History of Al Bahr Shriners
It all began, according to the earliest records available, in 1908, when Shriners living in the San Diego area initiated a movement to establish a Shrine Temple in their city. Following some three years of effort, Al Malaikah Temple in Los Angeles granted dispensation on May 12, 1912, and this was followed by the Imperial Potentate William J. Cunningham granting a charter on May 13, 1913.
Fittingly, the name Al Bahr was bestowed upon the infant Temple because the literal translation is “By the Sea,” and with the Pacific at our back door, what could be more appropriate?
Following the receipt and dispensation, the Temple has her Inaugural Ceremonial as well as Ceremonies of Institution, at the U.S. Grant hotel in downtown San Diego. The first Potentate to serve Al Bahr was L.S. McClure (pictured). Who completed 1912 and a full year in 1913. The class of novices numbered one hundred and twenty and there was a delegation of between four and five hundred present for the festivities including Imperial representatives. At the close of 1912 Al Bahr had 430 members ans was located in the U.S. Grant Hoetel.
Soon after, the Temple moved from the U.S. Grant Hotel to the Southern Counties Building in Balboa Park and one of the 1914 Ceremonials was held in the Park at the Panama California Exposition Building. The Temple purchased Ocean Beach property for $12,000 for use as a Shrine Club in 1914. A second 1914 Ceremonial, at Coronado, was marked by a second visit of Imperial Officers to the fledgling Temple.
In 1918, the Temple rented its Lodge Rooms from the Scottish Rite for $5.00 per meeting and the initiation fee for candidates in the military service was reduced to $25.00.
A milestone was reached in 1921 when Al Bahr reached her long sought after goal of 1,000 members. President of the United States, Warren Harding was made an Honorary Member of Al Bahr in 1921. The Temple’s office in 1922 was in the downtown Spreckles Building.
1923 was the year the Temple signed a contract with the U.S. Government for the leasing of 20 acres to be used for a Shrine Camp at Mt. Laguna. The lease fee was $20 annually. An enlarged downtown office of three rooms on the fifth floor of the Spreckles Building was now the Temple’s Headquarters. This eventful year can be remembered as the time Al Bahr aided the San Diego Zoological Society by purchasing two camels for the zoo. They were appropriately named Mr. and Mrs. Al Bahr and were bought for $1,000 with the proviso they could be used by the Temple for parades and pageantry.
Noble John D. Spreckles, an Al Bahr charter member and one of the men largely responsible for her founding, was claimed by the Black Camel in 1926 and a great Shriner and friend was lost.
In 1930 Al Bahr became a member of the Western Shrine Association (WSA) and from that time on participated in their annual conventions and pageantry. The year 1936 is important in Al Bahr’s history because that year marked the advent of the Al Bahr Charity Football Game. That first game resulted in the Temple raising $1416.60 for our Children’s Hospitals, and considering the game was a first time venture and the prevailing economy, this was a substantial contribution.
The largest number of candidates for one Ceremonial in Al Bahr history - 321 by initiation - became Nobles in 1943 and the membership rolls climbed to 1,289. There were 200 proud and patriotic Al Bahr nobles actively serving in the Armed Forces. San Diego State College played the University of Arizona in the Fifth Annual Shrine Football Charity game.
Noble Harry Truman assumed the Presidency following the death of Honorary Al Bahr member Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Temple in 1945 also voted President Truman an Honorary Membership, sending him proper notification and a certificate.
The custom of the Potentate’s jewel being used during the year served, then being passed on for use by the next Potentate, was established in 1946.
The Shrine Football Game enabled Al Bahr to send $2,000 to Anezeh Temple in Mexico City for the Mexico Shrine Hospital Unit.
A new Shrine Hospital was opened in Los Angeles in 1952 making it more convenient and economical for Al Bahr to send San Diego sponsored children to the nearest Shrine Hospital.
The 1960’s opened with a Temple pilgrimage to Honolulu for the WAS Convention, hosted by Aloha Temple. One of the year’s outstanding events, and probably one unique in Shrinedom, was an Al Bahr Ceremonial onboard a Long Beach-based U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.
Approval for the Temple to purchase 5.3 acres of land for possible use as a future Temple site was approved by the nobility in 1964, and the property on Linda Vista Road was later acquired.
One of our really historic events occurred in 1966 when Al Bahr moved from the downtown Cedar Street that for so many years had been home to her members, to the Scottish Rite Center in Mission Valley.
A fundraising program for a new Temple was instituted in 1970 which was also the year Al Bahr’s units and clubs started their transportation fund programs that subsequently provided funds to transport our sponsored injured and burned children to Shrine Hospitals.
Finally in 1971, representatives from Al Bahr commenced negotiations for the purchase of Circle Arts Theater, on Kearny Mesa Road, for a permanent, self-owned Mosque. After preliminary agreement, a down payment was made on this valuable property that was to be our future home. A membership gain of 222 Nobles helped make this a memorable year, as did the revival of the custom of having Desert Ceremonials.
The new Mosque was dedicated in 1972 at a never-to-be-forgotten ceremony and the age old dream of Al Bahr’s Nobles was now a reality – a home of their own!
For the first time in many, many years a Ceremonial was held in 1976 at Shrine Camp in Mt. Laguna with the beautiful outdoor mountain setting providing an impressive background for both Sessions.
The 1977 Football Game netted $80,000 for our Shrine Hospitals. Over 400 Nobles from Zelzah Temple of Las Vegas attended the game.
In the late and early 70’s, the Temple’s membership remained steady and the nobility and their families enjoyed numerous events and activities.
In 1987 Bill Lauritzen served as president of the Western Shrine Association and nearly 1500 Nobles and Ladies attended the annual convention held in May of that year.
The biggest change was the sale of the Shrine Mosque, the prior Circle Arts Theater, which had been our home since 1971. The sale of 4 acres of the Temples 8.6 acres allowed Al Bahr to design and build a new Shrine Center for the membership. The 23,000 square foot facility was dedicated in 1989 and was more suitable to the needs of the Temple. With the new facility, additional room was also made available to the Units and Clubs warehouse, bringing that facility to 20,000 square feet.
A new 20 year lease was signed in 1990 for the Al Bahr Shrine Camp in Mt. Laguna, ensuring that the membership would have continued access to that wonderful, mountain recreational facility.
1995 brought another WSA Convention to San Diego and the membership greeted visiting Nobles and Ladies to our fine city.
With Y2K on the horizon the new century was celebrated with a gala New Year ’s Eve party and the Temple looked forward to a bright promise of service and fraternal involvement in the upcoming years.
Over the next several years Al Bahr Shrine worked with the Forestry Department to functionally kitchen, electrical and water supply upgrades. Ceremonials continued to be held at the Shrine Camp and this became a popular weekend event for the Temple.
Past Potentate Mel Stein served as Grand Master of Masons in California in 2006-2007. Ken Short was elected President of the Western Shrine Association and the 2008 Convention was again held in San Diego.
With more than 2,200 children on the patient rolls, Al Bahr members provided freely with their support of the Shriners Hospitals for Children and continued to provide transportation services on almost a daily basis to the Los Angeles and Sacramento Hospitals.
The Imperial Council increased the jurisdiction of Al Bahr to include the Mexican States of Baja California and Sinaolia and 5 new Shrine Clubs were organized to serve the Shrine Masons of the area.
Eveners and activities of the Al Bahr Shrine continue to be a source of fellowship, service and dedication to its members, families and the San Diego community.
This information was taken from the 2013 Al Bahr Shrine Yearbook