by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Brian J. Schimian
Not every Mason is a Shriner, but every Shriner is a Mason.
When the public at large thinks of the Shriners, they think of those “guys in the silly hat’s in the
parade”. When Master Mason’s think of the Shriners, they think of their Brothers that “Never Stand So Tall As When They Kneel To Help A Child”.
When I think of the Shriners, I am transported back in time to when I was just knee high to a grasshopper. The early 80’s was an interesting time to be a kid. It was even more exciting when that kid is traveling around withe the Lake County Shrine Club (The Oldest Shrine Club In Medinah ---Chartered September 15, 1937) helping all the guys out with their parades. I guess you could say I was a Shriner before I truly understood what it meant. At that age, how could anyone expect to grasp the greater purpose?
Maybe being around and integrated into that atmosphere for as long as I can remember is what ingrained the virtues of Faith, Hope & Charity as the cornerstones of my life. I certainly looked forward to those summers crawling around the back of a box truck helping with the Mini-T cars before and after events. I can certainly tell you that it changed what my perception of “family” was.
According to the the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (on-line) Family is described as:
• A group of people who are related to each other.
• A person’s child.
• A group of related people including people who lived in the past.
I would challenge that definition and say that it would be more appropriate to say that Family is a group of people united by certain convictions and related by common characteristics. That, to me, is what the Nobles Of The Mystic Shrine exemplify as family. And what better common conviction is there than providing free medical care to children in specialized ﬁelds? I can tell you from my own experiences that some things may come close, but they will never eclipse what the Nobles do.
I guess if you use my definition, it is no wonder why this piece about the Great Men that are the Shriners, has taken months to be able to begin writing and just as long to complete. Not only do these Great Men preform one of the most solemn acts in the free Nobles Of The Mystic Shrineworld, but they do it while making fun of themselves and above all else, having fun doing it. Like I stated above, these were not just guys I saw on weekends over the summer at parades, but they became my Brethren in Lodge and fellow Shriners. They were my Family. I could have asked for anything at any time from any of these guys and it would be at my feet before I could blink.
But before I get there, let’s go back to those summers in the 80’s and 90’s…The Lake County Shrine Club had a big box truck that had custom track installed with winches to get cars in and out with long ramps made out of aluminum channels. I was the smallest and most nimble one available to be able to crawl in and do what needed to be done in the process. It was the highlight of my childhood. I would follow the cars in the parade, walking behind all the onlookers just incase there was a breakdown. I would run out and push the cars as the Shriner steered it out of the way. If we were lucky, one of the guys that had his own Mini-T, the “Happy Hooker”, that looked like an old school tow truck would come hook up to it and tow it through the Parade. I think the crowds got more of a kick out of the spectacle unfolding before them than anything else. We had an old style milk delivery truck, a ﬁre truck and bunch of the regular Model-T style cars.
Eventually my father purchased his own to rehab and take to the parades. That was a long cold winter in the garage, but I will be darned if Butch (My Father) and I didn’t get that thing stripped to the last nut and bolt, cleaned, painted, pimped and reassembled before the next parade season. My father being a police ofﬁcer, we wired a motorcycle battery to an old siren and hooked up a hidden speaker that blasted off the back of the car. We even went so far as to ﬁnd a real, working, old school Ooga Horn. The kind that you have to push down on with your foot to get to work.
It ﬁt perfectly on the running board and we lubed it up so you could work it with your hand. I have
fond memories racing that thing up and down my street in the early spring, so we put a bigger motor in it, so what? We even reworked the ﬂywheel so Dad could raise the control lever up and go in reverse! He got a heck of a kick being in the parades and as he would pass a kid hitting either the siren or the horn. Usually after their attention shifted to the cars behind Dad… It was a surprise that their parents were not expecting!
Even with trailing our own car to the parades, I still jumped up into box truck and helped load and unload the rest of the crew. After each parade there was always a luncheon. Sometimes at a no name family restaurant, sometimes a private invitation to a local VFW. Regardless, wherever we went, those were the best lunches I think I have ever had. Everyone was always in a good mood, laughing and telling stories. I heard many tails about my father’s exploits that I probably shouldn’t have… I couldn’t wait until I cold be counted amongst the ranks of these Great Men.
As I got into High School, I met one of my best friends. The best man at my wedding as a matter of fact. He was a DeMolay (only from another Chapter) and his father was a Shriner with the Medinah Motor Corps. If you aren’t aware of them, they are the guys Nobles Of The Mystic Shrine that ride the Pearl White Harley Davidson Motorcycles. By this time, not only was Butch running his Mini-T in parades, but he joined the Medinah Aviators and was ﬂying kids, for free, around the Country to the different Shriners Hospitals for treatment.
As our friendship grew, I started ending up at the same places that the Motor Corp. guys were. They quickly became kind of a second Family to me. One of the unique things about the Motor Corp. was “Competition”. Now the Medinah Motor Corp. is one of the most spectacularly graceful group of motorcycle riders in the world. Hands down. They have a move called the “Starburst” where they all go out in a circle, face to the center and gun the bike as fast as they can make them go. They cross in the center and all come out the other end. I know how it is done, and I won’t spill the beans, but if you ever get the chance to see it, it is amazing. Not only in skill, but in pure daredevil bravado!
Within the Shrine there is a National Event called Imperial Session where Temples and clubs from across the country meet up. Along with that comes the competition. When I approached my Dad about going with the Motor Corp. guys, my buddy Kevin was with me. Dad didn’t seem to thrilled with the idea. Kevin picked up the phone, called his dad and put it on speaker. Dennis, after quickly ascertaining the current status of my situation made one simple statement, “What could possibly go wrong?” That was it, I was in, and knowing what I know now, my Dad knew EXACTLY what the possibilities were at Imperial Session. And he still let me go! First is the road to competition… Why trailer your bike when you can ride it?… Nothing like twelve guys on white Harley’s, dressed in their police uniforms, doing a perfectly coordinated slaloms around construction barrels. At, or maybe slightly above, highway speeds. That was the most interesting ride through Indiana on I-65 I have ever had. Which, needles to say, caught the attention of the Indiana State Patrol.
At some point the squad car realized that the bikes had no intention of heeding the siren. After all, they had their own red & blues with sirens. Next up on the State Patrol’s list was to call in their own Motor Patrol. I am not sure that went the way the ﬁrst ofﬁcer had planned. Not only did they join in, but we had an escort all the way through Indianapolis and right up to the hotel. Apparently the majority of the Indiana Motor Patrol happen to be Master Masons, Shriners and compete annually against the Medinah Motor Corp. The Medinah group may not always walk away after the weekend with 1st Place, but often they do.
Through this new group of Great Men, I met the Man that basically cracked my shell and brought me out into the world of cutting loose. I definitely attribute my social behavior (the good and bad) to this man. Brian Forbes was a Brother to me. You could ask for the skin off Brian’s back and he would cut it off himself. That was just the kind of guy he was. Everything for everyone else. The same can be said of many of the Great men I have known, but Brian was that way 24/7, no questions asked. He owned his own DJ Service in Gurnee, IL. and hired me to work as a DJ. Now, up until this point, the most public speaking I had done was in High School Speech class. I was extremely introverted around people I did not know. I usually took awhile to warm up to new people and be myself.
I don’t know if Brian saw this and decided to take me under his wing for my betterment in life or what. One day he called me, said he knew I was a Noble Of The Mystic Shrine looking for a job and told me to come over. As I pulled up to his place, he was in his garage. Before I could say anything, he had the back of my Blazer open and was shoving thousands of dollars of gear in the back. Custom DJ equipment with stand he had made special. Speakers, Stands, DAT cases (Digital Audio Tapes), cases of CD’s (this was before recording your own CD’s was “mainstream”), bins of cables, the whole nine yards to be completely self sufficient. We walked into his townhouse and sat down in his ofﬁce. He handed me a binder and a ﬁle folder with my ﬁrst gig. A wedding. Talk about sweating! Brian went and got his box of wine from the fridge and sat back down, laughing. Obviously I was telegraphing my feelings. Now, I had seen Brian MC events a bunch. And there is a reason he was THE guy everyone called. He WAS the master. Brian could get ANYONE up and dancing. There was NO WAY I could pull that off, not even close! And a wedding?!?! Someone’s “special day” and he wants ME to ruin it?!?!!
He had me ﬂip the binder open and start reading. Two words in, he stopped me. “Say it like you are there”, he said. “People remember two things about weddings, the bar and the DJ.” No pressure, right. I starred going through the pages and realized something. Almost EVERY thing he says, he scripted! It was all written down! Every type of event! I had one day to memorize as much of the wedding stuff as I could before it was show time.
Next we went through the ﬁle folder. All the couple’s information down to pictures so I would be able to greet them by name when I saw them. What they wanted, what they didn’t, unless Aunt so and so asked. But ONLY then. Next was a CD he had made. All the songs they requested were in order. All I had to do was hit play. Pause and insert a request here and there and it would all be over before I could even get nervous. He even had a CD to play during diner for background music. Cash money, tips and a free meal. I was in.
I studied my butt off reading and remembering how I had seen Brian do things. I don’t remember much about the ﬁrst wedding specifically, (think about it, how do DJ’s get tipped most times at weddings? I can tell you, they don’t pay for drinks…) but I remember that a good review had made its way back to Brian by the following Monday. I DJ’ed every type of gig you can think of. Weddings, funerals, Mitzvah’s, corporate parties, school dances and so on. I even DJ’ed a guys 21st birthday party where his mom and grandma got him a stripper. Awkward! One of the coolest gigs was at the University of Whitewater in WI. No free drinks, but I didn’t have to drive back to IL that night… Brian’s customers were getting Brian. It was just being delivered by me, Bri-
guy, as he called me.
When it was my turn to get married, I sent Brian and Susie #2 (if you know, then you know) an invitation to attend as guests and then told him I wanted to hire his company to DJ the show. He wouldn't have any part of it. He said they would be there, but HE would be DJ’ing. When I told him I wanted him to enjoy the night and not have to worry about working, he laughed at me. He told me that it would be part of his gift to us and “don’t worry about the party, it won’t be easily topped…” He was true to his word, I have been to some fun weddings, but none have topped what we had. 15 years later, it is still talked about as the best wedding night. That turned into a morning… 2 Bars were emptied, other wedding parties joined ours because we were Nobles Of The Mystic Shrine having such a blast. Three wedding parties, one kong-a-line and 4 banquet rooms. To say it was epic would be an understatement. It only came to an end because the manager cut the circuit breakers. We just moved to the bar down the hall… You can’t keep a Shriner from a party.
I am not sure that anyone could have had the time that I did and never end up in trouble with the law. Beyond the work, parades, competition and formal stuff, there was always something social going on. Medinah has an enormous picnic every year where all the clubs and units get together. They used to take over the old Holiday Park in IL. Fence to fence Shriners and their families. As soon as the car hit park, the kids were cut loose. After all, “What could possibly go wrong?” It was truly one BIG family. Truck loads of food, billions of games and just about everything you could imagine to do. I never found out how, but they got the ski lifts going one year and everyone was taking rides up and down the ski hill. Then there was the parties that each club and unit had on their own. Lake County Shrine Club’s was always at the Old Ft. Sheridan, before it closed down years ago. If you were in this circle and sat at home bored on the weekend, it was your own fault.
If someone says there was a better way to grow into manhood, I would have to seriously disagree with them. Even away from Shrine events, I spent a ton of time with these guys. I went to the NHRA Nationals in Indianapolis for years with my buddy Kevin, his dad, Brian Forbes, Mike & Donna (another STELLAR couple that would take a mortgage on their house to help a friend in need) and others here and there. I had the utmost respect for all these people and they had my back. The jury is still out (mostly due to possible statute of limitations) on whether or not EVERYTHING my Family schooled me on was On The Level, but I wouldn’t give one second of it back.
So, if you REALLY want to know who the Shriners are, think of that guy that is always there offering to help. Never asking questions, maybe whispering good advise at times. The guy that without being asked would pay your mortgage because he sees you are in a tight spot. The guy that would walk twelve miles in a thunderstorm to help you work on your car because he heard through the grapevine that you were in need of a hand. The one that will stand by you in the good times and teach you the things that only a Family member can. The one that is always watching your back, even when you haven’t talked in a few weeks. They are the guys that spend their weekends selling Vidalia Onions on street corners and donating the proceeds to the Children’s Hospitals.
Oh, those ‘ol Nobles know how to tear it up (I could tell you stories about a certain Illustrious Sir from years ago that would make your ears burn!), but they are also the most loyal, truthful, respectful and supportive people you could hope to have in your life. If there was a circle inside of the circle of Freemason’s, the Shrine is it. Find a guy (and his Lady) like that, and I would bet that you just might have found yourself a Noble Of The Mystic Shrine.
Brian Forbes took my shell, ripped it away and tossed me into the deep end. Head ﬁrst. I wouldn’t have made it to were I am today in any other way. I owe much to who I am and what I am able to accomplish today to that guy.
Brian was taken from us decades too early and I think of him often. My only hope is that I have made him, as well as all those Great Men that have been called by the Black Camel over the past few years proud. I hope that I have and will continue to do their memories justice. I will carry their torch for as long as I can.
Butch, Brian, Ralph, Sam and so many others that made me who I am today, I thank you and I miss all of you every day. I certainly would not be the person I am today without each and every single one of you in my life, if only for a short while.
Great piece, Brian. When I received the 33rd Degree in Chicago in 2011, the Medinah Motor Club escorted us to the theater where the degree presentation was done and then back to the hotel again afterwards. Being escorted through traffic like that by that group was something I'll never forget.ReplyDelete