The Masonic Lodge and the Rainbow Girls

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By Editha Bartley

I continue to be amazed at how fast time flies, particularly when I get into area history. This was brought home to me just last week  when I learned that the Chapman Lodge Number 2 of the Masonic Lodge in Las Vegas will soon be 99 years old. Yes, it is still active and does much for our community.

The first Masonic Lodge in New Mexico was established in Wagon Mound, and became a part of Fort Union. Actually, according to Dr. Lynn Perrigo in “Gateway to Glorieta,” that fabulous local history book, the first lodge was founded in 1962, then was moved to Las Vegas in 1869. The beautiful Masonic building on Douglas Avenue was built in 1894. Perrigo writes, “It was dedicated to elaborate ceremonies that attracted numerous visitors from other cities. On that occasion, the ladies sponsored a great three-day fundraising bazaar. When biographical sketches of the members were published in a brochure in 1903, it became a “Who’s Who” of the eminent local business and professional men of that era.”

My father, Doc Gellenthien, was a long-time member of the Wagon Mound Lodge. He then became a Shriner, and both sweet brother Bill and I were members of the teen Masonic organizations, DeMolay and Rainbow Girls here in Las Vegas. This was quite a controversial topic at home, I might add. My grandmother Gellenthien was a devout Missouri Synod Lutheran from Chicago, and at that time,  Lutherans never, ever joined any Masonic organizations. Doc managed to keep his membership a secret for a long time, but when I was initiated into Rainbow he finally had to tell Grandma that he was a Mason. Grandma never said much of anything about any of this to me, but she did make a formal gown for me to wear to a big Rainbow event.

The Rainbow Girl organization was very active when I was in high school in the late 1940s. Madeline Romero, who worked at the fabulous Hoffman and Graubarth store on the lower floor of the Masonic Lodge was almost a tyrant in our very immature eyes when we became members of Rainbow. She knew every ritual part by memory, and she guarded the hall and all of its contents with her life, if need be.

She was very strict, very old-fashioned, and always wore strictly conservative suits. Everything had to be just perfect, whether it was a practice, meeting or banquet. Nobody — not one of us — ever would think about arguing with Madeline. And every one of us came away from that experience a better person, without a doubt.
Madeline also kept that dry good store on its toes, and the owners completely respected her. She could fit you with a very fine pair of shoes, or a corset if you needed one. My very strict mother wouldn't dream of disagreeing with Madeline on anything. Mother bought her church hats there and Madeline picked them out for her. Yes, Madeline could have worked for Queen Elizabeth. She was that good at everything she did.

I think our modern generation has lost something in that we no longer have Rainbow or DeMolay in Las Vegas. There has been a renewed interest in both Masons and Eastern Star here and I am sure they will continue to serve the area well. And, by the way, where else in Las Vegas, especially 50 or so years ago, could one ride an elevator instead of using the stairs here in Las Vegas?

Yes, that elevator still works in the Masonic building, believe it or not!

Editha Bartley  lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.