The Decatur Elks Lodge 993 was Instituted July 20, 1906. The Lodges' location moved several times before moving to its present location at 327 North Second Street. The original building (at the current location) was a funeral home. It served the Members well though, with several nicely appointed rooms to use for various functions during the Lodge Year. There was a large dance floor on the 3rd level. The Lodge's club facilities were on the 2nd of 3 floors. There was a 'men's only' poker room. (Women were not even served drinks.....strictly men only) And the Lodge even boasted 2 sleeping rooms, which were rented out on occasion to Members. Other times, the rooms wereused by a Member who perhaps imbibed of too much alcohol the previous evening.
In the late 1950's there was a fire in the 3rd floor ballroom which damaged the roof of the structure. The fire was quickly extinguished with minimal damage. Today the roof would have been torn off and repaired as the rest of the home was in good shape; however, money was cheap at that time, and a Lodge Member and local businessman, Cal Yost, offered to build a brand new modern building, just in front of the existing structure. A bond was set up, and money was invested by local Elks Lodge Members. The new modern Lodge building was built, and completed in 1960. There was a party on a Friday Night in the old Lodge Home.....everybody then moved about 5 feet east, into the new Lodge building for another party on Saturday night. The former 3 floor structure was then demolished and a parking lot was constructed in its place.
Decatur Lodge #993 at one time boasted of the 'Oldest Elk in America': Mr. Charlie Weber. He became an Elk when he was 21 and lived until he was 103 years of age. This gave him 82 years as an Elk......still a record in the USA. He served as Inner Guard of Decatur Lodge for 41 continuous years. Charlie went to Grand Lodge in St. Louis when he turned 100. He was escorted by a contingent from Decatur Lodge including, Ed Dyer, Frank Lybarger, Bob Hoffman, Mike and Carol Ford, and Exalted Ruler Bill Miller and his wife Penny. The Elks from the group took Charlie to the Monday Morning Business session, and was instructed by the Grand Exalted Ruler to sit in the front row. The GER introduced Charlie to a large group of Grand Lodge attendees. Charlie received a huge round of applause; and he was very warmly received. As the group from Decatur made itsway out of the assembly hall, you would have thought Charlie was a rock star with all the attention he received.
Our 100th year anniversary in 2006 was presided over by Exalted Ruler Andy Gemmer and his wife, Cassie. Many activities took place all year long. The Anniversary Ball was a themed event taking us back into the 1700's into a medieval castle created by Cassie Gemmer. Many people dressed in costume, and a good time was had by all.
Many attorneys, teachers, preachers, and business leaders were Members of the Decatur Elks Lodge in the early 1960's. It was standing room only every Friday and Saturday night. Membership was at 438, and there was talk at the Lodge meeting to restrict membership to 450 members. A waiting list was to be created for an opening. But alas, this was the zenith of membership at the Lodge; and a slow decline over the years shows 222 members for the 2009-2010 Lodge year.
The Decatur Lodge is actively working in the community. They have active Youth Scholarship Programs and a Drug Awareness Committee that does good works. The fundraising efforts for the State Major Project, Cancer Research, is among the top 10 in the State. Twenty-three new members have been initiated during the last Lodge year. The Decatur Lodge has a qualified slate officers who know how to have an impact in the community!
This short history of Decatur #993 was written by Ed Dyer.