8 April 65 : Shriners Circus, Perry Mason and Red Skelton : Cincinnati, USA

Thursday 8th April 1965.

Dear Family,

Well, once again all our plans have changed due to the fact that our boss has ruptured himself and is in hospital, which leaves us without any work to do, and as luck would have it a panic has developed in the New York area – and guess who has to go there – yes, just our luck!!

We still have some jobs here to finish off and we are going at snail’s pace, offering to do all sorts of ‘extras’, just to stay out here for another weekend. We have managed it, and will still be able to fit in our visit to Chicago this weekend.

This job is very odd as you never know what is going to happen next. We have met so many terrifically nice people out here, so much so that we just don’t want to leave. We had to cancel a dinner appointment with an owner of one of the places where we have been working which is a shame.

There will be some more work soon at his place, and he insists that he will ask for us personally which is very nice. It may drag us away from the east, hopefully.

The weather here has been very odd. The first part of the week was terrific thunderstorms, one lasted all night, and then they cleared and we have had fabulous weather since, with sun and temperatures up around 75 degrees. We spent yesterday afternoon sunbathing and it was really warm.

My shirt arrived safely this morning for which I am very grateful. It is exactly the one I wanted and the right colour too. It’s amazing how many people comment on our shirts. I reckon we could make some money out here selling them!


1965 04 08 Cincinnati Gardens


Last night we went ice skating at Cincinnati Gardens, and next to the Ice Rink is a large covered stadium (where The Beatles appeared) which hold 14,000 people, and in there was being held the annual ‘Shriners Circus’. This is just an ordinary circus which is put on and the whole thing is sponsored and put on by the ‘Shriners‘.

These Shriners were in evening dress and all wore a sort of fez, and some carried white canes, and other peculiar things. When we asked one fellow what it was all about he explained that the Shriners are a social branch of the Masons, and the all the proceeds of this circus will go to a crippled children’s fund. Apparently this is held once a year for charity.


1965 04 08 Shrine circus Cincinatti screengrab

1965 04 08 images from Mason Magazine 1964 showing Shrine Circus Cincinatti
Images relating to the Cincinatti Shrine Circus 1964/65


The other night we saw the Academy Awards in full, and ever since we have had a lot of cracks about the number of English actors who won awards. Bob Hope, the master of ceremonies, said that after the Awards “the winners would go to a party at the Hilton – and the losers would march on the British Embassy”!!

We read about the budget increases and were quite disappointed. Things seem to be getting pretty tough for you. People here complain bitterly about taxes, but they don’t have a clue. It seems as though the poor old motorist has taken the brunt of it again.

It’s funny you know, we see loads of big stars here appearing on TV every night, and the other night on The Red Skelton Show (one of the top comedy shows of the week) the guest star was the fellow who plays ‘Perry Mason’. I had never even seen him smile before, but in this show he played all comedy, and in one scene he ended up rolling around in hysterics. So take it from me he can laugh.


1965 04 08 Raymond Burr on Red Skelton Show
Raymond Burr (left) and Red Skelton


To be continued…

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Join us at http://www.facebook.com/Tones1960stravels to say hello, find out more or ask Tony a question 🙂
While I couldn’t find the exact sketch described by Tony, THIS SCENE from that episode of the Red Skelton Show shows Skelton and Raymond Burr (Perry Mason in the hit detective series from 1957 – 1966) repeatedly struggling not to laugh. 🙂

The Shriners (officially Shriners International) were established in 1870, after a group of Masons in Manhattan wanted a new fraternity dedicated to fun and socialising. Two members took up the challenge.
One, William J. Florence, was a world-famous actor. On tour in Marseille, he attended a party given by an Arab diplomat, where the entertainment was a musical comedy, which included the audience being enrolled into a secret society.

Enthralled, Florence attended the comedy night twice more, in Algiers and then Cairo, taking detailed notes and drawing. Back in New York, he showed these to fellow Mason Walter Millard Fleming, who then designed the Shriners’ ritual, emblems and costume.

Inspired by Florence’s experiences, Fleming adopted a Middle Eastern theme, with members wearing distinctive red Fez hats.


By Ellin Beltz - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34218997
Shriners at a 4th July parade


Although non-religious, the organisation also called their meeting halls Temples (their Manhatten base was Mecca Temple), while Fleming was elected ‘Imperial Potentate.’ By 1900, there were 55,000 members – all male.

Today, Shriners International has around 350,000 members worldwide, describing itself as a ‘fraternity based on fun, fellowship, and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth.’ Most of their bases have now been renamed Auditoriums or Centres.
The Ladies’ Oriental Shrine and the Daughters of the Nile can also be joined by women who are related to Masons.
Shriners regularly take part in fundraising parades – often driving miniature vehicles or playing in bands – and they organise circus, music and golfing events to raise funds.
These charitable works fund 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children across the USA, Mexico, and Canada which offer medical care to any child in need, free of charge if the child has no health insurance. All expenses are also covered.

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