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old photo of shriners

On January 9, 1919, a group of 50 or so Shriners, met in the Raleigh Hotel Ballroom and officially organized the Waco Shrine Club. Next came the important item of a suitable name. It so happened that one of the Shriners present, a gentleman of Syrian ancestry, was named Karem M. Shabook, (by the way, a relative of “Baby George” Fadal). The name KAREM, being the Arabic word for ‘merciful’ or ‘generous’, fit right into the theme of the Shrine.

The petition was placed in proper order by the then Recorder W. F. Quebe, with letters of recommendation from all seven Texas Temples and forwarded to the Imperial Council under the date of April 13, 1919, and when the Council convened in June, at Indianapolis, the petition was approved and dated, June 11, 1919.

Divan robes, regalia and 1,000 Karem Fezzes, were displayed in the windows of Sanger Brothers and Goldstein-Migel Co. on Austin Avenue. The morning paper on July 4th proclaimed ‘SHRINERS TAKE WACO’. The Charter Class contained 200 Novices, and they were treated to the mysteries of the Hot Sands followed by a banquet served at tables set up along North 8th Street between Austin and Washington Avenues in Waco.

At the January stated meeting in 1927, a contract for our first home was let, for a cost of $151,000, and the ‘Corner Stone Laying’ ceremony was held on April 20, 1928.

A highlight for Karem was November 1935, with a two-day All-State Ceremonial. The downtown parade stretched for miles. The First Section was held in our Crystal Ballroom, the Second Section was conducted at the Historic Cotton Place Coliseum with attendance of over 2500 Nobles. This was the beginning of what is now known as T.S.A. (Texas Shrine Association). Karem’s Potentate, Rolla Greig, was the first President of TSA.

In 1936 a big dinner party was held at the new attractive Bus Terminal Café at a cost of 45 cents a plate. Karem also made a name for itself, by having four Nobles serving as officers of Grand Lodge of Texas.

In November 1942, Potentate W. L. Baine launched our new publication, The Karem Karavan. In 1947, President Harry Truman was presented a Gold Membership Card for Karem, and in 1948, Karem held its first Shrine Circus.

A new Masonic Lodge was formed in 1954 and was named after one of our Past Potentates, J. H. Lockwood, and was offered the use of our quarters for their meetings.

A warm and fitting tribute was made in October 1961, when Potentate Henry Spragins resigned his office, to permit Noble W. F. Quebe to be selected for the unexpired term and become Potentate of Karem.

In 1989, Ill. Sir James W. ‘Buddy’ Hunt, Past Potentate, donated 15 acres to Karem for a proposed recreational facility. After a trip to Camp Alzafar in San Antonio, accompanied by Ill. Sir W. O. ‘Bill’ Griffin, Nobles J. A. ‘Jay’ Baker, Bob Kennedy and Swede Larson, the Nobles of Karem Shrine, on October 19, 1989, voted to accept the donation from Ill. Sir Hunt, and on November 16, 1989 the By-Laws were presented to and approved by the Nobility.

On our 75th anniversary, Ill. Sir Jake Roberts led a strong delegation back to Indianapolis, the birth place of Karem, for the Imperial Session, and during this 75th year, we broke ground for our new building on the grounds donated by Ill. Sir Hunt. It was of great sadness that we left our grand and beautiful Mosque, which had been our home for 75 years, but in February 1996, we moved into our new building near the North Bosque River and Farm to Market Road 185.

With the leadership that our Shrine has had in the past and that it will have in the future, there is much more history to write. Due to the length, adequate and well-deserved attention cannot be given to many Nobles and Projects, which have played a major role in the history of Karem.

However, we cannot dwell on the past, but remember with fondness our history and look forward only to the future with determination to make Karem Shrine a better place to meet, work and play and be ever mindful of our goals, the support of our Hospitals for children that they may also look into the future, to a life where they can walk, run and play again.