This book was originally intended as a history of B.P.O.E. 966 solely. But the author found the fortunes of the Lodge so interwoven through its members with the development of its community that it was impossible to refrain from commingling the growth of San Pedro. It is for this reason that the writer wishes to pay tribute to C. Harrison "Lucky" Foot, P.E.R., 1933 - 34, who is known to his friends as "Mr. Elk" and "Mr. San Pedro." Without Foot's vast knowledge of the events herein described, and without his indefatigable searching of the Lodge's records, the writer would have been unable to complete the history in the time allotted. The writer feels that this book should be dedicated to B.P.O.E. 966 and its members, past, present and future, generally, and more personally, indeed, to "Lucky". -David Lewis Gershon, Jr.
With institution accomplished, the antlers immediately began to spread. Institution proceedings were held in the old Masonic Hall on the east side of Beacon Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets on June 5, 1905. But the first Lodge and Club rooms were established the following week in the Sepulveda Building in the same block but on the west side of Beacon Street. This building still stands, but today houses hotel rooms upstairs where the members first met and where, on the street level there was originally Nelson & Ward's Grocery Store on the south side of the stairway and The First National Bank on the north side, there now are a dry cleaning establishment, air travel agency and a waterfront café. It was the first building built downtown by the late Roman Sepulveda and bore the family name over the entrance. The name letters however fell off during the 1933 earthquake and were never replaced. Whether "Billy Wick"' was averse to climbing stairs is not recorded but for some reason, the minutes of the first regular meeting note that he was prominent by his absence, a situation inexplicable in keeping with the enthusiasm with which he aided the Lodge's organization. The city's enthusiasm for the institution of the Lodge was marched by the citizen's eagerness to join the organization. Many were proposed but few were chosen as for instance among the first seventeen names only five were subsequently voted into the Lodge. At the end of its first year, B.P.O.E. 966 had only 114 members. A fast significant of the founding fathers' desire to keep the Lodge membership on a high level. The Lodge hall was too small for even the charter members to meet in comfort. Monday night of each week was set as the regular meeting night. So it was on Monday, June 19, that the idea for a home of their own was proposed to the members by McDermott who appointed a committee of ten to inquire into the matter. The committee took its time in reporting its recommendations to the members. Several times the impatient Elks called for a report but each time received only a laconic "progress". It was not until November 20, 1905, that the members were given a building program for consideration. In this meeting, the committee recommended that $500.00 be taken from Lodge funds and deposited on a site at Seventh and Palos Verdes Streets. The Committee also explained how the building funds were to he raised, It proposed that the Lodge issue stock not only to members but the public at large at $50.00 a non-participating share. The proposals were accepted by majority vote and placed in operation. The $500 was paid to the Presbyterian Church which moved from the site to Eighth Street and the stock was printed. The committee of ten became the first Building Association and at the time was under the Exalted Ruler's control. That the Elks were eager for a new home is attested by the minutes of the December 4, 1905 meeting. The records reveal that they had sold 130 shares for $6500.00. Intermittently thereafter, there appears in the minutes instructions for the Trustees to purchase blocks of stock ranging from $500 to $1500. The Building Association was divorced from the Lodge and became a separate entity with Charles Adair, Wells Fargo Express manager, its first chairman. Sometime between 1907-09 (the records are lost on this point) the Building Association sought a loan of $30,000 from the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company, Los Angeles, for the balance required to erect the new home. The company agreed to the loan but dealt a hard and shrewd bargain. The brothers were to sell the same amount of insurance as the loan before they could have the money. Every antlered gentleman plunged into the job and soon a very profitable business was completed, for the company which in turn granted the loan. Gleefully the brothers approved plans for a three-story building and ground was broken on November 23, 1908. The first task was to level the site. This, incidentally, was contracted to Don Knight and Jess Knight, uncle and father respectively, of California's Governor Goodwin J. Knight. It was an arduous task and took quite a bit of doing to bring the lot to its present level and for this reason it was to be two years before the new home would be ready for use. But this is getting ahead of our story. The Lodge records are chary in revealing the activities of its members. For 1906 and 1907 ushered in one of the nation's worst economic conditions, and other matters than things fraternal demanded attention. San Pedro fared badly along with other small cities and at the height of the depression business was conducted with script. But the founding fathers clung to their dream of a strong Lodge and kept inspiring members to expand their ranks. New membership fell off but never completely stopped and 966 maintained a steady growth. The Lodge's first member taken by death was John V. B. Goodrich, a charter member, on February 25, 1906. Thus the first funeral ritual which is practically the same as today's was conducted on February 27, 1906, by Exalted Ruler M. J. McDermott; O. B. Sadler, dry goods proprietor; Winfield Hogaboom, San Pedro News publisher; William Spangler, lumberman; John J. Huff, Wells Fargo employee, and William Crocker, hotel proprietor. On March 26, 1906, all officers except Tiler, Secretary, and one Trustee were elected to succeed themselves in the Lodge's first post-institution elections. Frank D. "Lucky the First" Foot, was elected to the three-year trusteeship, George H. Nicholson, was returned secretary, and Charles Adair, became Tiler. One of the Lodge's first big charity acts was donating $200.00 on April 23, 1906, for the relief of San Francisco's earthquake victims. That doesn't sound very big today but remember that was a depression year and $200 was REALLY $200.00. Lodge members also aided the quake victims individually. For instance, Gus Litzke donated a full train carload of bread fresh from his San Pedro Bakery on Beacon Street. Elks helped load it. The car was donated by the Southern Pacific and "Lucky the First" Foot, provided his livery wagons to haul the bread from shop to train. Today there is discussion among the brothers to change the meeting night from Monday to another night. It is interesting to note that that move has been started more than a half dozen times and each time been defeated on the floor. The first time was December 10, 1906. Miss Dolly Knight, sister of the Governor, sang at the Lodge's first Elk's Memorial Service in December, 1906. The most memorable event recorded for 1907 was the formation of the 966 Band which became widely known throughout Southern California. It was composed of Bon Vivants who brought a lot of color into San Pedro's public life. Some members of the later, despite prohibition, succeeded in imbibing too freely en route to Catalina Island to attend a State Elk's Convention. When the band lined up for the parade through Avalon City, they blared forth in unholy concord and the drummer got his head bumped by the trombone player who reached out too far with his horn. In 1908 Teddy Roosevelt was shaking a big stick. His emissary was the "Great White Fleet" which he sent around the World including San Pedro. B.P.O.E. 966 flexing its growing strength, joined with the Chamber of Commerce to outdo Institution Day. Something that the school histories do not mention is that there were a great number of Elks from all over the nation in the ships of the fleet and they descended on B.P.O.E. 966 once the anchor chains rattled through the hawse pipes and liberty was piped. The brothers, now numbering 250, clambered aboard the old coastwise steamer Roanoke and the Catalina Island ferry Cabrillo and went to sea. They met the fleet off Dana Point and trailed it into San Pedro Bay. So great was the influx of citizens in San Pedro and many of them contingents from other Lodges who used 966 as their head-quarters, that one of the brother's wives made a nice profit by setting up a table on her front lawn and collecting five cent pieces for use of her bathroom facilities. The Lodge was darkened on April 27, 1908, in respect to the death of Frank Burns, who had just relinquished office and was its first past exalted ruler to die. Came then the aforementioned ground-breaking for the new home on December 28, 1908 and Exalted Ruler Henry Stieglitz hosted a turkey feed honoring the event. Long Beach Lodge and San Pedro Lodge tempers got riled in this year. The city of Long Beach made a pitch to annex the whole of Terminal Island and even went so far as to ordering its police department to patrol the area. A San Pedro contingent from the mainland went to the island with clubs and avowed intentions to chase the police back to Long Beach. Wiser heads prevailed however, and it was decided to let the courts settle the matter. Long Beach Lodge following the city's lead, filed claim that Terminal Island residents who had been classified as East San Pedro inhabitants were no such thing and should be its membership candidates. San Pedro Lodge asked the Grand Lodge for a ruling and won out. The Grand Lodge ruled that East San Pedro residents belonged to 966 that was that. Hazing was not always a College Fraternity's prerogative. B.P.O.E. 966 charter members had fun initiating Redondo citizens into their Lodge. Redondo today has a greater membership than San Pedro but in the beginning Redondo Elks belonged to San Pedro. Prospective members were rounded up whether they were in the midst of important business or social transactions, made to wear convict uniforms, and paraded through the screen, handcuffed. They were chained to telephone or hitching posts and left to ponder their fate for hours. Brothers, the brass bowl into which you today throw your charity offerings is a part of the Lodge's history. It was made from a six-inch shell fired from the cruiser Boston at Manila during May 1, 1898, but was picked up as a souvenir and transferred to the monitor Cheyenne. Twelve men from the Cheyenne's crew were inducted into the Lodge April 2, 1909, and one of them, Brother C. E. Barker, presented it to the Lodge during the initiation services. The 12 inductees had a hand in fashioning the bowl from the shell casing.
While the steam shovel was grinding down the site to its present street level and carpenters, cement men, and painters were standing by to begin work, let us take a look at how the Building Association became the Lodge's autocrats. In order to sell stock the committee of ten incorporated as the Elk's Building Association on December 27, 1905, with $4,700 actual subscribed shares. Frank Burns and M. J. McDermott, according to the Articles of Incorporation, were the high men with purchases of $500.00 each. "Elks Building Association submitted financial report showing the cost of the building and extras as $31,705.62 with $4,822.60 in unpaid bills. Resources consist of cash on hand, $343.l5, building valued at $35,000 and lots at $30,000, total of $65,343.15. Liabilities consist of loan on property of $30,000.00, unpaid bills of $4.822.60, stock sold, $18,400, at total of $53,222.60 or a profit of $12,120.55 at this date. The stock is divided into 143 shares owned by the Lodge, and 104 shares by non-members and 121 shares owned by the members of the Lodge or a total issue to date of 368 shares." So Edward Bautzer, exalted ruler, March 7, 1910, appointed a committee to tend to this matter. A committee of Verne Goodrich, Edward Steward, William Bickenbach, O. B. Sadler, and James Wier was formed to furnish the new building. The committee contracted the Retting Furniture Company of Racine, Wisconsin, to furnish the new home for $2,007.00. This is where Rudicinda Dodson, member of one of San Pedro's famous "first families" dating back to the original Spanish Grant Sepulvedas, enters the pages of the Lodge's history. She was the unwitting cause of San Pedro's longest operated raffle. Mrs. Dodson had moved a two-story frame house onto a lot at what is now the alley corner and the 14th Street on the north side just west of Pacific. James Dodson, Sr., another member of one of San Pedro's pioneer families, was an early, but not charter, member of the Lodge. Whether he prevailed upon Rudicinda to donate the house and lot to the Lodge to sell with proceeds to be used to pay off the furniture contracts is not clearly stated. But that's what she did on May 9, 1910. Edward Mahar, chairman of the committee to determine how to dispose of the property, recommended that a raffle be conducted at $1.00 per ticket. It was right after Mrs. Dodson deeded the property to the Lodge that discovery was made that the house set a few inches onto the next door lot. Rather than buy the second lot, the Lodge expended $350.00 to move the house back. The brothers began selling tickets immediately but it was not until July 24,1911, more than a year later, that the drawing was held. The house brought $2,333.70 net and the furniture was the Lodge's. By this time, the brothers were impatiently awaiting the new building. Finally, July 25, 1910, was set as opening night and a gala program was planned. But alas, Fate stepped in to make the celebration impossible. The train in which the furniture was being shipped, was involved in a wreck which also wrecked chairs, tables, and lounges. A large percentage of the furniture was unusable, some broken, some badly marred and scratched. Nevertheless, the brothers met in their new home but the meeting was without public fanfare. Minutes of the first meeting in the present building, June 25, 1910, state "owing to the condition of the furniture, the dedication of the new home will be postponed from August 12, 1910." At this time the minutes did not state what date the dedication would be held. But on May 8.1911, a dedication committee set May 19-20 for the celebration to coincide with a visit here by Grand Exalted Ruler August Herrmann, who was on tour of the Lodges and who would "be delighted to dedicate the new Lodge". He was principle speaker at the dedication which was the evening of May 19, 1911. Meanwhile, the Southern Pacific appraiser offered the Lodge $700 for the furniture damages. A bid from a local shop set the cost at $350.00, the Lodge thus profited by the train wreck to the tune of $250.00. Verne Goodrich added to his many personal glories in the Lodge by being its first Exalted Ruler to hold the first meeting in the new home. One week prior he had adjourned the last meeting in the old Masonic Building early to "permit the brothers to inspect the new building." What the brothers found was a sight to behold for that period in American architecture. It is doubtful if any architect worthy of the name would dare submit such plans today. Elegant indeed, was the name for the new home. It rose three stories, 70 x 100 feet. Stucco exteriors were a recent innovation in large buildings and B.P.O.E. 966 was the very latest in San Pedro. Two sides, the east and north of the building, were plastered with a dingy brown stucco over the brick walls. The brothers expected to erect another building for a gymnasium, swimming pool, and steam baths, so there was no need to stucco the south side. They also anticipated that someone would build against the west side, so, being frugally minded, they felt no need to expend money for stucco to that wall, no one would see it, anyway. There was no emblem of Elkdom worked in the building's facings and it remained for Horatio Nelson, a retired windjamming sailor in 1918 to have fashioned in cement the Elks' head which today juts over the seventh street entrance. A cupola replete with arched windows rose from the roof line where the Palos Verdes side and Seventh Street side formed a cornet and along the roof edges at intervals were red tiles. The 1933 earthquake so damaged the upper reaches of the building that the cupola had to be removed. Later the tile was cast off to rid the building of pigeons. Inside the lodge, clubrooms, lounges and third floor are still about the same as they were when the brothers first moved in. Application for a liquor license had been overlooked so there was no bar in the clubroom. But, undaunted, the brothers converted the closet under the stairs leading up to the lounge and Lodge rooms into a wine cellar. Someone cut the door in half to make it Dutch doors, and two stewards were hired, one to pour drinks, the other to serve them out on the floor. No money was exchanged directly. The brothers were required to purchase books with tickets providing two drinks for a quarter. (Broth-ur!) Beer was twenty-five cents a quart (a full quart, too!), fifteen cents a pint or ten cents a glass. All other drinks were fifteen cents per glass or two for twenty-five cents. The Clubroom was open from 8:00 am. to 1 am. to "brothers in good standing" and later on occasions if so ordered by the then House Committee. The Clubroom, except for the galley, was given over to billiard and pool tables where we now have dining tables, and the card tables were scattered around with a bank of them where the present bar does business. The Lounge room today is unchanged except for replaced furniture, and some of that still in use was the original, but it was here the "woman's touch" was first felt by the Lodge. Mrs. Dodson again came to the aid of the Lodge and furnished out of her own funds, the Ladies room as it is today. The original Lodge room had a stage at the south end and the Exalted Ruler was enthroned in its center. The chairs by the ruler's podium today are the originals. Seats for the brothers ranged in a circle around the floor against the wall with the center of the Lodge reserved for dancing and portable chairs on occasion. Lighting fixtures were in the shape of Elk's antlers and were spotted throughout the ceiling area with the nakedlights providing illumination. On the third floor were nine rooms for lodgers and the present bathroom. The rooms on the east side of the third floor were later torn out to make space for a social room. Thus was the new home for B.P.O.E. 966. What was happening in San Pedro at this time? Membership was probably approaching the 400 mark spurred on by the new home and expanding activities by the brothers in the social, business and civic development of the city. The first tangible entry stating the membership numbers is found in the record of October 2, 1911 which noted "paid the Grand Lodge assessment for 440 members." The members could be found leading the march of industry which was to make this the great seaport it is today. In lumber, in the then infant oil industry, in shipping, in the fishing and canning activities, and in the importing and exporting fields, the Elks were in the foreground. Two important events had occurred: The City of Los Angeles had suddenly become aware of the great industrial potential and wealth it could lure through San Pedro and Wilmington and had succeeded in annexing the two port cities. The long, bitter breakwater fight was at end with the mole completed in 1909, and the business of creating this man-made harbor through dredging and construction of innermoles and pier-head lines well underway. The United States was out of its terrible depression and business was booming. The brothers could look ahead and see nothing but a robust, rosy future for San Pedro with B.P.O.E. 966 members playing exciting, exhilarating leading roles. They agreed again with "Billy Wick": "Why shouldn't we have our own Lodge?"
Delay in the dedication of the Lodge did not dampen the ardor with which the brothers announced to the world that they were officially in their new home. The time was May 19-20, 1911. As noted before, Grand Exalted Ruler Herrmann annointed the building with his blessings during the evening of May 19. All that day the building had been open to inspection by the general public with punch and cookies served. By this time, lodges from all over Southern California complete with bands, drill teams, barber shop quartets, and Jolly Boys who kept the brothers in stitches by their antics in the Lodge room, again took over the town. The brothers financed the day - May 20 - by selling copper cast medals with bar. The bar bore the word "Dedication" and one side of the medal was a replica of the building with a giant-antlered Elk's head protectively emplaced on the roof and peeking over the cupola. On the other side was centered "B.P.O.E. Dedication 1911" encircled by the legend "San Pedro Lodge No, 966, San Pedro, Calif." The medals sold for $1.00 and an entry on May 8, 1911, declares that "1600 badges were sold with 1100 still out". Approximately 3,000 were fed at a barbecue which included beer furnished by the Maier Brewing Company. Nearly everyone wore one of the medals which indicates that the 1100 referred to above were sold but there is no record of this in the minutes. The barbecue brought about the first alteration in the new building. Tables were set out on the tennis court (now an auto park) at the south end of the lot, In order to speed serving, a hole was cut in the southwest corner of the galley and food was passed out to the sons of Elks who waited on the tables. A large number of the brothers failed to make their trains that night and specials were put on the next morning to get them home. It would be interesting to have a log on some of the "Dear Boss" explanations. Now that the Lodge was conceived, born and housed, the brothers turned their attention to making it solvent, They wanted to get rid of that mortgage as quickly as possible. The Lodge drove for greater membership, it sponsored dances, picnics and barbecues, sold life memberships and every so often the Trustees were empowered to turn over certain amounts to the Building Association which, together with the rents it was getting, managed to retire the mortgage in 1922. Again this was a signal for the Herd to stampeded joyously. Orange County Park was the scene of the burning of the first mortgage. This was one of the early effects the automobile had on the Lodge. Because the automobile was by this time way ahead of ol' Dobbin and the brothers who owned one felt they could go further afield and still draw a large turnout. After all, a 1922 automobile was still something to behold. The highlight of course was when Brother Monroe, the lodge's then oldest member, was given the honor of placing the mortgage in a shovel and setting it afire. Meanwhile, an organization within the Lodge, the "Ruf-Neks" and "Yellow Dogs" came into being. No history of the Lodge would be complete without mention of these groups. The "Ruf-Neks" came first, their natal day being March 5, 1917. This organization was a throwback to the "Jolly Corks", those 15 gay young blades, mummers of their day, who met in New York in 1868 and created B.P.O.E. No.1. Like the "Jolly Corks", the "Ruf-Neks" program was dedicated to having fun and providing entertainment for the members but keeping in mind the overall objective of the Order - "Charity for all." The "Ref-Neks" assembled in the southwest corner back of the Trustees who suffered red faces from good natured jibes. For several meetings the funsters were without a titular head. Then they decided a "King of the Ref-Neks" was needed. So the late C. R. "Daddy" Berry, manager for the old Garbutt and Walsh ferry, was elected. Jeff Jamar, P. E. R. ('38-'39) was the second "King" and it was during his reign that the "Yellow Dogs", the ritualistic team of the "Ruf-Neks", became part of the Lodge's history. The "Yellow Dogs" were originated by the "Ruf-Neks" as a funster unit whose main forte was putting on initiations parodying the regular initiation rituals. B.P.O.E. 966 "Ruf-Neks" heard about the "Yellow Dogs" but did not follow suit until one day some of them found a cur dog, as yellow as could be, who was managy, hungry, and desperately in need of a friend. They took it to a veterinarian who nursed it back to health and it became the "Ruf-Neks" mascot. This experience, of course, caused the 966 members to organize their own "Yellow Dog" initiation ceremonies. Jamat held dual titles of "King of the Ruf-Neks" and "Chief Bull Cur of the Yellow Dogs." Many an Exalted Ruler was a graduate of these inner-Lodge organizations. The "Yellow Dog" initiations were always conducted during the Good of the Order and always followed regular initiation rituals. 966’s "Yellow Dogs" so improved the initiation technique that they were invited to put on the ritual for other Lodges and traveled all over Southern California. They found a plaster "tiger" that had been used for advertising purposes, remodeled it to look like a dog after the fashion of the famous "his master's voice" Victor dog. They wired it for wild electric shocks and had hilarious fun with it during conventions. At one Catalina Island gathering they induced young bathing beauties to sit astraddle the dog while a "cameraman" complete with movie camera with cap turned bill backward would grind away in a "movie test." That the camera was without film and dog was wired would soon become evident to the would-be stars. One lady was so incensed at her electric treatment she threatened to sue. This type of entertainment gradually lost favor and the "Yellow Dogs" became defunct in 1926 although the "Ruf-Neks" continued unbroken. Roy Gordon, P. E. R., D. D. E. R., Trustee, revived the "Yellow Dogs" when he was on the entertainment committee in 1933-34. Someone dog-napped the plaster hound in 1935 and the order collapsed. Nor has it been revived to date despite the oddity that in 1953, LeRoy Byrne, P. E. R. '53-54, received word the dog was at El Centro Lodge and caused it to be brought "home" where it is now in storage. CHAPTER V The years rolled on with great changes in the community life. Marine terminals expanded, great ships came to the port, now business enterprises sprang up and the residential and business sectors developed. World War I made its mark, 86 members served in the armed forces, and the post-war let-down was short-lived. The Lodge continued to grow. We pause here to note that Robert R. Snodgrass, was elected secretary in 1926 and held that post until his resignation in 1953 and thus is the Lodge's oldest employee in service. Prosperity's sweet presence was everywhere. The brothers rode merrily along with it. The minutes record visitations, "Ruf-Neks' parties", initiations, the barbecues, dances, and the Lodge sent up four District Deputy Exalted Rulers: Frank R. Cryderman, C. P. "Cap" 'Wright, J. P. Martin, Jr., and Roy Gordon. In 1928 Calvin Coolidge uttered his famous "I do not choose to run" statement and no one read into it that the honeymoon was over. The brothers were equally unaware that the lean years which beset the Lodge after its institution, were shortly to be repeated. July 9, 1929 they authorized the borrowing of $15,000 recommended on the floor by the Trustees, for remodeling the Lodge room. When they got through, the cost was $30,000 and the Lodge was back financially where it started in 1910. Judge Fred Smith, James Dodson, Jr., and Wickersham were the remodeling committee. The stage was torn out, new seats, except officers' chairs, and rugs and drapes came in. The ceiling was lowered and the present beams built in to aid acustics. Incidentally, those faces painted into the beams are of Smith, Dodson, and Wickersham. The woman's face on the front beam may be that of Rudicinda Dodson. Windows were cut into the west wall and modern light fixtures installed. The remodeling fever grew and reached over to the lounge room and rest rooms. Most of the original furniture in the lounge room was replaced, the rest recovered and rich, heavy wall-to-wall carpeting laid down. Rudicinda's ladies room remained untouched however, except there was certain additional equipment in the powder room. The present clubroom downstairs was untouched and kept closed because of prohibition. No sooner had the job been finished than came the awful years. The depression tolled steadily out of the cast and engulfed California. The brother watched it with dismay. Before it stopped, half the membership dropped out for non-payment of dues. On October 1, 1929, there were 1250 members. In 1933 as the Lodge and business in general started the "climb back", there were less than 500. The fiscal condition of the Lodge was skidding even on October 1, 1929. Receipts that year were $14,600.88 and disbursements were $15,890.91, a loss of $1,290.03. Conditions grew steadily worse and we find the Lodge hard put to meet its obligations. Things got so tough, that membership dropped below 500 in 1931-32 and the payments on the mortgage were unmet. The Bank of San Pedro collapsed. It had loaned the Trustees $25,000 against the building plus 500 shares in the Elks Building Association, and $5,000 on the lot adjoining the west side of the building, Then came Roosevelt and the bank holiday and the long road back to prosperity. The Bank of San Pedro was in the hands of a receiver who was attempting to liquidate its debts. This was in 1933. The brothers learned that the receiver was planning to foreclose on the mortgage on which very little had been paid. It looked very dark, indeed for the Lodg