To celebrate their new home in the Jewett Mansion, the Masons of Skaneateles held a week-long carnival in August of 1924. Prior to the festivities, on the temple’s spacious grounds (today’s municipal parking lot), the Masonic Fair Bull, a thoroughbred Guernsey from the farm of William Mills of Rose Hill, was on exhibition.
A large tent (40′ x 160′) was erected between the Masonic Temple on Genesee Street and the Skaneateles Savings Bank, and a REO motor car was rolled inside to be given away as a “gate prize.” Booths inside the tent included those dedicated to blankets, groceries, aluminum ware, brooms, candy and refreshments.
Tickets were on sale for a lake excursion in an outboard motor boat made by the Skaneateles Boat & Canoe Co., with the holder of the lucky ticket to win the boat at week’s end. Vaudeville acts and band concerts enlivened the scene every afternoon and evening. And a 64-page booklet, with histories of the village and Masonic order, and photos of the interior, was sold as a souvenir.
At the fair’s end, the winning names were drawn:
The REO motor car was won by Mrs. Glenn Bass of Marietta; a cedar chest went to Donald DeWitt of Mottville; the popularity contest — which pitted pairs of young ladies against one another — was won by Marian Smith and Louise Cottle, the prize a three-day, all-expenses-paid trip to New York City; Clyde Cornwell won an Eskimo dog. And the motor boat went to L.A. Gray of Homer, N.Y.
The carnival was lucrative for the Masons; the blanket booth alone took in $2,200. However, not everyone in the village was pleased. The Sunday after the carnival, the Rev. Harold G. Stearns of the Methodist Church delivered the following address:
“The moral sentiment of this community has been shocked and outraged this past week by the spectacle of a Saturnalia of gambling carried on under the patronage and for the profit of the local lodge of Masons. The strict laws of the State against this vice have been openly and flagrantly violated. The things that have happened would be almost unbelievable had they not really occurred. This is only the more true because Skaneateles has always prided itself on being an eminently respectable and law-abiding village. It is too much to hope that the effects of this thing will be confined to one week. It will be strange indeed if we do not see a wave of gambling sweep the village. The pernicious effects of this fever upon the youth are to be feared especially. The bad effects of the past week have been rendered all the more certain because the high auspices of the affair have lent gambling a false color of respectability.
“The better moral element among the Masons themselves deplore what has happened. I myself am a Mason and I know that what has been done is absolutely contrary to the high ethical teachings of Masonry. In conversation with several other Masons I have discovered that they agree with me in this matter. It has been reported to me that the Grand Lodge of the State has issued an edict that local lodges shall not commit practices such as we have just had a sample of. If this is true it will prevent a recurrence under any Masonic order of what has happened in the past week.
“A precedent has been set, however, which other organizations in the community may attempt to follow. We have been caught asleep this time, and the officials whose duty it was to enforce the law have been singularly blind to the whole business. We will not be caught asleep a second time however, neither will the proper officials be permitted to remain in their blissful blindness. Their eyes will be opened. I am resolved to do all within my power to prevent the vice of gambling within the village of Skaneateles in the future, no matter who or what may be sponsoring it. A group of men are ready to back me up in this determination.”
The pastor’s address was reprinted on the front page of the Skaneateles Press on Friday, August 15th. Also on the front page that day, Marian Smith and Louise Cottle thanked everyone for the trip to New York City.