MI NORTHWEST
District No. 4320

Elks History

The Grand Piano Joins the Navy
The big grand piano which played an important part in hundreds of initiations and other functions in the Elks lodge room entered into the Naval service August 16, 1948.
It was a splendid instrument, costing an immense sum when purchased, however its enormous size made it hard to move or handle. The trustees decided a smaller, lighter instrument should be bought, but were confronted with the problem of disposing of the old grand. It was decided to turn it over to the Helzapoppin Committee to dispose of as they saw fit. In keeping with a party motif, it was decided the object would be a mystery prize and the exact identity a secret, creating considerable curiosity among the membership.
At the final drawing, Brother Walter Upman was the lucky prize winner. When he received and realized the prize, he scratched his head in wonderment as to what to do with it. After much indecision, he decided the problem was too big for him to handle.
Investigation disclosed that the, then new, Naval Reserve Station on Lake Michigan Channel had no piano. Lt. Thomas H. Andrews, commanding officer, was contacted and offered the piano as a gift from Muskegon Elks Lodge #274 to the Naval Reserve. Thus the Elks big old grand piano started on a Naval career!


The New Bowling alley
Did you know that September 11, 1936 marked the start of bowling alleys at Muskegon Elks Lodge, located a 349 W. Western Avenue in downtown Muskegon?
PER J.O. Matteson was a leading executive at Brunswick Corporation, and, along with many Brother Elks, his one ambition was to install six new lanes of the finest bowling equipment available.
After heated debates, discussion, and research, the floor action crystallized into a committee of seven members to pursue the proposal. Figures obtained represented a sum of $17, 000 for full installation of six fully-equipped lanes.
When the report was put on the floor of the Lodge, with Exalted Ruler Wayne Hilt as Presiding Officer, there were 211 members present. After two hours of heated discussion, Francis Feeney, supported by Andrew Newald, moved for adoption of the report and proposal. The vote disclosed 145 favorable and 66 against the proposal.
Thus bowling came to Muskegon Lodge, providing six bowling alley lanes in the Lodge basement that formerly held a restaurant, beauty parlor, gymnasium, and a general storage room.
A grand celebration took place at the opening, with Exalted Ruler Wayne Hilt throwing the first bowling ball, and it was a perfect strike!
In later years, Brother Hedenskoog, a member of our Elks Lodge, designed and constructed the first mechanical pinsetter. As an inventor, he was associated with Brunswick Corporation. He, also, with his inventive mind, contributed many other devices to mechanize the sport of bowling, and as these came into use, the Elks lanes were updated and renovated.
Ladies, teenagers, and guests of many Elks members were delighted at the success of this family oriented adventure. With team league bowling, and constant use, it was another well-conceived adventure, with Elks working together to make bowling a successful realization for the good of the Order, and success of our Lodge in growth and membership involvement and participation.


The Begining of the 365 Banks
It was brother Dr. M. J. Kennebeck of our Lodge who conceived the "365" Handicapped Children's Banks as a method of raising funds for Handicapped Children to benefit the Michigan Major Projects. Banks were printed in which each member could save one cent a day each day of the year. As a result of this concept the "365" banks are used by Lodges throughout Michigan, to this day. Dr. Kennebeck served as State Secretary of the Michigan Major Projects from its inception, until ill health forced him to resign in 1975.


The First Bulletin
Did you Know, in December of 1946, the first issue of the Muskegon Elks News Bulletin was mailed to the Muskegon Lodge #274 membership, and still continues to be published monthly, and mailed as an informative publication to our members.


In 1974 Elks Voted on moving to the Park
Elks Lodge Members will decide Thursday night whether the club should build a new lodge at the club's Elks Park in Norton Shores, Glen E. Leatherman, Grand Exalted Ruler, said Monday.
The meeting will begin at 8 p.m. and will be at the present lodge located at Second and Western.
This will be the second time the Lodge has voted on the park site. In November, a resolution calling for the new lodge to be constructed at the park was soundly defeated.
However, the club hired a consulting firm to determine what would be the best site, and the park was again chosen, Mr. Leatherman said.
A group of about 20 Elks expects to present arguments at the meeting against the proposed park site.
"We can't understand why they are bringing it up again" said Arnold Dempsey, retired industrialist today. He contends the club was spending a lot of money for a study which chose something "we don't even want." His group has compiled information concerning the proposed site's accessibility, its cost and its location in comparison to the Muskegon county center of population.
He feels the Elks could not survive if the lodge were moved to the park. "It would die a slow death," he said.
Mr. Leatherman said the club's rules will allow only one vote Thursday night. If the park proposal is defeated, another meeting will have to be called on other alternatives, he said.
CONSULTANT URGES PARK SITE FOR ELKS
Elks Park in Norton Shores has been recommended as the best site for a new Elks lodge by the consultant hired to do a feasibility and market study, Glen E. Leatherman, the Elks Exalted Ruler, said today.
The Pendel property on Western Ave. in downtown Muskegon ran a close second in the consultant's preliminary report, Mr. Leatherman added. The land west of Pulaski Lodge placed third.
Mr. Leatherman expects to be calling a meeting May 9th to discuss this report. He also expects to have a new site recommendation on which the lodge can vote at that meeting.
The consultant based his decision on a 1,500-point program giving each prospective site points for such things as traffic patterns and accessibility, Mr. Leatherman said. "All this fellow has done is justify his decision with facts and figures," Mr. Leatherman said. "There is nothing cut and dried that we are moving to the park."
The present Elks lodge at Second and Clay must be vacated by May 28 to allow the City of Muskegon to clear the property for the proposed Steketee store.
The Elks in November turned down a site committee recommendation that the club move to the Elks Park.


From the Begining of Muskegon Lodge
On January 25, 1894, the Muskegon Elks Lodge #274 was charted with a class of 86 members. As of that time this was the largest group ever charted for an Elks Lodge. Officers from Grand Rapids Lodge #48 and Manistee Lodge #250 conducted the ceremonies.
There were several events scheduled to mark the occasion including a parade but due to extremely cold weather, Beerman's Band was unable to participate because their instruments froze.
In 1909, as a result of increasing membership, it was decided to purchase the Grand Opera House located at Western Avenue and Second Street for $25,000. Immediate possession of the entire building was not available due to an expired lease. In 1911, extensive remodeling began and dedication of the building took place April 23-24, 1912.
On January 8, 1913, the building was totally destroyed by a fire of unknown origin. The Lodge officers began immediate plans for a new lodge home. On April 23-24, 1914, the new building was dedicated. By this time there were 701 members.
In 1925, the membership purchased 69 acres of property which became the Elks Park. Over the years this area has been used for picnics, swimming, dancing and other recreational purposes on a seasonal basis.
In 1938, six bowling lanes were installed in the basement of our building. Bowling leagues were formed for men and women. In addition, these lanes were used for the Handicapped Children's bowling tournament. All proceeds from this tournament were donated to the Michigan Elks Association Handicapped Children's Fund. Muskegon Lodge annually donated more than $9,000 to this project.
In January, 1944, our lodge celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. At that time there were 1,437 members.
In December, 1946, the first issue of the Muskegon Elks News was mailed to the membership. Since then, it has won fifteen national awards for being an outstanding publication. No other lodge has achieved such recognition for their lodge bulletin.
During the 1940's, the Muskegon Elks donated $20,000 to the Timber Trails council, Boy Scouts of America. This money was used to build the "William Evans Cabin" at Camp Gerber on Britton Lake. William Evans was a Past Exalted Ruler of our lodge. We also obtained a training ship for the local Sea Scout Troop.
In 1965, wives of our members formed their own organization called the Muskegon Elkettes. They have been a great help to the lodge by working on and contributing to special projects which they undertake.
Throughout the years, Muskegon Lodge has had several other notable accomplishments. For example: during the Korean Conflict, we collected 678 pints of blood in five days; we have had three state presidents of the Michigan Elks Association; we have obtained several scholarships for deserving students through the Elks National Foundation.
In April, 1974 our Lodge was acquired by urban renewal and razed for development of a shopping mall. In September, 1974 the membership voted to purchase the Pontaluna Country Club and took over possession in November, 1974.
In April of 1975, construction of a building addition and remodeling the existing was started. It was completed in November, 1975 and dedication was held January 23-25, 1976. We had 2100 members at that time.
In 1976 we developed a trailer park at the Elks Park with 80 sites for local and visiting Elks.
In July, 1978 our Lodge Officers won first place in the Elks National Ritualistic contest held in San Diego, California. We were the only Lodge in Michigan that had ever won this annual contest.
In May, 1979 we hosted the Michigan Elks State Association Convention.
In 1989 the Lodge membership voted to lease our facility to Oak Ridge Country Club. We were heavily in debt at the time.
Today we are almost out of debt, but along the way our membership has declined to our current 678 members. Presently we are actively engaged in an attempt to get some of our former members back. Many of these former members have told us they left because we no longer have a private facility for members and guests only. At the regular Lodge meeting November 21, 1994 it was voted to proceed with remodeling for a new private Elks Facility.


Why Not "BUFFALOES"
Since 1868, America's foremost fraternal organization has been recognized by the noble creature that is the symbol of the Order. The elk is a peaceful anima, but will rise in defense of its own in the face of a threat. The majestic creature is fleet of foot and keen of perception. A most fitting representation, the stately elk is, for a distinctively American, intensely patriotic, family-oriented organization subscribing to the cardinal principles of charity, justice, brotherly love and fidelity. The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America has, indeed, fulfilled those principles and established a distinguished record of service and achievement since its founding on February 16, 1868.
But the roots of the association are admittedly shallow, predating the Order's official kickoff by only a few months. A small group of entertainers, wishing to continue their social gatherings on Sundays, when New York's blue laws prevented the opening of public establishments, began to meet regularly as the "Jolly Corks," a name derived from a bar trick introduced by the group's organizer. While the meetings were held with regularity, apparently no form nor substance resulted, except for the adoption of a toast to members of the group not in attendance.
Shortly before Christmas in 1867, only a few months after the fellows began to meet, one of their number died, leaving his wife and children destitute. This event gave rise to the notion that, in addition to good fellowship, the Jolly Corks needed a more noble purpose in order to endure, and serving not only their own in need, but others as well, would be appropriate.
Two months later, with a statement of purpose, an impressive set of rituals, a symbol of strength and majesty and such other elaborate trappings that might be expected of a group of actors and musicians, the new fraternal order was launched. The growth and record of benevolence of the Elks is well-chronicled, with Elks Lodges now in 2,200 communities and a membership of 1.3 million Americans.
Why was the elk adopted as the symbol of the Order? The 15 founders of the fraternity desired a readily identifiable creature of stature, indigenous to America. Eight members voted to adopt the elk, seven favored the buffalo.
Mike Kelly
Grand Lodge Historian


State Elks Associations
Talk of forming state associations started in the 1890s. At the time, Grand Lodge banned the formation of associations that would conform to the statutes and benefit the Order of Elks.
By 1914, there were 23 state associations in existence, although they were illegal. During the 1914 Grand Lodge Convention in Denver, the movement to bring them into the Order gained momentum.
At the Grand Lodge session the following year in Los Angeles, a comprehensive report on state associations was submitted to the delegates. The report recommended that the necessary constitutional revisions be made to allow recognition of state associations.
Delegates approved the changes, and the amendment was then sent to the subordinate Lodges of ratification. Upon acceptance by the subordinate Lodges, state associations became legal.
Since their formation in 1915, Elk state associations major projects have helped children with disabilities. They have sponsored clinics and run hospitals and youth camps. They have awarded scholarships and taken care of youngsters with cerebral palsy.
These charitable expenditures have totaled well over $200 million in 75 years. Annually, these associations now spend more than $26 million on charitable works.
The oldest Elks state associations are from Ohio, formed in 1898; Wisconsin, started in 1902; and Michigan, started in 1904. Today there are 48 state associations, with California and Hawaii forming one association, and Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia comprising another.
Mike Kelly
Grand Lodge Historian


Name That Elk
Although the original Elks were actors and entertainers, members of other professions soon joined the organization. Today's Elks represent just about the full spectrum of occupations in America.
Throughout the course of the order's history, many celebrities from the entertainment field, business and public service have been Elks. Presidents Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John Kennedy were all Elks. Former President Gerald Ford belongs to Grand Rapids Lodge, where his father served two terms as Exalted Ruler.
Of course, many members of Congress have been Elks, too. Former Speakers of the House Tip O'Neill, Carl Albert, John McCormick and Sam Rayburn all belonged to the fraternity. Former Speaker Tom Foley belongs to Spokane, Washington, Lodge. And the late Hale Boggs of Louisiana was also an Elk.
Entertainers Lawrence Welk, Will Rogers, Jack Benny and Andy Devine belonged, too. Devine was even Exalted Ruler of San Fernando, California, Lodge. And Clint Eastwood is a member Monterey, California, Lodge.
From the sports world, the Order has counted among its members the likes of Vince Lombardi, Casey Stengel, Mickey Mantle, White Ford, and Jim Finks.
Mike Kelly
Grand Lodge Historian


How it all began
The moving spirit for the Elks was an Englishman named Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian. Born October 22, 1842, this son of a clergyman was a successful comic singer and dancer in the music halls of London. In November 1867, Vivian arrived in New York City to try his fortune.
Other actors and entertainers gravitated toward his magnetic personality, and soon this group dubbed themselves the Jolly Corks, a name derived from a practical joke of the time.
When one of their members died shortly before Christmas in 1867, leaving his wife and children destitute, the Jolly Corks decided that in addition to good fellowship, they wanted to have a more enduring organization to serve those in need. On February 16, 1868, they established the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
Its social activities and benefit performances increased the popularity of the new Order. Membership grew rapidly. Elks traveling to other cities spread the word of the Brotherhood of Elks. Soon there were requests for Elks Lodges in cities other than New York. In response to these appeals, the Elks asked the New York State legislature for a charter authorizing the establishment of a Grand Lodge with the power to establish local Lodges anywhere in the United States. When the Grand Lodge Charter was issued, the founders then received the first local charter as New York Lodge No. 1 on March 10, 1871.
Over the years, the mission has been consistent, and the membership has become more inclusive. Today's guidelines for membership are that the candidate be invited to join, be a citizen of the United States, and believe in God.
The legacy of Charles Vivian continues to this day. As long as there are those who need help, the Elks will be there to give aid and comfort.
Mike Kelly
Grand Lodge Historianf


Back to top
 
 
Server: wsprd1
Apply Today! Get your Elks Visa® card.
Offer Terms and Conditions