The Camels Are Coming!
And with them, 50,000 Shriners and 150,000 spectators in a pilgrimage which for magnitude and complexity of organization has no equal anywhere
W. J. MOFFATT
THE CAMEL is described by dictionaries as “a large, hornless, ruminant, long-necked, cushionfooted quadruped, with one hump or two; a thing hard to believe or put up with.”
Lexicographers may have had a noun or two of our somewhat confusing English language in view when they defined the word "camel;” but to any noble of the Mystic Shrine who has followed this "ship of the desert” across the "hot sands to Mecca,” both definitions are applicable, and I have heard his peculiarities announced in words infinitely more virile than the mild phrase the lexicon writer has so blithely penned. In the language of the Shrine initiates, the camel has an ingrown grouch coupled with an olfactory effluvium that is paralleled only by his ungainly build.
Despite his obvious and numerous shortcomings, he is beloved of more than 650,000 members of the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America; and when* he leads they follow. When some 50,000 Shriners met at the Imperial Council convention last year in Los Angeles, and Canada desired the distinction of securing the gathering for 1930, the slogan was: “Sez Jack Canuck to Uncle Sam’l, it’s now my turn to park your camel,” a slogan which, although possibly leaving much to hi* desired in rhyme and rhythm, appealed nevertheless to the camel; and this year he will travel north, leading his host of nobles to Toronto for the council meetings on June 10, 11 and 12.
This is the first time in the history of the Shrine that Canada has been honored with the presence of this vast order—that is, since it has attained its present position of influence and popularity. Forty-eight years ago, when the Mystic Shrine was but eight years old, the Imperial Council met in the Queen City, but there were only 400 members present. They came in their broadcloths, top hats and rich hirsute adornments, held brief business sessions and departed. The camel was conspicuous by his absence.
‘‘More than Oriental Splendor”
TMJRING the intervening years the Mystic Shrine has spread from one coast to the other. In the United States, its temples, as the local lodges are known, number 148. In Canada, the order is not so numerous, although proportionally it has progressed, and there are nine temples, established at Halifax, Saint John, Montreal, Toronto, London, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary and Victoria, with a membership of more than 22,000. The tremendous strides made by the Shrine in the
United States may be illustrated by the strength of one temple, Medinah, whose headquarters cover an entire block on East Ohio Street, Chicago. Medinah Temple has a membership of 30,000; the temple property itself has a value of $3,000,000; the athletic club on North Michigan Avenue cost $5,000,000; and it holds in securities as a surplus, $2,000,000. It is noted for its mounted Arabic patrols, foot patrols, band, drum corps, “chanters,” or glee club, and other phases of Shrine activities. More than 1,600 members of Medinah Temple will come to Canada for
the council meetings according to advance information.
It is the special Shrine activities that have made the Imperial Council meetings so picturesque, and that attract tens of thousands of spectators annually to its conventions. These activities have also won for the order the term "the playgroun 1 of masonry.” This phrase, however, is a misnomer. The Mystic Shrine is not an official masonic organization, although a member must be a 3‘2nd degree mason, or a Knight Templar, before he is eligible for caravan honors. The playground
Moving a Pilgrimage
TT IS at once the world’s largest annual convention and its most picturesque one. And its coming will present a transportation and housing problem unique in the rail and convention history of the Dominion.
More than 50,000 visitors identified with the Ancient Arabic Order must be moved in and out of Toronto within the short space of a week. They will have to be housed and fed. The situation would be analogous to the entire population of the City of Regina, with its 50,000 inhabitants, leaving their home city, men, women and children, bag and baggage, and making a three-day descent upon Toronto.
And this is but one-quarter of the problem. There remains the anticipated out-of-town spectator inrush— 150,000 strong—which will be as if the citizens of Hamilton and Fort William joined those of Regina in a concentrated movement upon Ontario’s capital city, a pilgrimage unthinkable in the economic and commercial structure of modern nations but a fact in the Shrine convention.
accusation is further belied by the serious work which the Shrine sponsors behind the tyling of its doors. The order supports ten big hospitals for crippled children, five units, or wings, attached to foremost hospitals for the same work, and wherever one of the 157 temples is established, special wards are also endowed. Here crippled children, without regard to race, creed or color, are receiving the latest treatment known to modern surgery, and it is the boast of the Shrine that by 1936 there will be 50,000 fewer cripples in the United States and Canada as a result of their philanthropy. This is but one phase of the many little known charitable efforts supported by the Shrine.
This year, when the camel travels north to Canada, lie will bring with him multifarious reports of various Shrine activities, and he will come in what Kipling calls “more than Oriental splendor.” Nobles from every temple throughout the continent will follow his lead, and he will head as picturesque a caravan as ever crossed the hot desert sands. Cavalcades with real Arabian mounts and flintlocks—wild riders of the sands in burnous and flowing robes of red, green and gold—will prance behind his phlegmatic shuffle; foot patrols, colorful in fez, waistcoats, jacket, baggy trousers and spats, and drilled with a precision in military manoeuvres that would rival the French Foreign Legion, will march in serried ranks behind him. Then will come the bands, some numbering as many as 150 musicians, ablaze with colors, gold braid and medals; drum corps, gaudily uniformed, rolling out their martial beats; and “chanters” attired in the conventional Western dinner jacket, bow tie and white, silk-lined cape—hundreds of gleesters, who will sing on parade, from concert platform and choir loft.
Success or failure depended upon the ability of the railways to move this army of visitors, and the housing of them while attending the convention functions. Existing accommodation for such a multitude was hopelessly inadequate. Of what use would be the bringing of people to Toronto if they had no place to stay? The housing problem was the paramount one. The railways were asked not only to assure transportation facilities for the Shrine, but to find temporary quarters for a considerable number of them, requests unparalleled in the records of steam roads.
Two questions were asked: Could they provide adequate service to transport the 50,000 Shrine guests? Would each transportation system individually provide housing accommodation for 8,000 visitors?
The railways could and would, and out of their co-operation will grow what may be termed two cities within a city, cities of only a few days life, but selfcontained units with their own municipal managers, police force, telephone and telegraph services, barber shops and beauty parlors, stores and taxi stands and all the conveniences of urban life.
“Cities” Within a City
'T'EMPLE PARK, as one “city” will be known, at the
time of writing is the Canadian National Railways’ new coach yard. When the hour comes for the Shrine delegations to arrive, it will but need the signature of an official pen to make it the thriving centre of 10,000 inhabitants—a Fredericton mushroomed into existence overnight. Nor will it be the rough-and-tumble structure of a new-born town. It will have broad and spacious avenues; concrete sidewalks will flank each track; floodlights will throw a brilliance unexcelled and seldom equalled by any Main Street on the continent; street car and bus service will be available to all parts of Toronto; and from the “avenues” streets will radiate, identified alphabetically.
It will be a city of more than 450 sleeping cars, and there will be no confusion among the “citizens” in locating their temporary homes. A guest upon arrival at the “city” gate need only say, “F, car 5, lower 7,” and he will immediately be shown his space.
Each city of consequence and substance, no matter what its age, must have a city hall.
Temple Park will be no exception to the rule. In the centre of its municipal area stands a brick and concrete building covering some thousands of square feet. It is now known as the new Commissary and Stores Plant; but when the transformation of the yards is made into municipal status, it will assume the dignity of the centre of administration and community life. Here will be found the offices, shops, baths, and a miniature but complete hospital. The nobles’ ladies may purchase with equal facility a box of candies, a breakfast, a marcel wave or a handkerchief.
Fez City, now under construction by the Canadian Pacific Railway, will adjoin Temple Park and will have accommodation for 300 Pullmans. According to present
plans, it will vary in but one outstanding way from its sister municipality. The administrative and community centres will be marquees instead of a large permanent building.
To plan and construct these temporary “cities,” even for a three-day occupancy, was no light task for the railway engineers. It involved serious and fundamental alterations in terminal operation, and numerous conferences had to be held by departmental heads before a working basis could be reached. To the Canadian National Railways it meant the transferring of coachyard facilities to the Mimico Yards, situated on the western outskirts of the city, with the construction of considerable trackage to meet the increasing traffic demands. To the Canadian Pacific Railway it necessitated the laying out and completion of the entire Fez City. Some idea of the work entailed may be gleaned when it is known that an expenditure exceeding $100,000 will be necessary.
The Railways’ Problem
rT'HE construction of the “convention cities” was but A one phase of the work the transportation systems were called upon to perform. There still remain the actual train movements. To transport within a period of a few hours the entire population of Regina, Hamilton and Fort William would be well nigh a physical impossibility. Nevertheless, under somewhat different conditions, this situation must be met. To do so a definite list of all special trains moving will be assembled; operating officials must know to the last unit the number of special cars upon every regular train entering and leaving the terminals—a gigantic task when it is known that present estimates indicate that more than 100
special trains will enter the terminals before the convention, and therefore will have to be dispatched out again when the gathering disperses. In addition to this, there will likewise be a limited number of extra express trains, carrying the 500 horses used by the mounted
patrols. As the number of regular daily trains, passenger and freight, in and out of the Toronto terminals, touches the 250 mark, the operating and transportation difficulties of the railways in handling their regular schedules, plus the extra equipment and more than 100 special movements, can be appreciated.
The engineers were confronted with a second problem, that of storing the additional equipment brought into the terminals on the regular passenger trains and the extra locomotives used to move the special trains.
Space will be required for at least 1,000 extra cars and an unknown number of locomotives. The new facilities to be provided at the Mimico Yards would take care of a reasonable number of cars; the roundhouses in the terminals a certain number of the “iron horses.” These engines could be moved as necessity demanded, but the cars once spotted would be permanent. To shunt them, even to an adjoining track, would entail costly switching. Therefore, such provision as made for storage must be of a permanent character. Where could adequate facilities be located?
As this is being written, surveys are under way at a number of terminals. Hamilton, Oshawa, Allandale, Peterborough and other terminals not too far distant will be visited and a close check made upon such extra facilities as may exist. If necessary, and as occasion may arise, one or all will be pressed into service for storage purposes. The question may be raised in the mind of the reader that railway officials are making needless work for themselves; that these cars might easily stand on one or more of the numerous sidings close to the city. Such a course is quite outside practical possibility.
.The extra cars are all of standard equipment, and many of them are the property of foreign lines. To the railway company each car represents not less than a capital investment of $40,000, and the 1,000 extra cars will have an estimated value in the neighborhood of $40,000,000. This places a heavy responsibility upon the railway officials to assure their safe storage and upkeep while not in use; for, not only must they be adequately guarded but the storage batteries and lights have to be maintained, and heating facilities provided should inclement weather conditions prevail.
A simple problem in arithmetic will give an astounding answer to the tremendous sum involved in the railway equipment which will be held in and about Toronto during the Shrine convention. Estimates show that Temple Park will accommodate abont 1,000 cars; Fez City, 800 cars; and various yards the 1,000 extra cars. Calculating upon the same conservative figure of each car representing a value of $40,000, this means multiplying $40,000 by 2,800, giving the huge total of $112,000,000 invested in equipment. To this total could be added the additional locomotives and their cost, were such numbers and figures available. Thus, dollars and cents contribute their quota in the
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The Camels Are Coming!
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magnitude of the effort the railways will put forth.
Railway Staff Work
TT IS the biggest peacetime movement the Canadian railways have been called upon to perform in their history,” commented W. A. Kingsland, general manager of the Central Region, Canadian National System, who was in charge of the assembling and dispatching of the First Canadian Division from Valcartier Camp overseas, popularly acclaimed as the outstanding rail transportation achievement in Canada during the Great War.
“In some ways,” continued Mr. Kingsland, ‘‘the Shrine invasion of Toronto is comparable to wartime troop movements, when the demands individually to be made upon the railways are considered, but when taken collectively it is much larger. The Valcartier mass mobilization for the First Contingent amounted to 33,000 troops; the Shrine movement will number some 65,000 individuals. Therefore, it will be seen that
each transportation system will be handling approximately a similar number of people as was done at Valcartier.
“These 65,000 people must be moved in three days, the Saturday, Sunday and Monday preceding the convention. The majority of them will move by special train, consisting in many instances of one or more cars to each visiting temple, although Medinah Temple will require seven trains to move its patrols, bands and ‘chanters.’ Therefore, not less than 100 special trains—and present indications place this figure somewhat higherwill move into the terminals during the brief space of seventy-two hours. In ! other words, the railways will be required j to handle more than one special train per j hour, shunt it into place on the sidings of j either Temple Park or Fez City, in addition to the regular programme requiring the movement of 250 trains per day in and out of Toronto.
“In comparing the individual tasks of the railways—that is, estimating the Shrine parties at 50,000 and the railtravelling spectators at 20,000—with the troop movement at Valcartier camp, the numbers are almost approximate, but while the transportation of the troops was somewhat complicated by the presence of relatives and friends, there was a military discipline enforced that made the work of the railway officials relatively easier. In this forthcoming movement it will be an
army of civilians and I anticipate that the work of the transportation officers will be relatively more difficult. This lack of discipline and its attendant tendency toward delay are now receiving our close attention, and we confidently anticipate that before the first convention train arrives we shall have found some way, if not to circumvent it, at least to reduce the confusion of disembarking passengers to a minimum. In the meantime, we are bending all our energies toward solving not only this problem, but a number of others which to the layman would seem of no consequence, but are vital if service is to be given that is up to the high standards set and maintained by Canadian railways. And solved they must be, for this will be one of the supreme tests of railroad efficiency.”
A City Afloat
THE land transportation systems had been most sympathetic and wholehearted in their co-operation. There remained the marine interests. Solution
of the housing problem was yet a vital one. The Canada Steamships have many fine passenger vessels on the Lower Great Lakes, and Toronto is noted for its harbor improvements. The question was asked: Why not make use of these facilities? Perhaps a floating city could spring up along the lake front! Some of the temples might be induced to charter steamships and follow the camel via the water route. The Board of Harbor Commissioners was consulted, and agreed to provide berths for extra ships during tbre convention. A hint was given to certain temples on the Great Lakes that possibly they might favor the idea of chartering boats and making their home on them during the convention. The answers were happy ones. Rochester would, Montreal would, and some other smaller temples. Toronto’s waterfront will take form as a floating city, accommodating about 4,000 nobles and their ladies.
Two cities within a city and one afloat had been plucked out of the realm of fancy and become things of future reality. A fourth “city” was required before it was felt that ample quarters would be available for the host of 50,000 or more fraternal invaders. It would be a “city” that would surpass in area, size and appointments the former three, and would be known as Rameses Oriental Gardens. Here the visiting nobles could
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“park” their camels secure in the knowledge that they would be a product of the East amid a glamorous Eastern setting — even to the bazaars would they be at home.
Rameses Oriental Gardens will be the spacious grounds and buildings of the Canadian National Exhibition; but its 350 acres of park and 100 permanent buildings will be touched by the finger of Shrine magic and transformed into a land that might well have been torn from the pages of the Arabian Nights. Minarets and prayer towers, caravans and cases, Arab villages and desert fortalices— miniatures of the Orient, reproduced with fidelity to every detail—will arise on the grounds almost overnight.
Architecturally transformed into a symbolism of that brooding, mysterious land to which the Ancient Arabic Order will turn its face at the convention, the Gardens are to be the home of 15,000 additional nobles, the members of the mounted and foot patrols, the bands, drum corps and “chanters.” The Coliseum, its massive bulk to rise in the outline of a great mosque, will be the convention headquarters; and the Automotive Building will lose its identity as a monument to the god of speed and become the romantic “Garden of Allah,” the reception home for nobles and their ladies, where the rush and surge of the convention will be stilled by the luxury and glitter of Eastern settings, and the golden sands of the desert meet in perfect amity with a profusion of exotic flowers and the soft spray of fountains.
The Jinnee of the East will work his magic on various other exhibition buildings, transforming them externally into the fine lines of Arabian architecture and internally into huge dormitories. Not even the stables will escape the touch of the Orient, for in them will be stabled the dozen camel leaders of the caravans, ten elephants and 500 horses of the different mounted patrols. The grand stand, with its seating capacity for 24,800 people, will be supplemented by an additional 75,000 seats, and will offer a point of vantage to view the daily grand pageants, competitions between mounted and foot patrols, and other uniformed sections of the temples.
The four temporary “cities” cut the housing requirements almost in half. Other co-operation was solicited to meet the remaining demands. The Board of Governors of the University of Toronto opened the students’ residences to the nobles. The Royal York Hotel set aside 1,000 rooms for the use of the Imperial Council. The King Edward Hotel reserved 900 for nobles and various hotels and boarding houses are being canvassed for extra space. Neighboring cities and towns were also asked to co-operate. Reservations for 15,000 people have been made at Hamilton; while proportional space has been secured in Oshawa, Whitby, Oakville and other places.
To complete arrangements for the fifty-sixth annual meeting of the Imperial Council has been, and will be, a stupendous task. Rameses Temple, the Toronto home of the Shrine, realized the extent of the project and that of necessity it must be a provincial affair. An organization chart was adopted, consisting of a Director General, a Board of Control, meeting daily and composed of leading citizens in all walks of life, without regard .to fraternal or religious affiliations, and
thirty-five committees to deal with various phases of convention requirements. For example, the Automobile Committee has yet to locate space for the parking of 250,000 motor cars.
A New’ Influence for Peace
C^\NE outstanding feature of the Imperial Council meeting will be the inauguration of a new era in Shrine activities, and it will mark the launching of an effort to build a platform of a lasting international character. At the June meeting, the Council will definitely align itself with the world peace movement and will unveil, at Exhibition Park, a Peace Memorial—the gift of the Ancient Arabic Order to the Dominion—and likewise unveil a new peace flag, with the Shrine emblem emblazoned upon it and the inscriptions, Es Selamu Aleikum and Aleikum Es Selam—“Peace be on you:” “On you be the Peace.”
For this ceremony governors of every state in the Union, and LieutenantGovernors of every province have been invited. Radio arrangements have been made to broadcast the dedication ceremonies throughout the world.
The moral effect of 650,000 leading citizens of both nations identified with the order, throwing their influence behind the peace programme, cannot but be enormous.
In adopting a policy of international scope, unprecedented though it is, the nobles are not exceeding the aims and objects of the organization, as outlined in the records of the parent temple Mecca, founded at New York, in 1874, by Dr. Walter Fleming. One section, describing the origin of the movement, reads:
“The order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine was instituted by the Mohammedan Khalif (whose name be praised!) the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Mohammed (God favor and preserve him!) in the year of the Hegira 25 (A.D. 646) at Mecca, in Arabia, as an inquisition or vigilance committee to dispense justice and execute punishment on criminals who escaped their just deserts through tardiness of the courts, and to promote religious toleration among cultured men of all nations.”
Unfortunately, the date when the camel reached his present high estate in the order as the leader of aspiring nobles “across the hot sands to Mecca” is not recorded; but his importance as a mark of opulence in Arabian life is unquestioned. It is written in the Book of Kings that when the Queen of Sheba made her historic visit to Solomon, “she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bore spices and very much gold and precious stones.” No other animal in the retinue apparently was deemed worthy by the chronicler of impressing posterity with the wealth and dignity of Her Majesty of Sheba.
In June, when he travels north to Canada, as ever emblematic of pomp and ceremony and the ritual of the East, he will head a greater caravan than that which bore Sheba’s ruler over the golden sands of the desert; and though he comes not laden with “spices and gold and precious stones,” he carries with him a gift to humanity beyond value in the marts of the world—an ideal and a new force to support Rt. Hon. J. Ramsay MacDonald, Prime Minister of Great Britain, and President Hoover in their efforts to attain world peace.