History of Lodge St John (page 5)

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American Brethren began to arrive in ever-increasing numbers after the War, as the United States began to take over the reins of empire from the exhausted European powers. It would appear that initially they either were not made truly comfortable on their visits to Lodge St. John or they found greater harmony in their own company, as they set up a Square and Compass Club in Bangkok in 1959. By 1970 the membership of this Club numbered about 60. These American Brethren were the motive force behind the establishment of the Bangkok Oasis Shrine Club, with almost annual visits by the Islam Shriners from California. As Shrine is devoted to charitable works for handicapped children, it soon attracted many of the Brethren of Lodge St. John, who not only contributed wholeheartedly to supporting charitable works instigated by the Club, but also enjoyed letting down their “stiff upper lip” and participating in the myriad zany activities that typify Shriners.

As the United States got more and more involved in the Vietnam War the number of US military personnel and civilian support staff grew exponentially. The social barriers between the Brethren of Lodge St. John and their American Brethren were gradually and mutually successfully broken down, and by the early Seventies the Lodge had many American Brethren. Once again, however, the influence of war was going to affect Freemasonry in Bangkok. By 1973 the writing was on the wall for American involvement in Vietnam and major reductions of troops and support personnel began to take place from the US bases in Thailand. By mid-1974 these withdrawals were almost complete, and after the fall of Vietnam in 1975 the Thai government requested the closure of remaining US installations in Thailand, which was completed by mid-1976. Lodge St. John saw its numbers decrease, but some US military personnel who were Brethren of the Lodge decided to take their retirement in Bangkok, so some continuity was maintained. Bangkok Oasis Shrine Club managed to keep the Club and its good works in existence until the early Nineties, but as older members died out and the pace of business and professional life in the modern and increasingly “globalized” world became much more hectic, there was regrettably insufficient support to keep it going. This was not only Freemasonry’s loss; it was a much sadder loss to the generations of handicapped Thai children to follow, as by the early nineties the Shriners, almost exclusively Lodge St. John Brethren by then, had assisted over 300 crippled children with prosthetic operations and devices.

During the late Seventies and Eighties Lodge St. John had continued strictly to maintain the standards that its “old and bold” had set for it, but gradually and sadly those wonderful Masons began to decrease in numbers by the natural laws of attrition. New keen Masons stepped into the shoes of their departed mentors and are now, of course, the “old and bold” themselves and beginning to be diminished by those same natural laws. In 2004 the Lodge under the leadership of its dynamic Master, Bro. Vuthi Boonnikornvoravith, who – most fortunately – had been Lodge Treasurer for some years before, succeeded in raising the funds and opening its first purpose-built home, the Lodge St. John Masonic Hall. Since then there has been no shortage of Candidates, but a new problem has been identified. The tenure of employment of upwardly mobile young men nowadays is greatly different than in former years. No sooner does a Mason get Raised than it seems his employer posts him elsewhere in the world, or the world economy collapses and the young Mason is out of work and is forced to seek his livelihood elsewhere. Few young Thai Brethren have come forward in recent years and few potential young Thai Masons are on the visible horizon.

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