With A Hoe, Hoe Hoedown And A Merry Christmas, I Give A Warm Greeting From The Shrinerist.
An interested Noble inquired about the many social degrees that are throughout our Masonic world. Somehow the Hillbillies came up in our conversation. How and why did…? So, without further ado, the Hillbilly Degree from the founder of the Grand and Glorious Order of the Hillbilly Degree and the Imperial Clan, Jim Harris.
“What the Shriners needed was a new side-line degree, one that had a new and interesting ritual, and above all a purpose—namely that all profits would go for a worthy cause, to help the children who were admitted to the Shriners Hospitals. The members of this new side-line degree must have some fun and enjoy the activities so that he wanted his friends to also participate, and help spread the word of the new Degree. Rules must be drawn up to assure that all profits went to help those crippled and burned children of the Shriners Hospitals and for no other purpose.
After discussing side-line degrees with a friend one day back in 1969, 1 decided to see if I could put something down in writing to establish such a new degree. I could only draw upon my own experiences–born and raised in the Hills of West Virginia and now living in the hills of Kentucky. I could recall the outhouse moon, which closely resembled the Crescent, a symbol held in the highest esteem by all Shriners. This somehow reminded me of corn cobs, moonshine, etc. So I sat down and wrote. Slowly the new Degree took substance and form.
Now the Hillbilly Degree did not take form in a few days; it really took several months and several rewrites. The truth is, if I had it to do over, there are a few other changes I would make. However, it finally looked pretty good. Much better than most of the other side-line degrees that I had taken. Then I wrote a Constitution to assure that no one made any money from this Hillbilly Degree–all profits must go to help those crippled and burned children of the Shriners Hospitals. Now we are ready to go, and a couple of friends agreed to help me try out the new Degree.
With the help of a couple of friends (it takes three to put on the Degree work), we initiated a few of the Shriners of El Hasa Temple in Ashland, Kentucky, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. So we realized that the new Hillbilly Degree would be accepted at least as well as the many other side-line degrees. The next step was to obtain a copyright, so that no group could come along later and put on this degree and not abide by the rules that the profits must go to help the crippled and burned children. This was what it was all about. Thus copyright No. 23370 was obtained in 1970, which can and will be renewed after it expires. Now all that these first Hillbillies received upon initiation was the membership cards. Now we found a source for Hillbilly Hats, and everyone started to wear their ‘Hillbilly Tuxedos,” the overalls to all meetings. The more worn and patched, the better they were accepted. The Hillbilly Degree was on the way, but we still thought of this as only a local side-line degree for the El Hasa Temple area.
At the Imperial Shrine Convention in Miami, Florida in 1970, we decided to put the Hillbilly Degree work on. Over a hundred joined from other Temples, and the Shriners from Hejaz Temple in South Carolina wanted to be authorized to put on this Hillbilly Degree and put on the work in the name of their own Clan. This called for some quick action.
Since it was apparent that The Grand and Glorious Order of the Hillbilly Degree was a success, it was important to tie up all the loose ends. A Trust agreement was drawn up between the three officers accepting the responsibility of control of any money coming into their hands to be for the charitable benefit of the crippled and burned children. Agreement was certified and duly registered. An application was filed with the Internal Revenue Service for exemption from Federal income tax and was approved. Finally, approval was granted by the Board of Trustees of the Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children to raise money for the Shriners Hospitals.”
“Our own Aleppo Hillbilly Clan 126 is very active.”, said Noble Curt Nitzsche. “There are more than 160 Clans these days around the Shrine world. The Aleppo Clan had a raising of 40 plus ‘Hilly Maes’, our ladies, at the last gathering of Hillbillies in August of 2019.” Curt also shared that they are the only Shrine group who promotes cornbread, corncobs and “special” secrets. The Clan usually takes over the Fez room at Aleppo to hold their degree work. And next year, in 2022, they will be holding an outdoor gathering for a whoopin big time! Get ready.
Play your country music and hang some mistletoe, the Shrinerist wishes every Noble and their families a healthy and happy holiday. Feel free to use these suggestions generously with friends, family and ruffians.
Have Fun and Stay Safe, Your humble Shrinerist