of the Millennium, Sunset Lodge was in danger of yet further consolidation, or of disappearing, due to declining membership. There were barely sufficient active members to carry on the ritual work of the Lodge.
In 2003, Sunset Lodge took on the task of reinventing itself. While we maintained many of the traditions that we had upheld for a century, we also dedicated ourselves to developing new programs that would revitalize our lodge. A stronger emphasis was placed on Masonic Education, which has culminated in the organization of a Masonic Philosophical and General Interest Study Society named Solvitur Ambulando, which is a co-creation of Sunset Lodge and Ocean Park Chapter Order of the Eastern Star.
We also have sought to revitalize our relationship with the community, buy hosting more events open to the general public. These include open houses, public lectures, and various events such as model railway shows and art exhibits. Many of these programs are still evolving over time, much to the excitement of our membership.
The result of these efforts has made a tremendous impact on our lodge. Sunset Lodge is now growing in membership every year. Our corps of Officers is now predominately under 45 years of age, and there is competition just to get in line to advance to the Master’s chair. 2007 was one of the most successful in terms of new membership in our recent history, and 2008 is on track to far surpass that record. Many of the programs we developed, and continue to develop at Sunset Lodge, have been imitated by other lodges who are seeking to revitalize their membership. Sunset Lodge has truly become a lodge built on a strong tradition with a vibrant vision for our future.