The Great Parade of the Nobles of Murat
by Paul Page,
The country was finally developing a firm sense of unity and brotherhood. The great struggle that pitched state against state, brothers against brothers, and fathers against sons was behind the country by 10 years. Masons after the Civil War, as during the Revolution, played a role in forming the basic fabric of the country.
The heat of summer was beginning to leave New York City. Without any air conditioning, most fled the canyons of Manhattan for the cool breezes of the shore and Long Island during the dog days of August. But the start of school and the fall brought the crowds back downtown. The Masonic Hall at 114 East 13th near Union Square was beginning to resume Lodge meetings. Dr. Walter Fleming had an idea. He reasoned Masonry needed something in contrast to the serious ritual of the Blue Lodge. He saw a chance for Master Masons to gather with less ritual and more fun and even a libation now and then. September 26, 1872, he brought 13 brothers together to form the Ancient Accepted Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. Many saw the Shrine as the playground of Masonry. They formed Mecca Temple and started a movement that would later become the greatest philanthropy in the world though that wasn't the plan at the time. The idea caught on and quickly 11 other temples formed.
Indianapolis was a growing state capital. Union Station, which opened in 1853, made the city a crossroads with more than a hundred trains a day passing through. The Ober Building at 107 South Pennsylvania housed a large clothing store. The owner was a Freemason of considerable repute. John Brush was a dark haired, thin faced man with hooded eyes and fragile health. He served in the Union Artillery in the Civil War. Brush was a huge sports fan. He was the co-owner of the Indianapolis Red Stockings, the baseball team that would later become the Cincinnati Reds, and the New York Giants. He helped put forward the idea of a baseball championship. He persevered until the World Series became a reality. But he had a tough streak too. When the Giants won the 1904 NL pennant, Brush refused to allow his team to meet Boston's defending champions in the World Series due to his animosity toward Boston. A permanent agreement between the leagues was eventually made after meeting some of Brush's conditions, and the Giants won the 1905 World Series against the Philadelphia Athletics.
In 1882, the world was changing. The last bare-knuckled championship fight was held. Jesse James was shot in the back. In Indianapolis John Brush decided on another project that would change the face of Indianapolis forever. Brush, who was raised to the sublime degree in New York, pulled five of his Masonic brothers together and traveled to Cincinnati to visit the sixth temple in Shrinedom, Syrian Temple, established February 6, 1877. They wanted a Shrine temple in Indianapolis. At the time there were 450 symbolic lodges in Indiana.
Brush, along with Henry McGaffey, Charles Meyer, Ted Pfafflin, and Cortez Holliday, met with Syrian Temple Potentate William Melish on November 17 and received the future Imperial Sir's full cooperation and support. That night the five crossed the Hot Sands and became nobles of Syrian Temple. The five then worked through the Scottish Rite and Raper Commandery #1 Knights Templar to make an Indianapolis Shrine a reality. In March of 1884, they received demits from Syrian Temple and a charter was issued to the new temple, the 17th in Shrinedom.
Right from the start, the Indianapolis Shrine was special. While we don't know why the name was chosen, our name was the first to not have Arabic origin. The founders chose the name of the son of an innkeeper in France who left theological studies at the outbreak of the French Revolution. His name was Joachim Murat (Mur-ah) and he became a general serving Napoleon in Italy and Egypt. He was so good he was proclaimed the king of Naples in 1808. In the Nubian Desert, there is also an oasis called Bir Murat the general visited often to refresh his soldiers. Actor Rene Auberjonois, most noted for his shape shifter roles in Star Trek, is General Murat's great-great-great grandson. Murat was executed by a firing squad after a failed attempt to regain control of Naples.
Murat was now a reality. Eight men signed the charter and elected John Brush the Potentate of Murat. Brush took the charter home and tucked it away. At the same time, Brush was serving in the Scottish Rite as Sovereign Inspector General 33¾. Brush had climbed the ladders of York Rite as well, being made a Sir Knight at Raper Commandery #1 in November of 1879. He also served as the Thrice Potent Master of the Adoniram Lodge of Perfection for two years. He was a Mason's Mason.
The new temple was not ready to conduct its own ceremonial at first so the next 12 candidates were inducted without proper ceremony in October of 1884. At that time, it was necessary to be a 32¾ to enter the Shrine. A month later on November 21, 1884, 15 men were given the work as Murat's first ceremonial conducted by our mother temple, Syrian of Cincinnati, and Illustrious Sir Melish. The following spring, March 27 of 1885, Murat conducted its own ceremonial with 27 candidates. What a class it was. It became a predictor of Murat's greatness. General Lew Wallace, Civil War hero and author of Ben Hur, and later governor of the New Mexico Territory, was inducted along with Thomas Taggart, later a U.S. senator.
Once underway, it was hard to slow down. Brush and his Divan oversaw two more ceremonials that year in May and November. At the first annual meeting on December 18, Murat had 103 members and $75.58 in the bank. In 1886, 44 more had joined as Murat got ready to host its first Imperial Session. Regular meetings were held at the old Scottish Rite at the Townsley and Wiggans Pork House in the first block of South Pennsylvania.
The first Imperial Session to be held in Indianapolis may have started another Shrine tradition. Many of the out-of-town nobles stayed downtown at the Denison House Hotel between Delaware and Pennsylvania along with the Bates and the Grand, one of the top hotels in the city. On June 20, 1887, Murat nobles went to the hotel to escort the Imperial Potentate, Sam Briggs, to the Scottish Rite. The Murat men all wore Fezzes and were well dressed. The procession became more of a parade and was well covered by the newspapers. In his book Parade to Glory, Fred Van Deventer said that moment started the tradition of giant conventions and the Shrine Parade.
Murat's tradition of service to mankind began that year. Yellow fever raced through Jacksonville, FL, and Murat nobles sent $100 to Morocco Temple to aid in its fight of the deadly fever. In 1890, Murat sent monetary help to Kosair Temple in Louisville, KY, for flood relief. Murat also sent aid to the victims of the Johnstown, PA, flood. At the same time, the strong relationship Murat has with the Indianapolis Fire Department began by supporting the Indianapolis Fireman's Fund. Murat was now 342 strong and continued to see men like U.S. Senator Harry New, who later was the Postmaster General, join Murat.
" There is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.” That sentence rang out at the Grand Opera House in the second block of N. Pennsylvania. Noble DeWolf Hopper, a famous Broadway actor who helped open the New York Music Hall, brought his troupe to town. He always closed with "Casey at the Bat,” a poem he recited publicly more than 10,000 times. It was March 14, 1893, and Murat began its relationship with theater as the crowd of nobles and ladies applauded the great player.
In its first years, Murat depended on other Masonic groups to help provide space for Shrine activities. The early years they met at the Scottish Rite at the Pork House in the 100 block of S. Pennsylvania. Just before three in the morning of November 3, 1894, a fire started in the offices of the Indiana Medical College on the northeast corner of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Patrolman Cleary saw and reported the fire. Soon the flames broke through the walls into the Scottish Rite and by five that morning, all that was left was the front wall. Now the beautiful costumes and props were all lost in the blaze and Murat activities, including the ceremonial, were canceled. Very little was found in the ruins except a scimitar. It was later given to the insurance agent for the building.
After the fire, Murat met once at Raper Commandery #1, and then moved to the Adoniram Lodge of Perfection downtown on West Maryland Street. A ceremonial was held in 1895 at Tomlinson Hall on the corner of Delaware Street and Market. The Valley of Indianapolis of the Scottish Rite worked hard to rebuild its building and opened the new cathedral at 29 S. Pennsylvania for a Murat ceremonial on December 6, 1896. The Shrine Railroad Club will tell you a ball signal hung above the tracks, a high ball, which meant "go ahead." That December class was the go ahead class for Murat—174 nobles crossed the Hot Sands. That giant class was dubbed the "High Ball Class." Murat continued to meet on the fifth floor at the Old Scottish Rite Cathedral for the next 13 years.
The New York Giants baseball team was now occupying much of Potentate Brush's time. Over the objections of the nobles, Brush stepped down as Potentate in 1897. Chalmers Brown would take over as Illustrious Potentate and the nobility flourished. But the need for Murat to have a building of its own became more and more apparent as the 20th century dawned and Murat's membership climbed to more than 2,000 nobles.
In 1906, the world was rapidly changing. The Wright Brothers were granted a patent for a flying machine as President Theodore Roosevelt became the first sitting president to travel outside the United States, and the first legal forward pass was thrown in American football. In Indianapolis, a well respected attorney who had represented primarily railroads and was very active in Masonic orders appeared on the Murat scene. Elias J. Jacoby cut an impressive figure with bright eyes and a bushy but well trimmed moustache. Jacoby became the fifth Potentate of Murat in 1907 and set to work to provide the Indianapolis Shrine with a much needed home of its own. But first on his agenda was to find Murat's charter. After an extensive search, it was assumed the founding document was lost in the Pork House fire and a duplicate was arranged.
In 1908, in the first of a series of purchases, the land on the northwest corner of Michigan and New Jersey Streets was acquired for $37,000. Noble Oscar D. Bohlen was directed to design a temple in the form of a mosque.
By March 13, 1909, the project was ready for construction. Three blocks west at North and Illinois Streets, the Grand Lodge of Indiana was under construction and out on the far west side, a two and a half mile race course was being finished with a surface of crushed stone and tar, due for opening in August. This day just may have been the biggest in Murat history as the nobles celebrated their 25th anniversary and laid the cornerstone for their new temple. Shriners from other cities poured into the city and headed for the German House, now the Athenaeum, to kick off the party. Murat's old friends from Syrian Temple were there including now Past Imperial Sir Melish who as Potentate at Syrian helped get Murat started. The Grand Lodge of Indiana opened and the Murat nobles, along with the Arab Band and Patrol, escorted the Most Worshipful Grand Master Walter O. Bragg and Grand Lodge officers to the Murat site.
At noon a copper box was carefully prepared to be sealed in the cornerstone. Inside were photographs of the officers and members and the newspapers of the day. Letters from most of the other temples in Shrinedom were placed in the box along with photographs of views of the city. The box was sealed and brought to the corner. It still remains inside the cornerstone. No date was given to open the time capsule.
Waiting for the ceremony to begin were representatives of Antioch Temple in Dayton, Medinah of Chicago, Kosair from Louisville, and the Imperial Potentate Edwin I. Alderman. The band from Syrian Temple played and the cornerstone was laid in the same form Masons had used to lay the cornerstone for the National Capitol and many other historic buildings—using corn, wine, and oil and a silver plated trowel. The trowel hangs at Murat. That night, back at the German House, the celebration continued. The headline speaker was Noble Charles W. Fairbanks, former vice president of the United States.
The building was finished in just under a year at a cost of $200,000. The theater opened on February 28, 1910, with the Schubert Organization of New York leasing the property and, as became the tradition, the Murat nobles and ladies were treated to opening night. The main entrance and marquee was on New Jersey Street a few feet north of Michigan. The theater seated 1,950. Broadway came to Indy with the Ziegfeld Follies and many wonderful shows. The performers all loved the style and, more importantly, the acoustics at Murat. The theater was formally dedicated May 16, 1910, followed by a ceremonial with 190 candidates.
By September, the ballroom in the basement was ready and the nobles and their ladies joined the fun. It was the largest such room in the city. It was a great time to be a Shriner.
John Brush, the founding Potentate and the only person to single-handedly stop a World Series, passed to the Unseen Temple. His widow was clearing out her husband's things when she came upon a parchment roll. The lost charter of Murat had been found! Our first Potentate had carefully preserved this key document. Now the temple had two charters but Mrs. Brush was committed to seeing the original that her husband worked so hard to make a reality be properly displayed. She took it to Noble Alfred B. Lyon. Lyon restored the document and encased it in an elaborate frame, and it still hangs in the temple 125 years later.
By 1913, his work on the temple complete, Elias Jacoby passed the office of Potentate to Denton F. Billingsley. That same year the federal income tax was approved. And the world was getting the first hints of a European war with action in the Balkans. By August of the following year, Germany declared war on France and WWI begins. Murat nobles worked hard to sell Liberty Bonds. By 1917, the U.S. declared war on Germany and joined in the Great War. Imperial Shrine Sessions were subdued in keeping with the national attention to the war.
The war to end all wars saw many Shriners put down their working tools to pick up a rifle. Noble Eddie Rickenbacker left town to be a driver for Noble and General Black Jack Pershing. Brother Mark Wayne Clark began his path toward four stars and a place in history. Noble Omar Bradley was commanding the Infantry School at Fort Benning, and Noble Douglas MacArthur was helping form the Rainbow Division. The war all but stopped the activities of the Shrine with subdued Imperial Sessions. While proper to do so, it saddened Elias Jacoby who had been moving up the Imperial line and was due to be Imperial Sir in 1919.
It was the morning of November 11, 1918, and Jacoby was on business in New Orleans. Outside his hotel window church bells began to ring, horns honked and people cheered. The report was "All quiet on the Western Front." The war to end all wars was over. Jacoby jumped on the phone and began changing plans for the Imperial Session to be held in Indy in June of the following year.
The word went out officially on February 1, 1919. Elias Jacoby wanted to return the nobles of the Mystic Shrine to the fun of the pre-war days. His motto was "Shake with Jake." Jake invited every band, patrol, and noble to come to Indiana and parade for the Glory of the Shrine and Masonry. The nobles responded. The post-war euphoria helped set the stage for two of the most important events in Shrine history, and they happened under Murat's jurisdiction in Indianapolis.
June 9, the old Union Station, that now saw the passing of more than 200 trains a day, was bustling with the arrival of Shriners. The old National Road brought an assortment of cars from the East and West, and U.S. 31 was jammed from the North and South. Jake's Imperial session was getting underway. It seemed like there was a band or some form of entertainment on every corner. The red Fez was everywhere. Every participating temple brought something new to the city.
Jake also decided on a night parade. As it stepped off, 5,000 nobles in costume and 2,000 others in Fezzes and regalia began what was to be called "THE PARADE." Just try and imagine the moment—cheering crowds, happy nobles and their ladies, wonderful colors, and endless entertainment. When it was over, the Indianapolis News reported, "There are conventions and conventions but only one Shiners' Convention. It is unique, unsurpassed and unsurpassable, inimitable, incomparable, sovereign, unparalleled, supreme."
While the parties rolled on, Imperial got down to the business of the session out at the fairgrounds. As the end of business was approaching, Philip D. Gordon, a noble from Karnak Temple in Montreal, offered the suggestion that the Shrine do some humanitarian work. That short offering, without any discussion or debate, would grow into the establishment of the then Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children. The new Imperial Sir, W. Freeland Kendrick from Lu Lu Temple and mayor of Philadelphia, picked up the idea and ran with it. In 1922, the first hospital was opened in Shreveport, LA.
With the great show at the 1919 session and the hospitals a dedicated humanitarian purpose, the Shrine grew even more. Potentate John E. Milner bought more ground adjacent to the temple and theater for a great ballroom. Jake Jacoby's daughter, Helen Eaton Jacoby, had a knack for décor and began work with architects Rubush & Hunter to build the new addition. Helen conceived an Egyptian motif in keeping with the Arabic themes of the Shrine. She saw and created the Egyptian Room with hieroglyphics and drawings found in ancient palaces and tombs near Thebes. Part of the newly decorated Murat opened on December 15, 1922, and the rest was dedicated March 24 the following year. A great historical moment occurred between the design and the opening. While work was being completed at Murat, thousands of miles away Lords Carter and Carnarvon discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamen in Egypt. It was the only such tomb that had not been pillaged and produced great treasure. The Egyptian style was now in fashion. But Helen Jacoby figured it out well before the discovery. Murat was a fashion plate.
The twenties ushered in Prohibition. A Shriner without a drink was not possible. Many made bathtub beer. Several Indiana counties totally ignored the new amendment and produced some fine sippin'. Noble Eddie Rickenbacker, who earned the Medal of Honor in the Great War, bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The new Scottish Cathedral opened at the corner of North and Meridian Streets in 1928. In 1929, with the crash of the stock market and the Hoover Depression, the country slowed. The nobles decided to start Starlight Musicals to provide a distraction from so many losing their jobs. Again the winds of war were blowing around the world. The pace of Masonry in general slowed as the men and leaders of the time focused on more important duties.
In 1937, our Potentate and Recorder were on the road working for Murat. Illustrious Sir Edwin Earle Temperley and Charles S. Barker, who had served as Recorder for 21 years, were killed in an automobile accident. A bespectacled man with a fluff of hair surrounding his head and combed back, small eyeglasses, and a smile that would light up the room, Karl Friederichs became the Recorder. Karl was popular with the many stars who performed at Murat and he possessed a large collection of autographed photos on the walls of his quarters. In these difficult times of 1941, it was once again Murat's turn to host the Imperial Session.
The weather in Indiana was miserable. It was time for the great Shrine Parade as a part of the Imperial Session. Torrents of rain fell. The streets cascaded with small rivers of water looking for a drain. The banners that welcomed Shriners from cables strung over the streets and trolley tracks below were soaked. Imperial Sir William Heim of Lu Lu Temple in Philadelphia doubted there would be a parade. He didn't count on the resolve of Murat Potentate Dewey Myers. Myers had smiling eyes and a wonderful attitude. "We're not going to disappoint the crowd," he said. "We march!" He rolled up his pants legs above his socks and marched off. Despite the weather the crowd was huge. Myers wanted to show off Hoosier hospitality and boy did he. The parade was a success. All the Murat units marched. The crowd used anything they had to shelter themselves from the rain and cheered the nobles of the Mystic Shrine forward.
Again war slowed the pace of fraternal activities. The young noble lieutenants of WWI were now generals. Noble MacArthur led the forces in the Pacific. Noble Bradley directed the field operations in Europe. Many nobles made the supreme sacrifice but in 1945 the world was saved from the tyranny of the Nazis.
The Children's Hospitals became even more important. They were the primary mission of the Shrine. The nobles of Murat looked for more ways to raise money. How about a circus? The idea took hold and the Murat Shrine Circus began in 1946. Murat needed someone to lead this project who was well known and respected. Noble Harry Geisel had just retired as an umpire from major league baseball and the American League. Geisel was well known in the city. He had umpired four World Series and three All-Star games in his career. He was personal friends with Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. He was tall and impressive and wore a white hat as a trademark. Under his guidance the Murat Shrine Circus opened in the theater in 1946. The tight rope was strung over the crowd and anchored to the balcony. The elephants paraded on the stage. It was a huge success. Geisel remained the chair until becoming Potentate in 1953.
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.
Between the theater and the Egyptian Room, Murat was now "THE" meeting place in Indianapolis. It was popular for luncheons, banquets, and exhibitions. In fact, it was so booked that the Shriners were taking a back seat. Max Blackburn, Potentate in 1949, solved the problem. An apartment building owned by the temple was remodeled. The structure adjacent to the Egyptian Room addition now had a kitchen and a series of rooms and storage areas for all the uniform bodies. The Arab Patrol, Band, Chanters, Cast, Ceremonial Directors, Gun Club, Highlanders, and Oriental Band all now had their own space.
That same year saw the Great Lakes Shrine Association organized. Marshall Springer, Potentate in 1950, invited the GLSA to hold its first Ceremonial Session in Indianapolis September 8 and 9, 1950. The 8th was the last day of the Indiana State Fair and the gathered 15 temples marched on the fairgrounds track and gave concerts throughout the day. That night they paraded up Central Avenue and across 38th Street to the fairgrounds. Some reports say that parade rivaled the Imperial Session. The next day Noble Wilbur Shaw, a three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and now president of the Speedway, arranged a demonstration race and rides around the track.
In 1996, William S. Spyr, the 1988 Potentate of Murat Temple and later its Recorder, served as the president of the Great Lakes Shrine Association and, with the help of Larry Jefferson as Director General, brought the Great Lakes Convention of 21 Shrine temples to Indianapolis. Murat continues to be active in the Great Lakes Association and regularly attends the business session in February and the convention in September. Alex Rogers was Potentate that year and due to renovations occurring in the Egyptian Room, decided to hold his Potentate's Ball twice: once in the Columbia Club and later in the Egyptian Room.
1997 saw Robert Hancock as both Potentate and Deputy Grand Master of Masons in Indiana. Hancock was a tough man to slow down. He was everywhere telling the story of his beloved Masonry. Not one for the formal rituals, Hancock was known to jump in the air and click his heels while dressed in full regalia. Hancock was loved by many and when he passed away in 2008, he was accorded the honor of having the funeral at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. He appointed or sponsored so many Masons in so many Masonic organizations that those Masons sometimes refer to themselves as the Sons of Bob.
In 1998, Charles Griffith was elected Potentate but the Assistant Rabban, Thomas Mahorney, passed away earlier that month, and Griffith added two nobles to the Divan line: Barry Cook and Jeffery Zaring.
In 1999, Potentate Michael St. Pierre sought to bring the Grand Lodge, York Rite, and Scottish Rite closer together for the good of all Masonry. He also increased the dues $10, all of which is paid into a special fund managed to maintain and restore the temple. The circus also earned a record profit. John Cinotto's guidance as first vice president of the Shrine Circus Association of North America was also a great help. This was another good year for the nobles of Murat. After St. Pierre's good work to bring the appendant bodies in Indiana together, Imperial decided it would no longer require a candidate to be a member of the York or Scottish Rite before becoming a Shriner in 2000.
Gary Lewis, better known as "Bubba," made history in 2000 as the first Clown to become Potentate. His year was no laughing matter. Lewis became the first to take advantage of the new qualifications and worked out the "all the way in one day" concept. He recognized the changing nature of the American man's lifestyle. If the Shrine was to keep growing, it needed to adjust to the potential Shriner's schedule. Ritual, while enjoyable and meaningful, still might be contracted to a single day, with the Grand Lodge of Indiana agreeing a man could start his good work as a noble much more quickly and the Hospitals would benefit.
Shouts of "Hail Caesar" greeted the election of John Cinotto as Potentate in 2001. With his extensive experience as Building and Ground chairman and his years of service as circus director, John brought a wealth of experience to the job of leading our temple.
The Imperial Session was held at Las Vegas in 2001 and naturally the nobility of Murat stayed at Caesars! John would go on to be elected to the Imperial line and presently serves as Imperial High Priest and Prophet.
John Friend was Potentate in 2002 and travel and visitation were again priorities. The size of the temple's delegation to the Smoky Mountain Fun Fest increased considerably.
Edgar McGonigal was the first member of Murat to serve as Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Hospital, and Ed was elected Potentate for 2003. During Ed's year we had seven ceremonials, including a public one at the Chicago Hospital.
Barry Cook, Potentate in 2004, emphasized fun and fellowship. Lin and Bob Coner hosted a temple-wide party that year.
Jeffery P. Zaring, Potentate in 2005, would go on to serve as Grand Master of Masons in 2008–2009.
William H. Wimmenauer, 2006 Potentate, was the second Clown ("Odie") and was appointed to the Divan by the first Clown ("Bubba") in 2000. Bill was well received and by the end of the year, most of the nobles could correctly spell and pronounce his last name!
Jerry Markovich was Potentate in 2007. He was among the first to literally attend every event held during his year. Active in membership, Murat added more than 300 new members during 2007. We were saddened to lose Jerry as he passed to the Unseen Temple in July 2009.
In 2008, Ron Elliott, the always smiling firefighter, was extremely popular with the nobility. Elliott writes, "My year as Murat's Potentate was probably the most enjoyable year of my life. It was an honor to be the first from Murat's Firemen's Club to hold that title."
Our first Potentate, John Brush, was active in all areas of Masonry. Murat has been blessed with several such men. One hundred twenty-five years after Brush, George Proctor was elected to wear the Potentate's Fez and Jewel. He, like Brush, was a Mason's Mason. His list of Masonic credits was extensive in every area. He made Masonry his life and livelihood. George loved the history of our Oasis and decided the 125th year of Murat and 100th year of the Shrine Temple itself deserved a special occasion. He directed a public ceremonial, a Unit and Club Fair, and a parade escorting our newest candidates from the Scottish Rite Cathedral to Murat. June 6, 2009, was another great moment. It was the start of Masonic Week as declared by Governor Mitch Daniels. The week ended with a celebration of the 100th year of the Grand Lodge building at North and Illinois Streets.
There are rumors our temple is haunted. They are so persistent that several years ago a group of experts in the paranormal stayed all night in the temple to check those many reports. Footsteps, lights, conversations, and strange noises all had been reported. The most enduring moment revolves around the portrait of Potentate Jacoby. He has been seen several times with a tear in his eye. What possible meaning could this have? Some say he cries for the day the temple leased the theater and Egyptian Room. But that helped refurbish the grand old building and keep it alive even if it meant giving something up.
Is it possible Jake cries for all of us Shriners on this day 125 years later? Does he know the challenges we face to find new members? Does he worry for the Children's Hospitals? Let's think of Jacoby's tears as those of joy for all the good Murat has done and will do. The long line of men in their red Fezzes who have gone before are counting on us and the nobles yet to come. Jacoby is smiling through his tears of happiness. He knows Murat marches on in the great parade of the Shrine.