Initiation to Shriners International
By: Michael Pembroke
On the eve of this auspicious occasion, having closed our Lodge for the summer that night in Ottawa, three of us beat a trail to Perth, Ontario.
A heartfelt welcome from the unofficial and self-sponsored, after hours hospitality suite, greeted us with open arms, as we arrived too late for the other. Some encouragement from our Brothers and sponsors, had us enjoying some fellowship with such phrases as “it will be better for you tomorrow if you stay up tonight.”
After a late night, a blurry brush by an early breakfast table onto a bus had a fraternity pledge feeling already building in our minds.
A crew of brothers, some I had the good fortune to have met before were on the bus, and we travelled to our first destination.
We arrived at a large one story building, with excitement and trepidation filling the candidates. You could see it on each other’s faces, the thoughts racing across our minds “What are they going to do to us?”, “Am I ready?”, “I sure hope I make my sponsors proud.”, “Am I good enough?”, “What did he mean when he said make sure you wear clean underwear?”
Needless to say, all these questions and more were answered in that low building.
It was moving, enlightening, inspirational and there was plenty of hearty laughter. We all beamed as we left emerging victorious, no longer wide eyed rushes of this storied Fraternity, but as Nobles of Shriners International.
The bus was waiting for us, as the day had a lot more to unveil. A quick trip back to the hotel and on to the next destination.
We gathered in a large parking lot, by a municipal building of sorts, where we were greeted just inside the doors by friendly faces offering sandwiches, cookies and cold drinks. As we fuelled up our bodies, the parking lot continued to fill with other things that needed fuelling.
There was a crew of fellas dressed up like old time British Bobbies, with accompanying striped prisoners and a paddy wagon. There were clowns of every shape and size, with balloons and smiles for everyone. There were Hillbillies in overalls, with straw hats, pickups, outhouses, stills, lawn tractors and Mason jars. There were air force pilots with planes and uniforms. There were floats full of Sheikhs and Shriners. There was a little noise and we all watched a group of lads make the turn off the main in unison, they kept their mini bikes in formation, and they matched from head to toe – The Director’s Staff.
We were about to get underway, and a Noble Sheikh took pity on the gang of new initiates, offering us a ride on his float. We were squared away and moving, when a Noble noticed the rookies on the float, and helped us off to continue the hazing that adds so richly to the memories, and the story.
We marched proudly through Perth, waving to crowds, and embracing the smiles of the children. Everybody loves a parade. We loved it even more. The stroll ended right at our hotel, where the hospitality suite awaited with a cold drink to celebrate.
After a short repose, we all gathered on a regal raised terrace, skirted with a tranquil pond and a beautiful wild garden, all enclosed with glass and stucco walls. Costumes gone, and the evening upon us, everyone was resplendent in their suits and gowns. The ceremony began, and in turn we went up and had our Fezzes placed on our heads. For me it was quite a moving moment, for I had the honour of being Fezed by the gentlemen who took a chance on me inking his name on my petition to Lodge, and again to perhaps this higher calling. The photographer immortalised the moment.
Back to the bus. The spirits were high, and the merriment was palpable. We travelled back to that low building, and it was as transformed as the people who filled it.
The banquet was fantastic, the food wonderful. There were many speeches, none of which had to be endured, just enjoyed, and there were more cheques presented than words.
There was a hi-light for me in this portion, and aware of the ensuing risk, I am sure I can speak for most. That moment occurred when the Fez charge was given, I couldn’t look away, nor around the room for fear of my emotions being given away, but I am confident there wasn’t a completely dry eye in the place – our hats are to off Noble Pradip Patel.
The dining wound up nicely, as a great band mounted the stage and slowly, but effectively dragged everyone out of their seats. We stretched our limbs, and mouths as we all blew off some steam in celebration.
The ubiquitous bus brought us back to the hospitality suite, where we ended the weekend in fine form.
When I was younger, and faced with the question of what do you want to be when you grow up, only one answer ever really rang true – I want to be a philanthropist. Realising eventually that not too many folks hire for such positions, the problem became budget. Thanks to your faith gentleman, I have realised a lifelong goal, I am a Shriner and I am a philanthropist.
Being able now, to pan the camera back from the protagonists’ myopic view, the hours, effort and men, spent on the creation of this event becomes obvious – a heartfelt thank you to all for making us these memories.
The class of 2014