Letters . . .

Mar28

Mark Twain visits a Masonic Lodge

I did a “Mark Twain” speech this week at the James B.Green Masonic Lodge #735 A.F. & A.M. in Raleigh, N.C.

The invitation to speak was offered by Master Mason Donald R. Steichen. I met Don a few months ago when he led the effort at starting a Toastmaster’s Club in the Bedford community of Raleigh.

He suggested my speaking to his Mason’s Lodge when I shared my interest in doing Mark Twain appearances.

Mr.Twain was a proud member of the Polar Star Lodge #79 in St.Louis, Mo. The Lodge was mostly made up of riverboat pilots, so it’s not hard to picture Twain puffing on a cigar and walking to his meeting. I had a cigar in hand as I was escorted into the Mason’s Lodge in Raleigh, but it was only a necessary prop for telling stories once told by Mark Twain himself.

My speech reflected the humor of Mr.Clemens and I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction of the Mason’s in attendance. They could not have made me feel more welcome and appreciated.

I mentioned other famous Masons, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Rudyard Kipling.

Before entering the lodge meeting room, I was told that if any cell phones were to ring during my speech, I should stop speaking while the problem was dealt with. Mark Twain often had to deal with drunks and hecklers during his speaking career, but never had to worry about a phone ringing.

Ironically, Mr.Twain was offered a chance to get in on the ground floor when the telephone was invented. He turned down the opportunity. He apparently didn’t believe there would ever be a market for them. The great writer and speaker was never considered to be a great businessman!

After my speech was finished, I presented Master Mason Don Steichen with a light blue cravat, designed by Laura Rogers, owner of Mom Said Sew. Don then asked me if I had any advice for the two college students who were present. I channeled my inner Mark Twain for the answer. I advised them to always avoid manual labor and most importantly, MARRY INTO MONEY! None of the Masons seemed to dispute that second piece of advice. I, Don McNeill that is, was honored to have been invited to speak to Don Steichen’s Masonic Lodge. Donald McNeill 3-28-14