12/24/08 — Breakfast a Christmas Eve tradition

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Breakfast a Christmas Eve tradition

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 24, 2008 1:46 PM

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More than 100 people attended the annual B.F. Smith Memorial Breakfast this morning at the Mount Olive Masonic Lodge. Smith was one of the founders of the breakfast in1984 that has since grown into a Christmas Eve tradition. Joe Lancaster, fourth from left around the table, helps Mason Charles Davis as he pours grits into a serving bowl. Left to right are Masons Ray Joyner, Wayne Brock and Davis and Lancaster and his brother, James.

MOUNT OLIVE -- Little did the six members of the Mount Olive Masonic Lodge 208 who gathered for breakfast 24 years ago realize that from those humble beginning would spring what has become a Christmas Eve tradition.

It didn't start out to become a community event.

It was 1984 and the Southern Belle Restaurant, where the members normally gathered for breakfast, was closed on Christmas Eve so the six men decided to prepare their own meal.

It was later decided to continue the meals and later to open it to other lodges and to the community.

This morning that tradition continued, but instead of six people, more than 100 were at the lodge home on North Breazeale Avenue for a country-style breakfast.

The breakfast averages between 100-140 people, from children to senior citizens each year, lodge member Ray Joyner said.

Lodge Master C.J. Weaver said the meal is just a way to give back to the community.

"It is the right thing to do and we do not seek any recognition for it," Weaver said.

There is no charge, but a large glass jar sits at the front door for people to make donations.

"We enjoy being able to do this, to be able to enjoy the fellowship," Joyner said.

At 8 a.m. Wayne Brock, who was scrambling a large frying pan full of eggs, had been cooking since about 4:30 a.m.

Asked if he planned to eat Brock replied, "No. I don't plan to eat until tomorrow."

The early start was necessary to cook the 40 pounds of sausage, two hams, 300 eggs and 12 dozen biscuits.

The cooking crew also included Weaver and county District Attorney Branny Vickory who fried up some ham.

Among those inside were Mrs. Zelda Smith, the widow of B.F. Smith who was one of the original six who started the breakfast, and her son, Benny Smith.

The breakfast is named in memory of Mr. Smith who died in 1992.

"I think this is wonderful," Benny Smith said. "My daddy loved being around people, especially in the Masonic Lodge and church.

"My daddy was raised up in the Masonic Lodge. He raised me in it and I raised my son in it. He is the fourth generation of my family to be in the lodge."

"I just love this," Mrs. Smith said. "They have some good cooks. This is the biggest breakfast I have had in a while."

Both said they have been able to attend most of the breakfasts.

Mrs. Smith attracted much attention and hugs, including one from Gerri Dotson.

"I've been here before," Mrs. Dotson said. "I look forward to seeing the people I don't get to see a lot during the year. I just enjoy the fellowship."

Mason Carl Rivenbark agreed.

"It is something I look forward to," he said. "I come and eat and socialize and to see people from other lodges and the community. This is a good turnout."

"This is just great," said Ray Starling, who is the lodge's incoming master. "It is a great breakfast."

After the meal has been cleared away, the Masons perform one more tradition -- delivering fruit baskets to Masonic widows.

"One of the hardest things to do is when you pull up in their yards and they have tears in their eyes because they are so glad to see you," Joyner said. "It is not a matter of need on their part, it is that they have been part of our fraternity."

In some cases, the attention provided by the Masonic members is more than what the widows may receive on other days, he said.

This year 39 baskets were delivered.

But even when the baskets have been delivered it still isn't over -- planning begins for the next year's breakfast, Joyner said.