If you've driven downtown Bakersfield before, you've probably seen the huge Masonic Temple on 18th and F Streets. Considered by some a secret society, the local Masons are opening their doors in hopes of drumming up new, younger members. 17's Heather Hope got an inside look of one of the world's oldest and largest fraternities.
Freemasonry is often described as an undercover organization with secret handshakes, code words and beliefs but the aging organization says it's no secret they are undergoing what some would call a facelift. The downtown architectural gem has been in Bakersfield since 1924. Local organizations can rent out space for a few hours but it is the home of the Masons.
"You'll see pictures, plaques, books, memorabilia. Different things from ages past here that are important to Bakersfield Masonic history," said Steve Worford, building manager of the Bakersfield Masonic Temple. Worford became a Mason in the seventies. The Masonic Temple is filled with meeting rooms, dining halls and a theater. "Masonry is a part of American life. If you take a look at history, you'll see that many of our forefathers were members of the Masonic fraternity."
Masonry originated centuries ago with a group of stone cutters in Europe to promote good moral character. By 1930, more than 12 percent of men in the U.S. were Masons but for decades those numbers have dwindled.
"I always wanted to be a Mason, always influenced, and intrigued with Masonry as a whole," said Mason candidate Corey Spells.
Today, this men's club is more diverse and filled with younger members but there's always been a mystique about the fraternity.
"Everybody looks it up on the internet. All these conspiracy theorists want to say that we're devil worshipers," said Mason Brandon Reeves. "It's real funny to me because I haven't seen any demons."
There's no trap doors or any spooky secrets. The goal is to continue to grow while debunking the Masonic myths.
"It's not going to nearly be as big as it was in the baby boom era, but it's a good organization with strong moral values," said Jared Clemence, Secretary with the Libertas-Security Lodge. "We're always going to be here, it's just a question of how visible and how big."
There are close to six million Masons worldwide. If you'd like to learn more about local Masons here in Bakersfield, you can visit them at 18th and F Streets or at http://libertas-security466.org