The year was 1927 and Alzafar Temple was eleven years young.
When S. X. Callahan was elected Illustrious Potentate of Alzafar, it had been five years since the uniformed units had made an Imperial Shrine Convention. 1927 was the first year that a Shrine Ceremonial would be herd in the new beautiful Scottish Rite Temple. The Wrecking Crew, which was part of the Patrol at that time, worked extremely hard in setting up the new Scottish Rite Temple for its first Shrine Ceremony.
It wasn't merely the creation of new stunts but the preparation of the props and the floor were part of four months of almost nightly labors of this eager dedicated small group in the wrecking crew. After the successful ceremony, Potentate S. X. gathered his wrecking crew together and told them in view of the tremendous efforts that they had given to this ceremony, he was going to give them a trip to the Imperial Session. One of the members of this hardy band asked him how much he was going to spend. He told them approximately $25,000.00. The wrecking crew then told S. X. that rather than spend all that money on a trip, that they would rather have a few acres of ground and a clubhouse where the various units and Nobility could all share a perpetual brotherhood.
The original idea that the wrecking crew had was to buy 5 to 10 acres on the Salado and build a clubhouse on it. This was the original germinating seed that grew to full maturity in what is now known as Camp Alzafar.
The stated session of May 12, 1927 first introduced the idea of a Camp near Boerne, Texas. On July 13, 1927 the Temple bound itself to buy from H. C. Koepke 320 acres for $5000.00 or $15.62 an acre.
It was announced that the 320 acres of land, about 10 miles northeast of Boerne, Texas, had 4000 feet of frontage on the Guadalupe River. On the land was an old home and a water well. A committee had been appointed to look at several locations around Seguin, Helotes and Center Point prior to the selection of the present site of Camp Alzafar.
The first official announcement to the general Nobility that the purchase had been made was by Potentate S. X. at a summer dance being held at the old West End Lake (now known as Woodlawn Lake). After the announcement of the purchase, all Nobles desiring to purchase a cottage at the new Camp were offered an opportunity to do so. Around 20 Nobles signed up at that time.
Construction of the cottage began immediately in July, and in the fall the first formal Camp Opening was held. The pavilion did not have a roof at this first opening. The original cost of the cottages was $250.00 each. They were all 12' wide and 20 ft. long. Businessman and Potentate S. X. had projected his costs versus revenues from sale of cottages closely and the pavilion and clubhouse (now known as caretakers home) was largely paid for with the profits made from the sale of cottages. After a year the Board of trustees made it possible for a Shriner to add a 10 foot extension to his cottage.
The original cottages were mere hulls with white paint on the outside. Camp Alzafar, an obvious jewel in the fortunes of Alzafar, has been blessed with the works and gifts of the general nobility in addition to an interested guidance from the Divan. The Tennis Court, original playground, and miniature railroad and baseball diamond were donated by P. P. Dullnig (dec.) during 1928. The clubhouse in back of the caretakers home was donated by Arab Patrol.
What is known as the Potentates cottage was purchased from funds earned by the cottage owners plus the sale of the original Potentate's cottage which was set aside for use of the Potentate by a stated session of June 8, 1933. The original Potentate's cottage was that cottage now owned by P. P. Harvey McDonald.
The swimming pool was paid for by the combined efforts of the Camp putting on a show at the Municipal Auditorium. They obtained permission from the Potentate to send two tickets to each Noble, which would entitle them to attend the show and dance at the auditorium. The cost of the tickets was 50 cents each. In addition the cottage owners assessed themselves $5.00 each. The swimming pool cost between $2000 and $2200. The rocks were dug out with the aid of a team of mules.
On September 6, 1930 the swimming pool was dedicated with a Master Mason Picnic. The original filling of the pool was done with the assistance of Boerne Fire Dept. who used their hoses and machinery to fill it with river water. In 1960 Potentate Harvey McDonald installed a filter to make the pool in accord with today's standards.
Interestingly the original pool was where divers rock is now known to be. This water was originally about 4 feet deep but was blasted out and a diving board installed on the divers rock.
The dining room which virtually joins the tennis court to the West was built in either 1928 or 1929 in order that the caretaker might serve meals to the Nobility. At that time many families stayed all summer long and Mrs. Kelly, the caretaker's wife, served family style meals at 35 and 50 cents. The facts are not available right now but it is believed that the cottage owners built this themselves and paid for it out of their own funds.
For the first 6 years the Camp operated with one restroom. Due to the long walk for some of the ladies, a new ladies restroom was constructed at the end of Hella Route. The depression years were on and although it cost $250.00 to build, the cottage owners fell some $65.00 short of meeting the bill. The Temple picked up this tab. In 1947 the restrooms at the playground were built and Les Wharton dedicated it with a hamburger supper with all cottage owners invited. Most of the materials were donated. This restroom was built and financed by the cottage owners.
In 1963 the road leading out from Camp was paved and paid for by the cottage owners assessing themselves for this improvement. The same meeting provided funds to pave the road to the end of Shrine Property. The roads in the Camp proper were paved in 1956 by assessment.
The beautiful benches in the pavilion were constructed by Francis Keller, one of the many things Francis did for Camp. Funds were donated by individual cottage owners whose names are still on the benches.
The railroad mentioned earlier was discontinued after 1960 due to insurance requirements. The cost of running the train the few times it was run from an insurance standpoint was prohibitive.
The story of lighting at Camp Alzafar has been one of steady progressiveness. Originally all cottages had only Coleman lanterns. Those with a good electrical skills hand wired their cottages and would secure lighting by running a jumper from their car batteries. Camp founder, S. X., donated a 110 volt generator to give the pavilion its first lights. Then a Delco system was used for the pavilion. Boerne Electric Company then came into being with service for the pavilion and each cottage could have one light bulb. A standard fee of $1.00 per month was charged for this. Later Bandera Electric Cooperative furnished the adequate service we now have.
Water has always been a problem. The original well that was on the property when the property was working is still there. In addition another well was dug. During drought periods water, as in the cities, becomes scarce.
Through the years, many Potentates have made modest expenditures to accomplish normal maintenance. It was not until 1960 when Potentate Harvey McDonald installed the previously mentioned pool filter, added to the fencing of the tennis court and swimming pool, installed steel posts to make a walk to the river safer, renovated and added to the playground, and re-roofed the pavilion did any major expenses come to the Temple.
To try to enumerate the hundreds of individuals who gave freely of their time and talents would be foolish and cruel because memory could easily omit one who had contributed much more than many others. The eras of Camp can be almost divided by the regimes of the Camp Chairmen. S. X. Callahan endeared himself to the Nobility and Cottage owners with his constant and interested supervision of the Camp he so loved. Noble A. A. Jacobson and Earl W. Tracy carried on as elders of the early generations of Camp. During the war, due to gas -rationing and dislocation of personnel attendance at Camp was very slight. In 1947, Gus Meyer as President of the cottage owners and the following 5 years as Camp Chairman did much to regenerate interest in the Camp. Joe Brown followed Gus.
In the early years of Camp, some cottage owners came for 15 years without missing a weekend-winter and summer. Many, many cottage owners have labored long and proudly to make Camp the place it is today. R. E. Jefferies, Tom Boothe, Sr., P. P. Pat Welch, Francis Kellar, Earl Kelly, E. R. Hurt, Otto Mintel, Walter V. "Spud" Gullette, Jack Blankfield, and many, many others gave of themselves to make Camp Alzafar a living symbol to Masonry and Shrinedom.
----- Article by Van Mabrito -----
Born in 1920, who in 1927 was at Camp Alzafar on the day it opened & continued to enjoy it for the rest of his life. Son of Ed Mabrito, original owner of the Cabin at Moslah #1. This cabin is still owned by the Mabrito Family.