The Great Parade of the Nobles of Murat
(Continued)


The Shrine Circus continued its success and Murat was able to provide for the hospitals. Cecil Byrne was Potentate in 1955. A former actor and magician, Byrne ramped up the circus and use of the theater along with Noble Sid Page in 1951. In 1952, they oversaw a renovation of the theater and addition of new seats, bringing the total to 2,000.

In 1955, the city needed to expand the month of May activities at the Speedway. Divan member J. Worth Baker helped that project. He was one of five who helped establish the 500 Festival. The Festival Parade was the masterpiece of Murat. Shriners knew how to put on a parade and started that great tradition held each May. Baker served as Potentate in 1957.

During the term of Illustrious Sir Howard Foley in 1968, the growth of Murat, now with more than 20,000 members, forced the nobles to consider more space. The uniform Bodies Club was torn down and the cornerstone laid for the new Shrine Center on May 29, 1968. The Cast conducted the ceremonies.

It only took a year and Potentate Dick Hunt dedicated the new Shrine Club. There was now enough space for the nobles and their ladies. It was just in time because the very popular J. Worth Baker, "Bake" to the nobles and Potentate in 1957, was about to become the Imperial Sir and Indianapolis hosted the Imperial Session again. Bake was Murat's second Imperial Potentate and the first to be born in Indiana.

America was full into the space age. Several of the seven Mercury astronauts were Shriners including Gus Grissom who flew the Liberty Bell 7 Mercury capsule and died in a fire on the pad in Apollo 1. The Imperial Session Parade held on July 14, 1970, featured Noble Buzz Aldrin who a year earlier was the second man to walk on the moon. The next day Tony Hulman, one of Murat's Green Fezzes, arranged a demonstration race at his Speedway. The winner was Johnny Rutherford who went on to win the great race three times.

On July 27, 1974, Potentate Don Edwards invited Potentate Foley's widow to burn the million dollar mortgage for the Shrine Center. The north wall of the club has a desert scene that is not painted. It is made up of 262,000 ceramic tiles.

By the 1980s, the leadership was aware of a growing problem with the older parts of the mosque, with seriously deteriorating terra cotta trim, copper roofing, marquee, and roofs. The temple embarked on a long campaign to "restore" the old buildings, including selling naming rights to windows, bricks, and so forth. The Elias J. Jacoby Foundation, Inc. was formed as the principal means of raising money on an after-tax basis, one of the first of its kind in the nation. The John Brush Society, Inc. was formed to promote renewed performances in the theatre; and the J. Worth Baker Library Foundation, Inc. was formed to be a repository for the masses of memorabilia that had been accumulated and continued to be produced by Shriners, particularly Murat Shriners.

In 1983, Murat reached its highest membership, more than 23,000 nobles; parades and parading units were in grand and full form; the Murat Shrine Circus was enjoying increasing attendance, theatre parties and travelogues were well-attended, and social events in the 70 Units and Clubs associated with Murat Temple were ubiquitous.

By the mid-1980s, a new group, known as the "Hillbillies," had become active nationally and with the assistance of Glenn Speckman, Potentate in 1990, became very active at Murat Temple. Although never constituted a "Unit" or "Club" of Murat Temple, the Hillbillies met, initiated many members, and continue to meet at the Murat Shrine Club.

By the late 1980s, it had become apparent that the Masonic organizations in Indiana needed to be more closely aligned. Thus, in 1991, Murat was instrumental in reconstituting the Indiana Shrine Association and the Indiana Masonic Leadership Conference. The ISA consisted of all five temples in Indiana: Murat, Mizpah, Orak, Hadi, and Zorah. The Masonic Leadership Conference brought together the top leadership of all five Shrine temples, the five Scottish Rite Valleys, the three Indiana York Rite leaders, and the Grand Master and Grand Lodge officers for the purpose of finding common ground on membership development and other issues that had not been openly discussed for years. The result has been vastly improved relations among all Masonic affiliated bodies ever since. Phil Thrasher, 1992 Potentate, was elected the first president of the reconstituted Indiana Shrine Association, Larry Jefferson was the fourth president, and many other Potentates of Murat have served as ISA president.

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the leadership of Murat determined to develop better relations with its various, and far-flung, Shrine Clubs, including Clubs located in Logansport, Richmond, Marion, and New Albany. This has resulted in better communication, better accounting, improved membership development, and closer relations with nobles who otherwise might not have much association with those in Indianapolis. The Leadership Seminar in February continues as a mainstay for improved communications and an opportunity for the new Potentate to discuss his calendar of events for the ensuing year.

In 1992, Potentate Phil Thrasher determined that the buildings were being underutilized and entered into a renovation program for the former "Red Fez Room," converting it to the "Corinthian Room" under the leadership of Larry Jefferson and John Cinotto. In addition, the theatre was opened to the general public on a more regular basis, leading to a close relationship with a local producer, Sunshine Productions, Inc. Thus, for the first time in decades, the Murat Theatre, former home of the Indianapolis Symphony, was again a prominent performing arts center in Indianapolis. The Murat Shrine Club, also, was very active, offering family dinners on holidays, Friday night steak and entertainment nights every month, and providing live music in the Oasis Lounge on Fridays and Saturdays.

April 24, 1993, Potentate Larry Jefferson was proud to arrange for a large group of our special children to attend the circus now held at the State Fairgrounds. He felt the renewed relationship with the kids was the proudest moment of his year as Potentate. Larry held a ceremonial honoring Chuck Schorling and the new members and their families were Murat's guests that evening at the circus. Also, later in the year, he held tent circuses at Tarum Shrine Club, Kokomo, and Stone Belt Shrine Clubs for the first time at Murat.

Herb Smith, IU professor, was the 1994 Potentate and a leader in the restoration effort for the older buildings. At his Potentate's Ball, he entered on a "Flying Carpet," suspended from a cable mounted between the front of the balcony and the backstage of the Murat Theatre.

By 1995, faced with substantial necessary restoration costs for the older buildings, the nobility was debating a major change for the temple. Under Potentate Jerry Scott, a deal was struck to lease the two older parts to then Sunshine Productions and the city of Indianapolis. Sunshine and its partners modernized the structure and made it beautiful at a cost of 12 million dollars. In return they received a 99-year lease. Sunshine, now Live Nation, added another 681 seats, and 64 miles of electrical wiring was added. A mural now graced the west wall. The structure itself was strengthened with 550,000 pounds of steel; 4,480 yards of red carpet, 1,200 yards of drapes, and 3,000 gallons of paint made Murat the centerpiece of the Massachusetts Avenue Art District. Most of the work occurred while Alex Rogers was Potentate in 1996.

Later the same year, Murat played host to another Imperial Session. Past Potentate Larry Jefferson served as Director General and again the Shriners were well represented. Because of the wonderful reputation of Murat Shrine, Jefferson was able to book the rooms several years earlier without a deposit.

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