BPOE 433, Part 3 – New Lodge temple, 1911-1917

Adams Avenue of La Grande in 1911, with a view of ‘Cast Iron Mary’

In 1912, under the leadership of T. J. Scroggins, an idea was brought before the lodge by the steward, Adna Rogers, to put on a show for the members called the “Days of ’49.” It would have crap tables, blackjack, poker and roulette wheels. A committee of Rogers, Nate Zweifel, Harvey Bay and Bill Peare would work out all the details and appoint members to work the games. The first shows were to run from 9:00 to 1:00 p.m. only after Lodge on Lodge nights. They were so successful that the next year ’49 shows would be held on Saturday nights for members and their ladies. It was held upstairs in the old Lodge Temple. Again, it was such a success that the next year it was held in the dance hall and an orchestra was engaged for dancing at the same time as the games. The Lodge voted to have the “Days of ’49” games open to the public and added a jitney dance (clear the floor between each dance and collect a token for each dance). People could buy tokens from the cashier and spend them on the games and dances, instead of paying with money. The “‘Days of ’49” show ran every year for 20 years and was a source of funds for the Lodge’s charitable work. This fundraising event got so large that it had to be moved to the Stewart Opera House in order to handle the large crowd of people. About 1928 the Sacajawea Hotel was built and it had a large ballroom. The “Days of ’49” event was moved to that ballroom to handle the crowds. The stock market crash of 1929 and the beginning of the depression in 1930-1931 saw an end to our most successful fund raiser. The “Days of ’49” were over.

An interesting bit of history of La Grande in which a Brother had a smashing part should be related for the record. In early days Adams Avenue was a dirt street and travel was mainly by horseback or horse and buggy. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union was quite active in La Grande. They raised money to erect a drinking fountain at the intersection of Adams Avenue and Elm Street. This was to quench man’s thirst before he went into a saloon. It also had a drinking trough for horses and a small one for dogs. Atop the fountains stood a statue of Susan B. Anthony, the agitator for temperance. Adams Avenue was paved in 1910 and the statue, which was nicknamed “Cast Iron Mary,” was moved to the large intersection of Depot and Fourth streets.

Adams Avenue of La Grande in 1911, with a view of ‘Cast Iron Mary’

Prohibition was voted into law in 1918 and man’s thirst promoted some activity in bootleg whiskey. In the mid-twenties one of our Brothers, who was supplying local demand, came racing down Fourth Street ahead of the Sheriff and tried to turn onto Depot Street in his big black automobile. The front of the car got by the statue, but the rear wiped out “Cast Iron Mary.” Our Brother was tried by the Elks Tribunal and was expelled for six months. In 1913, under the leadership of L. F. Dunn as Exalted Ruler, success was smiling on Lodge No. 433. The member-ship had passed 350 Brothers. The Lodge had paid off the purchase of the Commercial Club property in three years instead of five.

Elks Lodge Temple construction – 1914-1915

The membership began to think about building a Temple on the corner lot more suitable to their purposes. In 1914-1915 M. B. Donahue was elected Exalted Ruler. He was authorized to appoint a committee to survey and study the Lodge’s financial position and submit plans for financing a new building. This committee made their report in May, 1914, stating that the Lodge was in good shape financially, to go ahead with constructing a building at a cost not to exceed $50,000.00. The secretary was directed to notify the membership that a meeting would be held June 4, 1914, to vote on the advisability of erecting a new Lodge Temple. There was a large turn-out of Brothers and it was voted unanimously to erect a building for Lodge and club purposes. Many architecture firms offered plans for building the structure. Houghtalling and Dougans of Portland submitted the accepted plans in July of 1914. In August of 1914 a building committee of five was appointed by Exalted Ruler M. B. Donahue. They would have full charge of the progress of the new building but would report regularly to the trustees, the Lodge officers and the Lodge membership. The committee also got busy getting the necessary financing. They issued and sold $18,000.00 worth of bonds to the membership, which were taken up quickly. The Lodge borrowed $20,000.00 on a first mortgage from Mrs. M. F. Honan at 6.5%. The Lodge sold the original Commercial Club Building to the Fraternal Order of Eagles for their Lodge purposes. M. B. Donahue was re-elected as Exalted Ruler for 1915-1916 because of the outstanding job he had done getting a new Lodge Temple to the construction stage. The Lodge was fortunate to start work in 1914 because costs and prices began to skyrocket in 1915 because of the news of the war going on overseas. The estimate of the finished building, furnishings and fixtures was $75,000.00. A swimming pool was installed in the basement of the building and was kept in use until about the 1930 depression.

The new Lodge Temple was completed in June of 1915. The dedication was held June 16, 1915, and District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler E. K. Kubli of Portland Lodge No. 142 delivered the dedication address. Because Portland Lodge had sponsored La Grande Lodge No. 433 there was a large number of Brothers who made the trip to La Grande for the dedication ceremony.

Elks Lodge Temple construction meeting

Oregon Governor James Withycombe meeting

Among the notable visitors was Governor James Withycombe who made a public address from the balcony of the new Temple. After the ceremony the Walla Walla Elks Lodge came and played a baseball game with the La Grande Elks. The evening of June 16, 1915, was taken up by a sumptuous banquet followed by dedication speeches and a dance that lasted until daylight. The visiting Brothers from Portland got on the west bound train with no sleep at all.

Frank Bramwell, 1916-1917, was elected Exalted Ruler in April, 1916. In the latter part of his term the United States entered World War I. One hundred and two Brothers entered the armed services and the Lodge kept their dues paid up while they were in the service. Unfortunately four Brothers did not return and their names are on the Tablets of Love and Memory. In 1917 dark days of World War I hung over the nation and the Lodge. Norman Desilet was elected Exalted Ruler for 1917-1918. A financial report furnished the Lodge by the trustees showed the Lodge owing on its mortgages some $48,000.00. If Mrs. Honan could have figured any other possible way to use a 3-story masonry Lodge building with a swimming pool in the basement, we might have a different Elks Temple than we do today.

As Elks, we did all we could toward helping the war effort. The Lodge Temple was turned over to the ladies of the community who worked with the Red Cross and made clothes that were needed. The Exalted Ruler declined to go to the Grand Lodge meeting and [instead] turned his allotted money over to a hospital unit being formed for overseas service.