So it isn’t exactly the Da Vinci Code, or even a secret handshake. But as local curiosities go, it’s something of a stumper.
Every December, a gigantic metal tree festooned with strings of Christmas lights appears on top of the Dale Building on 176 Street, across from Hawthorne Square, just in time for the Santa Parade of Lights.
The tree has been part of the festivities for at least 15 years or so. But nobody seemed to know who, exactly, was responsible.
The answer may come as a surprise.
For 54 years, Cloverdale’s had its very own lodge of the one of the world’s oldest secret societies, a fraternity of men associated in popular culture with dark rituals, secret handshakes, and the satirical “Stonecutter” song from TV’s Simpsons.
It wasn’t widely known, but local Masons have been putting up the tree since the parade began, or possibly even earlier, according to Guy Olsson, Worshipful Master of the Cloverdale Masonic Lodge, which meets at the Eureka Masonic Hall in Langley.
“For years and years and years, nobody realized it was us that did it,” says Olsson, explaining the lodge adopted the tree as a community relations project not long after his late father, a welder, was approached by Bill Reid, executive director of the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce.
“It was almost a lark when we started this thing,” Olsson says. “Even a lot of members of the Cloverdale BIA [which co-sponsors the parade] didn’t know where it came from. All they knew was, all of a sudden, a tree appears on the roof.”
They couldn’t have picked a less hospitable day to set up their new, environmentally-friendlier tree, a complicated job involving a crane with a bucket, traffic pylons and manual dexterity.
A steady, miserable downpour Nov. 26 refused to let up during the more than three hours it took a crew of four to assemble the new tree, hoist it into place, and fasten it to the roof of the Dale Building, ready for Sunday’s light up.
At one point it was so gloomy, the streetlights came on. But the Masons refused to complain, cheerfully pointing out that the rain sure beat the frigid, sub-zero weather that plagued them during setup the two previous years.
The new tree has 40 strings of LED lighting and is assembled from separate, easy-to-store aluminum parts.
The original, 20-foot-tall tree, Olsson says, “required significant amount of space to store, and it was difficult to transport. We really didn’t have any place to keep it. About the same time, we noticed it was showing signs of wear.”
So Olsson devised a new one, using a CAD program. He sent his ideas to Aggressive Tube Bending, who turned the designs into reality, performing the cornering and welding.
“They did just a wonderful job,” Olsson said.
Thanks to the LEDs, the electricity bill will be negligible.
“With the incandescents, the amperage draw was fairly significant. We were having some power issues. We had to bring in an electrician each year.”
After years of secrecy about the Christmas tree, the Cloverdale Masons have finally decided to take credit in a more public way. This year, they’ve put up a sign declaring themselves as sponsors.
“We’re trying to make ourselves more visible in the community,” Olsson says. “A lot of people didn’t realize there was an active Masonic lodge that was associated with Cloverdale.”
For anyone wanting to find out more, the Cloverdale Lodge will be hosting an open house Feb. 21, 2012.