History of Vista Lodge

Please thank Jerry Wohlfarth, PM and the 50th anniversary committee for providing this information.

Vista Masonic Club was formed in January 1929 for the purpose of bringing together the Masons residing in Vista, and eventually forming a Masonic Lodge. Twenty-three Master Masons formed the original organization.
In 1931 the members of the Club very seriously considered the formation of a Masonic Lodge in Vista. The matter was taken up with Most Worshipful John Stewart Ross, Grand Master of Masons in California. Brother Ross stated that owing to the general depression, and the fact that so many Lodges were already in North San Diego County, he would not grant a dispensation.
. The Club also sponsored the laying of Public School Cornerstones, and became very active in civic affairs in accordance with Masonic principles.
On 9 August 1944 at 8 PM, a special meeting of the Vista Masonic Club was held at the Womans Club of Vista. The purpose was to discuss the matter of organizing a Masonic Lodge in Vista. President A. D. Hitchcock, appointed a committee to endeavor to obtain a dispensation from the Grand Lodge of California for a Masonic Lodge in Vista. The Committee was comprised of Brothers Edward B. Stilgebouer PM, Sherman H. Freeman PM, and Wright C. Bissinger PM.
The Vista Masonic Club met again on 15 September 1944 at the American Legion Hall. This meeting also had Brother George A. Otis of Oceanside, the Inspector of the 112th Masonic District in attendence. In order to get Grand Lodge approval for a Masonic Lodge, Inspector Otis had to be pursuaded of its worthiness. He gave scant encouragement, but promised to present the matter to the forthcoming Grand Lodge session; thereafter he reported little encouragement from the Grand Lodge. Chairman Brother Edward B. Stilgebouer subsequently appealed to Most Worshipful Brother Claude H. Morrison, Junior Past Grand Master who said: Keep up the struggle and I’ll give my sanction.

The Vista Masonic Club continued to meet bi-weekly in Brother StilgebouerÆs garage using apple boxes for stations. Inspector Otis frequently attended the meetings. Gradually his confidence was won, and after a few months, he submitted his favorable report for the formation of Vista Lodge.
At the 15 December 1944 meeting of the Club, held in the new hall in the La Granada Building, much progress was reported by the committee. The committee told of the progress being made; the Hall being leased, the remodeling was progressing nicely under the direction of the Junior Deacon Alex McDougall, and that the officers were doing excellent work now having an adequate place to practice. Also, that consent for the proposed new Lodge from the three adjacent Lodges (Fallbrook Lodge No. 317, Consuelo Lodge No 325, and Oceanside Lodge No. 381) had been requested and readily given.
The last meeting of the Vista Masonic Club was held on Monday 5, March 1945 for the purpose of terminating affairs in preparation for the Institution of Vista Lodge on 6 March 1945. The Minutes of that meeting , by Brother Emil J. Kleinsmith, Secretary/Treasurer

A New Era

On 6 March 1945, after what must have been a very hectic day of preparation, Vista Lodge UD was instituted. (Note: Masonic Lodges first receive approval by the Grand Master to operate Under Dispensation pending approval by Grand Lodge at the next Annual Communication. Upon approval, a sequential Lodge number and Charter are issued).
The minutes of the Institution Proceedings

The Work Begins

As shown in the foregoing Minutes of the Lodge Institution, written by E. J. Kleinsmith, Secretary, there were 33 applications for degrees and 13 applications for affiliation were received. All 46 applicants were subsequently elected to membership. However, think for a minute of the effort it took for this fledgling Lodge (UD) to have accomplished all this. As we know, the Master must assign three Brothers to investigate each applicant. This means that 138 different Brothers were tasked (unless they doubled and tripled up). The Lodge didn’t even have 138 members! (I wonder how they did it?) But more importantly, the coaches must have been extremely busy. From Lodge history, we find that their were officially only 5 coaches assigned, and I feel it most appropriate to name and applaud them for their dedication to Vista Lodge and to our beloved Fraternity. They were: Head Candidate Coach Brother Alex McDougall, and his team consisting of Brothers Louis Castellani, Lee Ellis, Arden W. Godwin, and Gilbert Hartridge. (In recent discussions with Brother Charles A. Bohrer, Jr., I learned that Worshipful Master Ed Stilgebouer also assisted as a Candidates Coach.) The first Vista Lodge UD Candidate to receive his Golden Veterans Award and 50 year Pin from Vista Lodge No. 687 was Brother Charles A. Bohrer, Jr. This presentation was made on 6 June 1995


At the 1 May 1945 Stated Meeting, the formation of the Star of Vista, Order of the Eastern Star was announced. The Institution of Star of Vista No. 556 was on 14 September 1945.


On 29 October 1945, Vista Lodge No. 687 held a program at the Vista High School (now Lincoln Middle School at Escondido and Eucalyptus Ave.), wherein the Charter dated 14 October 1945, was officially presented to Worshipful Master Edward B. Stilgebouer, PM by Past Grand Master Claude H. Morrison. The Junior Past Grand Master Claude H. Morrison made the presentation due to the untimely death of Grand Master Laurence C. Kelly on 24 October 1945. According to a Vista Press article covering the event, the ceremonies which were open to the public, were attended by about 350 Masons, their families and friends. VISTA LODGE NO. 687 CHARTER MEMBERS


Then on 3 April 1947, the Acacia White Shrine was instituted with 400 members on its rolls. Meeting nights were announced for two Mondays a month.


Following nearly a year of effort, on 10 May 1947, the Palomar Chapter, Order of DeMolay was formally instituted with a public installation of Officers at the Vista High School auditorium. The ceremony was well attended by mothers and fathers, and friends, and Masons from Oceanside, Fallbrook, Vista, and San Diego. Brother Frank Goetting was installed as the Chapter Dad. Meeting nights were announced as the first and third Mondays of each month.

During 1947, Brother Edward Stilgebouer, PM continued exercising those Masonic Tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth when he rendered a Masonic service which should be noted and remembered. A Lodge Brother suddenly passed away leaving a widow and four small children in a house with a leaky roof, no bath or toilet and electrical connections practically nil. He was instrumental in having the house remodeled inside and out, carpeting the floors, repairing the roof and installing adequate electrical connections, all without expense to the Lodge – $1,500 in cash and labor being donated to this cause.


On 12 September 1948, our Vista Masonic Family added a new member with the Institution of a Job’s Daughters Bethel. This program was held at the Vista High School Auditorium.


On 14 December 1948, Vista Lodge held its first open Installation of Officers. Brother Alex McDougall was installed as Worshipful Master.

True friendship and brotherly love have always prevailed in Vista Lodge . An example of this is the story about Brother Alvin Lang, PM (Master in 1961), whose business was raising chickens and selling eggs on Mason Road in Vista. During January 1959, a gusty windstorm arose and blew away chickens, cages and eggs. In less than an hour, the business was wiped out. Vista Lodge brethren were again equal to the task. They brought tools, lumber and other needed materials, and in short order, cages, accessory buildings and equipment were restored and Brother Al Lang was back in business.


On 9 November 1974, the Golden Star Assembly No. 257, International Order of the Rainbow for Girls received its Charter. Ceremonies were conducted in the Vista Masonic Center. The Charter Mother Adviser was Mrs. Betty Zwierstra. The Charter Worthy Advisor was Julie Mcbride, daughter of Brother Paul E. McBride who would go on to serve Vista Lodge as Master in 1977. The Worshipful Master of Vista Lodge, and the scheduled Master of Ceremonies for the evening, was Brother Robert L. Wade. He was unable to attend the festivities as he was occupied with the birth of his son Kevin.

On 5 October 1975, the Lodge commemorated the 30th Anniversary of the Lodge with a Breakfast held in the Temple Dining Room. All proceeds went to the Parking Lot Paving and Temple Maintenance Fund.

During 9 February 1985, Vista Lodge celebrated its 40th Anniversary. Also, the Worshipful Master Woodrow E. Brewer PM complimented several Brothers for their contributions to Vista Lodge during the year: They were Brothers Bob Davis, Bill Gaines, Rudy Hess, T. A. Kanester, Dick Mathis, Frank Peavey, Abe Rollband, Art Smith, Wayne McCullar, Jim Vickery, Hugh Warnick, Wade Wilson, and Jerrold A. Wohlfarth.

On 14 December 1985, Vista Lodge started a new tradition by participating in the Annual Vista Christmas Parade. Following dispensation from the Grand Master, the Officers wore their Jewels and Aprons and the other members were in white aprons. Brother Sammy Travis loaned us two of his flat bed trucks which were decorated as floats, and Brother Harvey Kirk provided his jeep for Worshipful Master Jerrold A. Wohlfarth to ride in. Vista Lodge participation in the Vista Christmas Parade continues.

In May 1988, Brother Wade C. Wilson, PM retired as Secretary of Vista Lodge, and was proclaimed Secretary Emeritus of Vista Lodge. Brother Thomas E. Grimes, PM was appointed as his replacement for the remainder of the year, and was subsequently elected to the position at the annual election in December 1988.

On 4 June 1995, Brother Elmer J. Reppin, Vista Lodges oldest member passed to that celestial Lodge above. Brother Elmer was very active in Vista Lodge and Eastern Star Activities until his passing. He was 97 years old.
On Tuesday, 6 June 1995, Brother Charles Bohrer, one of the original members who submitted his petition for initiation on 6 March 1945, received his Golden Veterans Award and accompanying 50 year pin during appropriate ceremonies at the Lodge. Brother Charlie became the first of the original members of Vista Lodge to have attained this point in his Masonic career

For More about our History – Click here: Vista Lodge #687


Each year the Grand Master has the opportunity to appoint about 12 brethren to be Grand Lodge Officers for his year of service. These Brothers have the opportunity to travel around the State and participate in Grand Lodge ceremonial functions. Given the very limited number of appointments that can be made, it is truly an honor for each of these Brothers to be chosen. The following Brethren have served as Grand Lodge Officers in the positions for the years shown.
Andrew H. Chung, PM Grand Sword Bearer 1967-68 Melvin F. Schuster, PM Grand Orator 1977-78 George C. Schrum, PM Grand Sword Bearer 1980-81 Jerrold A. Wohlfarth, PM Junior Grand Deacon 1995-96