Ballut Abyad Shrine Circus

About NM's Shrine Circus

Ballut Abyad Temple

Presents the “First annual Shrine Circus”

And trained wild animal thrill show

Tingley Field, October 23rd, 24th & 25th 1951

Wow, what a Head Line!  It was only 65 years ago when this all started.  The Potentate was Illustrious Carl Feak, a prominent Albuquerque business man and a 33° Mason.  He is quoted on this, the first Shrine Circus, as saying, “We are bringing a family circus to the people of Albuquerque for their enjoyment.  We promise to make it a great experience that they may enjoy for years to come”.  This is still the promise of the Ballut Abyad Shrine Circus.

Just who were these Shriners that held the vision of something great not only for the Nobility of Ballut Abyad Shrine but for quality family entertainment for the citizens of Albuquerque.  That vision has proved to be a lasting one.  Look with me for a moment at this First CircusTeam.

Potentate: Carl Feak

Illustrious Feak operated Leggets Laundry, which was at that time the largest laundry in our community.  The Laundry business doesn’t sound that impressive now in 2012, but from 1920 through 1960 this was a booming business.  Remember this was in the days before Whirlpool and Maytag, and one’s laundry and cleaning was done from a cast iron pot and a scrub board. You Betcha, just like Grandmother used to do.   Carl was also a working Mason, having served Albuquerque Lodge 60 as its Master; he participated for many years in the Scottish Rite degree conferrals and was honored as a 33° IGH.

General Chairman:  Ernest Werner

Ernie Werner was the manager of J C Penney’s and a superior business executive.  He brought to the Shrine the intelligence of marketing.  It was his influence that propelled the Temple into the prominence of the 50’s.  John was our 67th Potentate serving in 1955, a 33° Scottish Rite Mason, and the Charter Potentate in the founding of the Western Shrine Association. His daughter, Sally Werner had a very successful music career; and in 1986 preformed at the Imperial Shrine Session.

Circus Co-Chairmen: J. Leon Thompson and Hebert Galles Jr.

J.  Leon Thompson came to Albuquerque as the manager of Marsh McLennan Insurance Company, and served that Industry Giant until his retirement.  He was elected to seven terms on the Albuquerque Public School Board.  He was a Past Master of Temple Lodge 6 and, in 1953 served as Potentate.

Herbert Galles, whom we know as Hickum, was the mastermind behind the Galles Automotive Business that at one time operated 12 different Chevrolet and Cadillac agencies across the Western United States.  Hickum served as Potentate of Ballut Abyad Temple in 1957.  He was the first Potentate from Ballut Abyad to serve as President of WSA and brought 10,000 Nobles to visit Albuquerque for their Convention. This was the largest convention ever to come to Albuquerque. His love and fame as a business man came from his influence in Indy Automotive Racing and as Chairman of the Board of the Galles Racing Team, winner of the Indy 500 in 1992, with driver, Al Unser, Jr.

The Chairman of Committees: Horace Keenan

Horace Keenan was the successful real estate baron of Albuquerque, who along with his partner Curley Welsh, operated Keenan - Welsh Reality.  Together their Real Estate acumen transformed Albuquerque from a town to a City. 

Publicity Chairman:  Robert L. Jackson

Bob Jackson was also in Automotive and Finance Business,.   I purchased my first car from Dad Jackson.  Yes, Dad Jackson as he was the “Chapter Dad” of Albuquerque Chapter of De Molay for many years.  Oh! and that 1936 Oldsmobile was a honey.  It got me to NM A & M for 4 years, and she still smelled like new velvet.  Bob was Potentate in 1960

The Noble’s Tickets: John Linn

We knew John as Jack, as he was the Secretary of Temple Lodge 6 and Ballut Abyad Shrine serving both organizations until his death in 1955.

The Box Office:  Robert Poage and John Varney

Bob Poage was Vice President of Albuquerque National Bank and in charge of the loan committee.  He was instrumental in the financing of Temple Lodge’s building on University.  Bob was a Past Master of Temple 6, a 33° Scottish Rite Mason, and served as Potentate in 1954, 

John Varney was called ‘the ole smoothie’.  He was the Office Manager of the Albuquerque Public School System for many years, a Past Master of Temple Lodge 6, and Potentate in 1956.

Reserve Tickets:  Herb Weis

Herb’s reputation was the Shrine Workman of acclaim.  Herb was a Past President of the Patrol and this was in the height of the Marching Patrol.   Regardless of the project at hand Herb and his wife, Opal, were there; and the work they accomplished was superior.  

Ticket Takers:  Frank Skidmore and John Roberts

Frank was the Executive Vice President and General Manager of Contractors Equipment and Supply Company,  At that time this Company was second in size only to  R. L. Harrison Co, the Caterpillar Dealer.  Frank was elected as the National VP of the Associate Equipment Dealers in charge of member relations   With this election he and his family moved to Chicago in 1956.  

John Roberts 1955  Help! I think he was the director of Mountain Bell in New Mexico. He was one tremendous executive.  But I  need to research, as I don’t remember the details.  I’ll look in the Chatter of 1955.  I remember him well but not his background.

Ushers:  Chester Brown

Chet Brown was the renowned Patrol Captain of Ballut Abyad.  Chet served as Captain for this Temple for 9 years, in the height of the popularity of the Marching Patrol.  He led his Patrol to two Imperial Sessions and was always on Parade at the newly formed Western Shrine Association.  He was the Parade Guru of the West.

Music:  William Kunkle

Under the Directorship of Bill Kunkel,  Ballut Abyad Band became known as the  Million Dollar Band.  He was known as the Giver,  Besides directing the Shrine Band in his spare time he was Director of Music at the University of New Mexico.

What a Team Potentate Carl Feak pulled together to orchestrate this First Annual Shine Circus.  It is of little wonder that this Circus has not only survived, but that it has continuously prospered for the Temple and for the City of Albuquerque.  “A Job Well Begun is Half Done”.  It was that first Circus that established the Standard.  Through the following 61 years the Nobles and Ladies of Ballut Abyad have risen to the Challenge of that Standard by bringing to the people of Albuquerque an affordable Family Circus.


It’s Show Time, The Lights Dim, The Crowd Hushes, And the Curtain Raises.

The spot lights silhouette the Ring Master.  He brings the mike to his face proclaiming

Ladies and Gentleman, Ballut Abyad Temple Brings for your Enjoyment the sixty fifth Shrine Circus.


Oh! Come to the Circus.

The Greatest show on Earth!


Thank you, Illustrious Brother Carl Feak


Chatter: 1951
Dorothy Eddleman,  First Shrine Lady in NM 1981
PP Richard Driskill
Noble Ron Ferreri
PP H. B Horn’s 1977 Shrine Publication
PP Norman Ribble’s 1987 Centennial Shrine Publication



Potentate Pin