Situated on the end of Hood Canal, just south of Belfair on State Highway 3, we overlook Hood Canal toward the Olympic Mountains. We have a large outdoor Beer Garden, a covered entryway and breezeway. There is RV parking for up to 7 days (longer requires approval of the Trustees) in the lower lot with 30 Amp electrical and water (RV parking is free for Aerie approved events). RV dump is also available. There is also space for tent camping. Come visit us and see what we have to offer.
How the North Mason Eagles Started Remember when ...
This is a continuous report the monthly "Remember When... " column in the newsletter by our own charter Member, PMP Barb Watts. Many thanks Barb!!!
So many times while we are at the Eagles, we find ourselves reflecting back on how this Aerie all started. Those who were there get a chuckle at some of the crazy things we did and those that were not there seem to show interest and enjoy hearing how it all began. For this reason, we decided to add an occasional column in our newsletter - a touch of history for our newer members and a walk down memory lane for our earlier brothers and sisters, so here we go …………
After we collected the required number of members to sign up, we were ready to get our charter. Gene McGinnis sponsored our Aerie and Susie Krough guided our Auxiliary all the way. Since we had no place to meet, we made arrangements with the fire hall to hold our first meetings there. There were prices to pay for everything and Gene McGinnis paid the price for us ….. In attending our 3rd meeting rather than spending his anniversary with his lovely bride. She ended up with a beautiful $ 2500.00 anniversary ring!
Somehow it all works out!!!!
We were all initiated together at the Bremerton Eagles and then we were ready to fly, but we had no nest, so we rented the Grange Hall on the Victor Cut-off Road two evenings a month. It had 2 rooms so the Aerie got the big room once a month and the Auxiliary got it on the other Tuesday. That way we each had enough room to set up the stations and initiate new members in the big room. You think it’s hard to be quiet in our bar when meetings are going on…..try holding 2 meetings simultaneously in 2 adjoining rooms that didn’t even have a full wall between them! The 2 Outside Guards had it made. They sat in the doorway together and could hear every thing from both sides! Then after our meetings, we’d have a drink together from our traveling bar (several kinds of alcohol stored in a box, several kind of mixers and cold beer housed in a cooler that traveled in the back of an officer’s van). We had all pooled some money to buy the bottles and beer and then we bought it again when we wanted a drink….therefore, we found a way to make a little money, and we were on our way. Now every road has some chuck holes and our first big one was when we lost our bar. It was stolen out of the van!. We had now suffered our first big loss, but that didn’t stop us. At least we still had our drink sale money to replenish our losses. Believe me, with no hall of your own, it’s really hard to make money because every dime brought in had to be made during 2 Tuesdays a month. You can only do so many raffles and sell so many drinks in 4 hours a month, but that’s exactly how it all started.
We met at the Victor Grange Hall for two years, renting every other Tuesday for meetings and additional days for special occasions like Mother and Father’s Day Breakfast, Friday and Saturday evenings for holiday parties and dances. The Valentine Sweetheart Dance and our Halloween party always seemed to be our best turn outs. The very first dance we had was a real big deal - we even had a band! It was the night that we vowed to end every dance with the band playing “God Bless America”. It was a great way to end the party. Then we would all help clean up and go home.
Every gathering had raffles to raise money and finger foods to eat. Most of us would automatically bring a dish and we would put a donation can on the table so those who didn’t bring anything could contribute something to the cause - thus started our food (kitchen) fund for the auxiliary. Eventually we had enough money to have an actual dinner that we could pay for rather than have it donated. We would charge a reasonable price so that we could replenish and increase our funds. We found some of our best raffles were for “Eagles Milk”. Seems that every one was willing to take a chance on a fifth of alcohol. (When we grew, it was for a half gallon). It was a quick and easy raffle and made some fast money. Unfortunately, because we didn’t have our own home with the necessary permits, we were very limited to the number of raffles we were allowed. It seemed there were always constraints to fund raising so it was a long, slow process to get ahead.
No matter how long it took, we never gave up. There were approximately 10 - 15 couples that dedicated nearly all their spare time to their new club - making decorations for special events, setting up and decorating the hall for the occasion, coming up with new and fun ideas for fund raisers, holding special meetings in their homes rather than having to rent the hall for an additional night. They were committed to making it work - always driven by the goal of being able to rent our own permanent home so we could be open and run like a real F.O.E. Each event brought us closer to our goal and the dances were the most profitable. Although we had to pay for a band, the participation was huge and a lot of fun, and every one contributed willingly to make it a huge success.
Another tradition we started at the dances was putting a lit candle on the floor and forming a circle around it, while the band would play we would take turns dancing inside the circle and insisted that every one participated, stomping their feet to the beat of the music. I’m not sure the Grange was ready for an active bunch like us, since it was all that stomping and dancing that probably contributed to the demise of the hall! During the last dance we had there, the floor was spongier than usual and there were creeks that hadn’t heard before. All of a sudden some one yelled “ the floor is falling in!” and everyone went running toward the band. Then it became obvious that’s the side that was about to collapse so we all went running the other way! Needless to say, that was the end of our party - and of our temporary home. Although it was momentarily fixable, we never felt quite as safe and after almost 2 years, it was time to find a more permanent nest. We were about to jump into the next phase of our lives as Eagles. We certainly weren’t wealthy, but we now had working funds. We weren’t all going to agree, but majority rules, and the search was on to find a permanent No. Mason Eagles. We were now 2 years 3 months old and the fun was about to begin!!
As I recall, we left off at 2 years old and fast approaching homelessness, since the Grange Hall was getting old, weak and tired as well as unsafe. Up until now we had been raising and saving money with plans of someday having our own home. We raffled new and/or hand built items at our meetings, we held auctions at our picnics, and one of our bigger fund raisers was our annual rummage sale. The Woodshed Tavern was kind enough to allow us to hold this event in their parking lot, use their sign and advertise as we saw fit. So we all (men & women) dressed in clothing from the sale - men in dresses, all in hats and carrying purses, wearing jewelry of all kinds. We waved the cars in. We definitely got the attention of the public. End result was the Woodshed got a lot of extra business and we made a lot of money! Some people gave us donations simply for our efforts or maybe so we’d leave them alone. Anyway, it worked. Now we were ready to invest our savings!
The hunt was on. There was a limited number of available places that would fill our needs. We had to have at least 2 large rooms - one for the bar and the social room and the other large enough to hold our meetings and holiday events. (Of course, a bathroom is a must). A kitchen would be nice, but we didn’t expect the moon! Obviously, we had an extremely limited budget. But what we lacked in dollars & cents, we made up for in imagination, ingenuity and commitment. This wasn’t going to be easy - for every one possibility, there were five reasons why it would not work. Finally, someone checked into the old brush shed. It was no longer in use so we approached the owners as to it’s availability. Once we knew it was possible, we set a date for all officers to meet there and discuss the pros and cons.
Let me tell you, this was no palace! The biggest room had been used to sort the brush and it was filthy - you couldn’t have seen out the windows! But it was large enough to hold meetings. The other room was interesting and colorful. The floor was covered with carpet samples of all sizes and colors and who knows if they’d ever been vacuumed, but this room had plumbing and could house a bar. Now the potty also left a lot to be desired since there was only one and it was all of 4’ x 5’ at best. It had a sink and toilet and one could take care of all business without moving! Discussions were long and intense and finally it was time for a vote. Every member (both Aerie & Auxiliary) had a vote and it was almost unanimous - no matter how much work it would take, we would soon be moving into our first Eagles Nest! It was a scary decision since we had never had a steady income and now we would have rent to pay monthly, but we were all committed to socializing at our club and supporting the cause.
“Break out your shop vacs, ladders, paint brushes and super energy because we have work to do!” It was Oct 12, 1991 and with any luck, we can hold a Halloween Party at the end of the month. The entire building needed paint so that was first. It’s amazing how fast it can happen when 16 people have a paint brush in hand. Windows were cleaned, curtains were made, and someone even donated a small bar. Four people could sit at our bar at one time!
We were on our way. Those carpet samples had to go so now both rooms had plywood (not hardwood) floors. One of our members managed a shopping center and when a store closed, every thing had to go - including the carpet, so several of us went to Tacoma to salvage carpeting large enough to cover our floors all in one color! Labor to install it was also donated so by this time, we had made great strides at opening our doors for very little money. Hearing of our endeavors, many other Eagles were very generous with tables and chairs, countertops, etc. to help us get started, and our members kept their ears open for items we needed to complete our mission. When a restaurant or bar closed, we were there, jolly - on - the - spot, to tear out any thing they were willing to give us. That’s how we were able to increase the size of our bar and get comfortable booths to sit on. And our trustees’ duties increased greatly - We had never had our own place so there were permits to acquire, paperwork to complete and records to keep. Although there were no wages paid, we were now a business and had just stepped into a whole new world!
October 1991 was coming to an end, and not to our surprise, we were ready to hold our very first Halloween party at our own home - No. Mason Eagles (Nest)! We were all so excited and proud and generous - We had more Halloween decorations than we had wall space! It was clean and spooky and put you in the mood to party. We had music and we all took turns dancing on our little 10’ x 10’ dance floor. We could stomp our feet and the floor was solid. We all brought finger foods so we set it up in the entry way since it had a long shelving unit and we put a microwave on it so we even had a means of warming things up. Life was good, except for one small glitch - we never had housed that many people in the building at one time and most of us were indulging in a drink or two. That means what goes in, must come out, and that tiny little bathroom had a workout beyond expectation. Most of the night there was a line and by the evening’s end, we all knew how to do the P-P-2 step. It wasn’t long before the men figured out the true meaning of Mother Nature’s calling.
Now that was the fun side of getting started, but it wasn’t all fun. We now had a business that required a trustee to be on duty at all times. It also meant that we had to have someone there to work the bar. We certainly knew we couldn’t afford to pay any help, so we were 100% dependent on our members to generously donate their time. A lot of us were still working which only made the task of keeping the bar going much more difficult. Now when we rented the brush shed, it included the two blue houses that were on the property. (They are yellow now.) We immediately decided to rent the biggest house out and that would help pay our rent. One of our auxiliary members was looking for a place. She was on Social Security so she had the time and was very willing to volunteer at the bar. We all felt she was God sent since she could fill in those daytime hours that were void of volunteers. She became instrumental in setting up a small, but very workable little bar. The evenings and weekends were easier to fill in by all of us.
The small house on the property was right next to the brush shed and it was extremely small, with the living room and kitchen being open and a small narrow bedroom. We decided the bedroom would be the secretary’s office and the “big” room would become the Auxiliary kitchen so we could do weekend breakfasts and occasional dinners right there. It may have been primitive, but we thought we had it all.
That first year at the “brush shed” was so busy getting things set up that it flew by and everyone was so involved. We felt a true ownership. Everything was a first - our first Christmas, first New Year, first Easter etc. We still had to rent the hall occasionally for things like the District Meeting and State President’s visits since a lot of visitors are guaranteed and we were definitely limited for space. The Aerie continued all through the year to make more and more improvements on the building, making it more comfortable for it’s members. It grew to seat up to 8 people and we had a corner table unit that held 5 - 6 people. There were also two small tables, each with two benches so at one time, we could actually seat 22 people in the bar alone. The parking was limited, but plenty good for us on a day to day basis.
We developed a good relationship with Canal Auto so when we had evening events, they allowed us to use their parking lot.
At this point and for the first two years, we were extremely comfortable, but about the time you settle in to a comfort zone, the unexpected happens - the dreaded rent increase!
We were getting by fine and the Auxiliary was actively raising money for our charities. We had set up a Scholarship fund, a Needy Family savings, the President’s Charity fund, as well as the social and general funds. As we became aware of community needs (fire department, food bank, etc) we held special events to address the needs. The Aerie did a great job in managing a budget that kept all our bills paid and still put a little money away for the unexpected, but a big increase in monthly rent created a definite hardship. Since we didn’t have a gambling license, the money was coming from the bar alone. We all patronized the club religiously, but there’s only so much free time and so much one can drink. At this point and after being notified of another upcoming rent increase, North Mason Eagles suffered a major depression and things looked dim!
In 1992, we had a liquor license and were running a regular bar with volunteers only. The next 3 years were a constant struggle. Don’t get me wrong - we still had some fun times. We held our holiday events and parties. We used Theller Center for our Easter breakfast and egg hunts, Victor Hall for our State President’s visits and anniversary parties, and started the “six quarter” breakfast (cooking out of the small blue house). But over all, rent was high, we were broke, and it seemed no matter what we did, it was never enough. Spirits were low, participation declined, Eagles were irritable, and smiles were few. By 1995, we were suffering our darkest moments. Would we be able to keep our charter?
We need some thing to turn things around - we need some new blood, some new ideas. (Doesn’t this sound familiar?) And we were given just that. One of our Aerie members who had devoted most of his time to the F.O.A. (commonly known as The Asshole Club) decided to dedicate his efforts to the F.O.E. and learn more about this Fraternal Order. Shortly thereafter, another eagle couple were moving to Belfair, so it made sense for them to transfer to us. They enjoyed our small, intimate club, but felt the mood and wanted to help. Although these two Aerie members had never met before, they struck up a friendship and started to share ideas. Pretty soon they had a plan. Their enthusiasm grew and it was catchy. Before you knew it, we were applying for a gambling license, and re-committed to making this work. A fire had been re-lit and we were again on a roll. Laughter became more and more familiar and when Eagles are happy, the feeling grows. Soon we were again surrounded by our Eagle family, old and new, and all members were sharing ideas with excitement.
We all agreed that we needed to start a building fund. It was obvious that we could not stay at the brush shed forever since rent was going up on an annual basis. The craziest ideas for fund raising were welcomed. The new motto became “charity begins at home.” Of course, the Auxiliary continued to raise money for our community and Eagle charities, but the Aerie committed to raising money for our future home. They posted our proceeds on a thermometer on the wall so all members could watch our building fund grow. The top of our thermometer represented our goal of $ 60,000 for a down payment on our own home!. That was a lot of money, but we knew it was achievable with participation and commitment.
Everyone wanted to see that red line rise, so events were frequent and no idea was too crazy. Everyone that walked in the door got caught up in the excitement of our goal. We held Turkey Shoots out back. They were very popular. Some Aerie members grew beards, not to be cut until $ 500 had been collected. Other Aerie members said they would shave their heads if it raised $ 200 per head. No amount seemed impossible! And every month the thermometer rose. The Auxiliary started some special events for a bathroom fund. The Aerie assured us that the new building would have “his” and “hers” bathrooms with more than one stall, and that was music to our ears so even though the money went collectively into the building fund, the gals sponsored many special events for the “bathroom fund”.
One of these corny events was having your picture taken with your head looking out of a toilet seat for only $5. You’d be amazed at how many people stuck their heads in that toilet seat. Some of you may have seen that collogue of pictures framed in that very seat. It was hanging by the bathrooms, but I understand another Eagles “borrowed” it, so I hope we get it back. In the first year of the thermometer, we had over $ 8,000 and growing. We knew it would take years, but our engine was running full speed ahead and there was no stopping us now. Could we be out of here by the year 2000?
Something else evolved on this journey - our Eagle members were closer than they had ever been before. The turn outs for our dances, dinners, and special events were bigger than they had ever been before and people were having fun. We shared a common goal and every one’s input and ideas were important. No one was afraid to spearhead an event and every one appreciated each other. We were a closer family than ever before. Our journey to get out of the brush shed gave us all a special camaraderie and common goal that we were all committed to. I guess that’s why some of us even miss that old, smoky, small, one bathroom building at times. (Only for a fleeting moment)! And the journey will continue …..next time.
The years between 1995 and 2000 were full of fun, commitment, and hard work raising money. They were also filled with new traditions, projects, and opportunities to try new ideas. Both of the Aerie members who triggered our miraculous turn around became trustees and there was a continuous excitement in the air. The crazy ideas continued, the thermometer kept rising and the participating grew and grew. In 1997, we suffered a great loss when one of our “heroes”, Van Scott, unexpectedly died. Although we collectively mourned his passing, the commitment to make our Eagles better than ever only became stronger.
By this time, the rent had risen so high that we couldn't afford the “little house” that we used for a kitchen and office or the rental house, so we were now down to the brush shed alone, but again we continued to push forward. For our dinners and breakfasts, most of the foods were prepared at our homes and brought to the club. Occasionally, we would set up tables in the garage and did some cooking out there. The only problem this posed was that we repeatedly popped breakers and lost power. Never the less, the dinners went on.
Also in 1997, we put in horseshoe pits along side the brush shed for fun and tournaments. We had a pool table and a dart machine, both of which made money and brought people in. Our thermometer continued to soar higher and higher while, at the same time, we were able to accomplish some major community donations. We adopted a highway, we donated $ 1164.00 to the food bank and we presented 3 scholarships to our local high school students. Our first Veterans Day celebration was held by the flagpole in front of the brush shed. We were honored to have the ROTC present the color guard and we had police and fire fighters present also. The air was filled with patriotic music provided by Stan Yantis’ band, the Windjammers. Thanks to our very own Sgt. Major Fred Friedrich of the 82nd Airborne, the ceremony was moving - observed and enjoyed by our Eagle members as well as many community residents. This was the beginning of a tradition that proudly remains today.
By early 1998, we were close enough to our goal that we appointed a committee to begin looking for property! The closer we got to our goal, the more fund raisers we held - car washes, turkey shoots, auctions, raffles, almost anything that would bring in that next dollar. By August, we actually found the piece of property that we reside at now. It had a house on it down by where Billy Bob’s trailer is, and initially we planned to convert it into our club house. We were excited and willing to devote a lot of time to the project. Once the purchase was finalized, we all started making plans, tearing down walls, and trying to make it into the building we needed - only soon to realize it wasn’t going to happen. Structurally, we could not convert it without totally gutting it so it was not going to economically be practical. Yes, this was a huge disappointment, but something great came out of it - we could move our building site higher on the property and acquire our “million dollar view”, so our commitment did not falter and the house was torn down. At 9 years old, we were proud owners of the land we now call home!