By Linda Emley
Many of us remember the “Women’s Club” building and now we know it was the “Elks Lodge” before the women took over. But we have to wonder who were the Elks men that built this building?
I found this in the Richmond Missourian on April 5, 1906: “ELKS ELECTION … the following new officers were chosen: Louis Megede, Exalted Ruler, James Powell, Esteemed Leading Knight, Thomas K. Grow, Esteemed Loyal Knight, Wm. McGaugh, Esteemed Lecturing Knight, Ralph Hughes, Secretary, William F. Yates, Treasurer, Paris J. Keyes, R.L. Hamilton, Trustee, John H. Percival, Representative to Grand Lodge.”
To be a member of the Elks Lodge, you needed to be a U.S. Citizen over the age of 21 and believe in God. In the early days, new members had to present a physician’s letter certifying that they were in tip-top shape. In 1906 Richmond, the Elks men were in good shape because they had to play baseball and still be able to dance the night away at their clubhouse.
The Richmond Missourian gave a play-by -play account on July 26, 1906 of a baseball game where the men of the Elks Lodge played against the Eagles Club. Some men were members of both groups. Thomas Grow, the Esteemed Loyal Knight of the Elks Lodge, played shortstop for the Eagles. The final score was 6 to 5.
“It took nine long innings for them to trim the Eagles’ wings, during which time the inhabitants of the Camden Avenue club house used twelve of their men. Dr. Robert Sevier proved to be the “best” Eagle in Friday’s game. In the seventh he succeeded J. Gibson at short who took Suits’ place in center field and when he came to bat he clouted out a home run with the ease of a professional player. It was the longest hit ever made on Zuklin’s field, soaring high over the heads and rolling against the wire fence. He was forced to quit the game as the run exhausted him. Sore arms, sore muscles and bruised bones were the principal causes of the complaint Saturday morning. Such strenuous exercise is hard on our businessmen ball players.”
The Elks Lodge hazed new members. Clara Chenault wrote a story about the Elks Lodge a few years ago and she shared a story about how Howard Hamacher was blindfolded and tied to a large wheel. They told him they were going to roll him down the front steps and into the street. He lived to tell the story, so I don’t think he actually made it to the street. There was a ritual book that shared some possible ways to haze new members. I liked the one about making them walk on broken glass. They used egg shells instead of real glass, but it took them a while to figure it out. Sometimes guns were fired that had been loaded with blanks, so it looks like there was never a dull minute at the club.
Paris J. Keyes was elected the “Tiler” of the Richmond Elks Lodge. All Elks Lodges had a man that guarded the entrance of the lodge to keep outsiders from entering and this was his duty in 1906 as the local Tiler.
The Elks were known for “The Eleven O’clock Toast” meetings that were held at night and were usually over around 11. As they departed, they would propose a toast to their brothers that were not present. If the meeting was running late, they would halt everything at 11 and toast “To our absent brothers.” Another Elks tradition associated with the toast was to sing the old Scottish song, “Auld Lang Syne.” “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne?” This song became their fraternal anthem and was sung at many events and after their “Eleven O’clock Toast.”
I can only imagine how cool it would be to walk down North Thornton Street one night in 1906 and hear the guys singing this song as they call it a day at the Elks Lodge.
The Elks sent 70,000 members to W.W. I and 100,000 to W.W. II. Some famous people who were Elks Lodge members were Presidents Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Gerald Ford. Other famous Elks were Lawrence Welk, Will Rogers, Jack Benny, Buffalo Bill Cody, Vince Lombardi and Mickey Mantle. Clint Eastwood is a member of the Monterey, Calif., lodge. I wonder if Dirty Harry is the “Tiler” who guards the door at Lodge # 1285 in Monterey?
Excelsior Springs and Lexington still have Elks Lodges. Since the Richmond Elks Lodge closed in the days of prohibition, I have to say it looks like one of the reasons we lost our lodge was because Ray County went officially dry before other counties in our area. It was the women of Ray County that forced the temperance issue, so maybe it was all a big conspiracy plot to take over the Elks Lodge building. The women got liquor outlawed and got the club house, too.
So why was it called the Elks Lodge? They wanted to be identified by a creature of statue that could only be found in America. Fifteen original members voted and the elk won over the buffalo by a vote of 8 to 7. One man’s vote created the “Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks” instead of the “ Benevolent and Protective Order of Buffalo.”
Since we are talking about buffalo, I am sure anyone that ever watched the Flintstone cartoons remember “The Loyal Order of the Water Buffaloes Lodge No. 26.” Fred and Barney got in trouble when they had to judge a beauty contest. Mr. Slate was involved somehow and the “Grand Pooh-bah” made everything better. This cartoon was a parody of the Elks Lodge and was always one my favorite stories. “The Beauty Contest” first aired on Dec. 1, 1961. When I hear the words “Grand Pooh-bah,” I am a little girl again sitting on the floor in front of the TV set waiting for my mother to tell me to move back or I will go blind. I guess in 1961, we did not know that computers would be the culprit that would make us all go blind 50 years later.
Lindy Emley is on vacation. Her Elks column ran previously. She’ll return soon. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.