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Published on Mar 29, 2009
Here is Actor and Vaudeville Star Nat M. Wills (1873-1917) singing BPOE on a Victor one sided Grand Prize 10" 78rpm Record from late 1908. A master of Satire, Wills tells the satirical story here of his initiation and subsequent experiences with the "Best People on Earth" the BPOE (The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks!! Wills entertained delighted Audiences for many years with his own unique brand of singing these kinds of songs, until his tragic accidental death in 1917. The gramophone is a Victor type II Talking Machine from about 1905. Some of the history of the BPOE initiation ceremony alluded by Wills in this song with tongue in cheek humor, can by found in various BPOE History sites on the Internet. One states as follows: Early candidates found that a physician's certificate of examination was necessary as a part of the joining process, and the male prospect had to be in top condition to even be considered. Then, once the candidate had met that criteria and was in the Lodge room, he was blindfolded, and instead of dimmed lights and beautiful words, he was subjected to much horseplay. The minutes of the Ashland Lodge No. 384 describe in detail of their candidates wearing shoes with lead soles designed to make the wearer walk as though intoxicated.
The old Ritual Book spells out other trickery, with members agreeing with the Exalted Ruler's declaration that the candidates be "shaved." Once this decision was made, a "City Barber" appeared to the blindfolded candidates whereupon, with a dull file simulating a straight razor, he literally scraped the faces of the men to "shave" them. A few other jokes, all of which were contained in the Ritual Book, described each ordeal in great detail, such as "walking on broken glass," actually egg shells, and it even mentioned how to end the "horseplay" session with real guns, loaded with blanks, being fired off behind the now-weary and very confused new members.