Brookfield, MO, Monday, 7:30 a.m., April 8, 1912. Four athletic young men, members of the local B.P.O.E Lodge (Best People On Earth) and employees of the Burlington Railroad started their 2223 mile WALK to Portland, Oregon to attend the National Convention to be held July 8-12.
C.B. Johnson, C.D. Stone, Herman Clark, and Fred Lyons were outfitted at their local clothiers with khaki blouse and pants, caps to match, heavy black walking shoes and canteens. They were escorted to the edge of town by over 1,000 town folks. There they were photographed and given a rousing send-off.
When the Convention Committee received word of these young men's desire to walk the whole way, the committee sent a letter to Brookfield Lodge saying the hikers should register at all Elks Lodges along their route proving their visit to that Lodge. They would be met at the edge of Portland with a warm welcome, a token, and looked after while in that city. They walked an average of twenty-five miles a day - some along railroad tracks and some along wagon roads.
They walked 2223 miles starting each day at 7:00 a.m. and being in bed at 10:00 p.m. each night. The only time they rode in any vehicle was while they were entertained by 18 of the Elks Lodges along their route.
All along their route the railroaders would drop off copies of their hometown newspaper, food, letters from families and friends, and more Brookfield postcards to sell along the way to help defray their living expenses.
Although as few Lodges were not hospitable, most were. There were some former Missourians who had moved out "west" and had homes on the hikers' route, and they made the hikers quite welcome.
When they reached Chillicothe the first night at 6:05, they were met and warmly greeted by friendly Elks and taken to the Leeper House where their expenses until the next morning were paid. "At the Elks home we were feted in a manner that would have been pleasing to Teddy, or Champ Clark, or to William Jennings Bryan himself," Herman Clark wrote. "We epitomize our condition - humor, normal. Spirit, brotherly love. Glory, the highest."
In Nebraska they walked eight miles in the rain. They "dried out" by a good fire in a Burlington station, (if it did take two hours). They were nicely received and treated at Hastings. They spent Sunday there with all expenses paid by the fine group of brothers there. On Monday they walked 43 miles in twelve hours. They had to tie a string to Fred for fear they would lose him in the dark since it was 8:15 p.m. when they reached Kearney. A reception was given for them at the club. Brotherly Love predominated. Onward toward the setting sun was the daily program of the Brookfield hikers who had been walking through Idaho for a week. The boys had a warm reception at Pocatello, Idaho at the home of Ex-Governor Brady. They stayed there an extra day because they were ahead of their planned schedule. They appeared hearty and husky and stated that the western end of the trek had been the most enjoyable and that they found better weather and traveling. The western breeze and sun turned them to nearly the same color as their khaki outfits.
The hikers followed the Harriman lines, persistently refusing help by auto rides, or otherwise.
Three months later they arrived in Portland, Oregon outside the Elks Lodge building where 2,000 people shouted with vociferous applause. The hikers started on the last leg of their journey accompanied by automobiles bearing Portland Elks and other citizens, boys on bicycles, and men on foot. At Fiftieth and Hawthorne Avenues they were met by the Elks Administration Band and the uniformed welcome squad of 60 men who marched with them to the Elks Temple. More than one member of the squad was more tired at the end of this short hike than were the Missouri hikers. Along the entire route women showered the sturdy lads with flowers, flags, and pennants.
A cheering crown awaited the boys when they rounded the corner of Seventh Street to enter the Elks Temple. They were compelled to stop in the middle of the street and shake hands with hundreds before they could approach the steps of the Lodge. Someone suggested they take the elevator up to the club rooms on the third floor, but the boys scorned the offer, declaring that they would walk every inch of the way until they had registered at the desk. As they entered the club room doors, cheers and clapping hands greeted the Missouri boys. They walked over to the desk and placed their names on the register, first displaying their Lodge cards. At the conclusion of formal greetings, the audience of 400 arose and sang Auld Lang Syne. The hikers were taken to a suite of rooms at the Oregon Hotel to stay until the end of the Convention.
One favor of which they were particularly proud is the position assigned them in the Grand Parade on Thursday, when they were placed in line ahead of New York Lodge #1, which previously had always held that position of greatest prominence, Herman Clark reported.
These honored heroes returned back home to Missouri riding as regular passengers on train number 43 and were greeted by an admiring crowd at the depot.
There were 71 towns or cities on their itinerary for overnight stops. Officially, Cecil was the pacemaker, Charley the Director General, and Fred the Staff Captain, while Herman, your humble servant, whistled in and out of all stations, giving signals at all meeting points.
On April 25 at Strang, Nebraska, Mr. Johnson had to drop out and take a train back to Brookfield because of very bad foot trouble. Mr. Johnson was very disappointed. Herman Clark and Fred Lyons were telegraph operators, while Cecil Stone was born and reared in Brookfield, graduated from high school and attended Northwestern college in Chicago.
(Don Adams and Richard Techau PDDGERs of Brookfield gathered the old newspaper clippings concerning this story, and sent them to Lee Sparks, State Historian-Missouri. Eva Sparks wrote the story from these photos of the newspaper clippings.)