Shriner History Page 4

                                              Evolution Of The “World’s Greatest Philanthropy”

   The Shrine was unstoppable in the early 1900s. Membership grew rapidly, and the geographical range of Temples widened. Between 1900 and 1918, eight new Temples were created in Canada, and one each in Honolulu, Mexico City and the Republic of Panama. The organization became, in fact, the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America. New flourishes were added to a growing tradition of colorful pageantry. More Shrine bands were formed. The first Shrine circus is said to have opened in 1906 in Detroit.

   During the same period, there was growing member support for establishing an official Shrine charity. Most Temples had individual philanthropies, and sometimes the Shrine as an organization gave aid. After the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, the Shrine sent $25,000 to help the stricken city, and in 1915, the Shrine contributed $10,000 for the relief of European war victims. But neither the individual projects nor the special one-time contributions satisfied the membership, who wanted to do more.

   In 1919, Freeland Kendrick (Lu Lu Shriners, Philadelphia) was the Imperial Potentate-elect for the 363,744 Shriners. He had long been searching for a cause for the thriving group to support. In a visit to the Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children in Atlanta, he became aware of the overwhelming needs of crippled children in North America. At the June 1919 Imperial Session, Kendrick proposed establishing “The Mystic Shriners Peace Memorial for Friendless, Orphaned and Crippled Children.” His resolution never came to a vote. As Imperial Potentate in 1919 and 1920, he traveled more than 150,000 miles, visiting a majority of the 146 Temples and campaigning for an official Shrine philanthropy.

The climax came at the June 1920 Imperial Session in Portland, Oregon. Kendrick changed his resolution to one establishing the “Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children,” to be supported by a $2 yearly assessment from each Shriner (now $5 per year).

   Conservative Shriners expressed doubts about the Shrine assuming this kind of responsibility. Prospects for approval were dimming when Noble Forrest Adair (Yaarab Shriners, Atlanta) rose to speak:

“I was lying in bed yesterday morning, about four o’clock . . . and some poor fellow who had strayed from the rest of the band . . . stood down there under the window for 25 minutes playing ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.’ ”

   He said that when he awoke later, “I thought of the wandering minstrel, and I wondered if there were not a deep significance in the tune that he was playing for Shriners, ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.’ ”

He noted, “While we have spent money for songs and spent money for bands, it’s time for the Shrine to spend money for humanity.“

   I want to see this thing started. Let’s get rid of all the technical objections. And if there is a Shriner in North America,” he continued, “who objects to having paid the two dollars after he has seen the first crippled child helped, I will give him a check back for it myself.”

   When he was through, Noble Adair sat down to thunderous applause. The whole tone of the session had changed. There were other speakers, but the decision had already been reached. The resolution was passed unanimously.

   A committee was chosen to determine the site and personnel for the Shriners Hospital. After months of work, research and debate, the committee concluded that there should be not just one hospital but a network of hospitals throughout North America. It was an idea that appealed to Shriners, who liked to do things in a big and colorful way. When the committee brought the proposal to the 1921 Imperial Session in Des Moines, Iowa, it too was passed.