BPOE 433, Part 5 – Depression Years, up to 1940

La Grande lines up for Christmas bags containing fruit and candy. The earliest possible date is Christmas of 1928. Notice the Model A Ford in the lower right hand corner.

R. J. Kitchen was elected Exalted Ruler in 1932. He had a plan to raise money for the Exalted Ruler to go to the Grand Lodge Convention by use of subscriptions or gifts. The Lodge supported the plan.

In the spring of 1933 fire burned the La Grande High School. Classes were held campus style in different churches and public buildings around town. La Grande Elks permitted the use of our Lodge Hall for dramatic classes and the production and showing of the annual high school play.

A Lodge member filed a complaint with the Lodge secretary, reporting a financial loss of revenue for the year 1932. Exalted Ruler Kitchen appointed a committee to make a study and suggest changes for 1933. The first thing they did was to change the bylaws to reduce the secretary’s salary from $1200.00 a year to $600.00. He would receive 10 cents per member extra for every member over 350 that he could persuade to keep his dues paid up. Our membership had dropped below 300 Brothers. A drive was begun to reinstate delinquent members and get new candidates.

The election of 1933 saw F. D. Roosevelt elected as president and the repeal of prohibition. By the spring of 1933 the Lodge voted to sell beer in our bar. With the repeal of prohibition there was relaxation in the gambling laws and we obtained some five and ten cent slot machines. Money from the 10 cent machine was earmarked for a fund to pay the interest on our mortgage so it could be renewed. At this period in time the banks were closing their doors. The First National Bank closed, but an appeal was made for businesses and organizations to buy shares of stock in order to keep it open. La Grande Lodge voted to buy one share of stock for $120.00. The Lodge voted to change the bylaws to create a Ways and Means Committee of ten members. There would be four elective officers, secretary, treasurer, chairman of the House Committee, and three Past Exalted Rulers. It was up to this committee to make the Lodge pay its way. An estimate of the value of our property, building and furnishings for insurance coverage, was $25,000.00.

In 1933 R. E. (Bob) Williamson was elected as Exalted Ruler. It was in 1933 that the Grand Lodge statutes were changed to send the newly elected Exalted Ruler to the Grand Lodge Session instead of the outgoing Exalted Ruler. The Lodge faced a dilemma. R. J. Kitchen was supposed to go and had raised some funds for his trip, and now the rules had changed. The Lodge voted to send both Brothers to convention and borrowed money from the bank to send the newly elected Exalted Ruler to Grand Lodge Convention also. In October of 1933, when the subject of Christmas giving was discussed, the Lodge decided to give juvenile shoes and clothing instead of candy as we had done in previous years. The ’49 show had raised such a small amount of money the Lodge discussed closing the show but it was decided to try it again in 1933.

Word was received by the Lodge that the Grand Exalted Ruler would visit La Grande Lodge in November. His name was Walter F. Meirer. If you will examine the cards displayed with PER Bob Williamson’s picture you will see two 1933 Elk cards; one is signed by Grand Exalted Ruler Walter F. Meirer. The La Grande Lodge sent a second resolution to our legislators and game commission protesting the slaughter of elk and demanding the season be closed and kept closed.

The Lodge had a problem in the buffet. Delinquent Brothers were coming in with their keys and using the club facilities. A deal was offered to pay $6.00 [dues] which would pay a Brother up to April 1, 1934. This brought back many Brothers. The Lodge was able to pay the interest on the mortgage and get it renewed. It is still $21,000.00 at 6.5%. Susan Zuber passed away and the mortgage was assigned to Dorothy Noyes who passed away and the mortgage was assigned to her husband, Ben Noyes, who was a barber in La Grande and also a Brother Elk.

At the end of our Lodge year in March, 1934, 59 Brothers were dropped from the rolls. However, through great effort and hard work the membership was up from a low of 280 in 1931 to 510 in 1934. Robert Carey became Exalted Ruler in 1934. This year was the 75th anniversary of the State of Oregon — 1859 to 1934 —— La Grande staged a big celebration and La Grande Lodge participated by sponsoring the band and marching in the parade. The income from the 10 cent slot machines had been put into a special mortgage fund, and the sum of $4000.00 was paid on the principle and $600.00 paid the interest. This was the first principle payment made in five years.

In August Exalted Ruler Carey gave a report to the Lodge of his trip to Grand Lodge at Kansas City, Missouri. After much discussion another ’49 show would be staged to raise money for Christmas giving. It would be in October at the Sacajawea Hotel. New ideas were needed if it were to continue. In November, when the report of the show was given, it had netted $427.00. A little better than last year. Exalted Ruler Carey appointed a lapsation committee of 20 members. Each was to get a new member or to get a delinquent Brother paid up! If they could do this, they got a free feed. A committee known as the “Acts of Friendship” was appointed. It later became the visiting committee. Another payment of $40000.00 was made on our mortgage, and the employees of the club came under the Oregon State Industrial Compensation Act in December of 1934.

In January, 1934, unemployment was still running high. La Grande Lodge voted to donate $15.00 per month to buy milk for school children and the Christmas committee showed they had helped 327 needy families with juvenile clothing and shoes. In February George Washington’s Birthday Ball was held in the Sacajawea Ballroom because there were so many tickets sold that our Lodge facility could not serve the members properly.

In April Brother Vic Eckley was installed as Exalted Ruler for 1935-1936. The Lodge decided to contract with Pollack Brothers Circus to be under the auspices of Elks Lodge No. 433 and the money to be used for our Christmas giving. This income would replace the ’49 show. A report of the circus committee showed a net profit of $230.00. Not too successful! If you recall, Elks Lodge No. 433 bought a First National Bank share in 1933, for $120.00, to keep the bank from closing. In ]une, 1935, the bank bought our share back for $125.00. The Lodge paid $4000.00 more on our mortgage. It had been reduced to $12,000.00. Those 10 cent slot machines are going to pay off the mortgage! In August Exalted Ruler Eckley gave a report on his trip to the Grand Lodge Convention in Columbus, Ohio. Due to the small amount of money raised by the circus, the Lodge decided to stage the ’49 show again. It was scheduled for three nights, October 17-18-19. All Brothers were advised to grow a beard to advertise the ’49 show or heavy penalties would be imposed. Past Exalted Ruler Jesse Andrews, 1928-1929, had been appointed District Deputy for 1935-1936 and he made his official visit in October while all the Brothers were showing off their “Days of ’49” beards and mustaches.

In October, 1931, a well known state police officer, Amos “Spud” Helm, was killed in the line of duty. A drive was begun to buy a first aid car for the City of La Grande in his name. La Grande No. 433 supported this drive by a donation in his name.

When the ’49 show report was given to the Lodge it showed a profit of $222.00, even with three nights. In January, 1936, $4000.00 plus interest was paid on our mortgage. It was rumored we might burn the mortgage during 1936. There was a Civilian Conservation Corp camp built just above the Hilgard bridge. The Lodge decided to send all our outdated magazines from the reading room up to the boys. A billiard and pool tournament was started in the bar room. There would be a weekly playoff to determine a champion. Exalted Ruler Victor Eckley is seriously ill from acute appendicitis operation. The Lodge discussed burning of the mortgage. A committee was appointed to make plans, set a time, and invite the Grand Exalted Ruler for the celebration.

La Grande Elks Lodge Building, 1936. This is how the Lodge looked when members held the mortgage burning ceremony November 10, 1936. It had been a long, hard struggle with deserving compliments going to several very generous mortgage holders.

In 1936 Brother Roy Farnum became Exalted Ruler. School Superintendent Brother A. L. Gralapp sent a letter praising the Lodge for our milk and clothing program for the La Grande schools. At the July meeting of La Grande Elks Lodge Trustee PER J. H. Peare presented a duly recorded, paid-up mortgage to the Lodge. A discussion of a mortgage burning celebration followed. November 10, 1936, was the date set. In September, when the Christmas program was discussed, it was decided to discontinue the “Days of ’49” show. Because the mortgage was paid off the Lodge decided the slot machines could take care of our Christmas giving. On November 10, 1936, the mortgage was burned with a great banquet and a vaudeville show brought in from Portland. It is a good thing that November 11 was a holiday to follow the night before. In January of 1937 La Grande Elks No. 433 decided on a savings program and invested $3000.00 in government bonds. No mortgage to pay on now, and the slot machines are well oiled.

In April, 1937, Andrew Windous was installed as Exalted Ruler. The Lodge discussed filling in the swimming pool and leveling the floor in the basement. An estimate of $3500.00 is given. The Lodge decided to go ahead on the project. In October, 1937, the first celebration to honor 25-year members was held to become an annual event before Armistice Day, November 10. Charles Howard, a Past Exalted Ruler from Salem, was appointed administrator of Eastern Oregon Normal School. He was immediately assimilated in our Lodge and was the main speaker at Memorial Day Services in December, 1937. In December, 1937, our Lodge Charter was draped for a 30-day period because Charter Member Ed Eckley had passed away. The filling in and leveling of the swimming pool was completed. The Lodge voted to put in a kitchen — buy tables and chairs, and buy enough kitchen equipment to make the basement the Lodge banquet room. The $3500.00 estimate had become a cost of $8200.00. Boxing and wrestling cards were quite popular so the Lodge voted to put in a boxing ring and mat in the center of the basement.

The date of the annual picnic had been moved around from June through August. The Lodge members decided to set it on one date, the second Sunday in July. On January 2, 1938, the opening celebration of the new banquet room was staged. There was such a large crowd that the kitchen crew and waitresses were overwhelmed, but it was termed a success. Seventy years of Elkdom in the United States was the occasion for another celebration——1868-1938. It gave us an opportunity to put on a most meaningful Annual Ball in honor of George Washington’s Birthday also. The battleship “Oregon” had been retired from service in the navy. A drive by organizations and schools was begun to find a berth for the ship to be on public display. La Grande Lodge supported this cause and donated to it.

In March of 1938 the Lodge continued their savings program by purchasing $7000.00 in government bonds. The slot machines were kept in good order! Foster Sims became Exalted Ruler in 1938-1939. He was abducted to Union on the first meeting night after he was installed, as a practical joke. The Brothers later voted to have the minutes revised to show him as “present” for his first meeting as Exalted Ruler.

La Grande High School Band needed help to go to Seattle for a Northwest District Contest. La Grande Lodge voted to help sponsor their trip with $100.00. A request was made to support the La Grande Boy Scout Troops. A donation was made. Beaver Boys State meeting was started by the American Legion. A request was honored by making a donation. This was the beginning of our Youth Services item in our budget process.

Exalted Ruler Sims went to Atlantic City, New ]ersey, for the Grand Lodge Convention. The Lodge decided to hold a dance in our new basement every Saturday night through the fall and winter months. Our Lodge saving program added $4000.00 more in government bonds. In March La Grande Lodge joined a softball league of Elks Lodges in adjoining cities. The Christmas program of buying juvenile clothing and shoes was changed in name — to be called the “Juvenile Relief Committee.” The Lodge spent $285.00 for milk and $585.00 for clothing.

New House Rules were drawn up by the House Committee concerning the conduct of Brothers in the bar room. They were posted for everyone to read and remember! In 1939 Brother Lester Kingsley was elected Exalted Ruler. The Grand Lodge Convention was to be in St. Louis. The Lodge decided to hold a New Year’s Dance to begin at 11:30 p.m. and to follow with a ham and egg breakfast at 2:30 a.m. This was the beginning of an Elks tradition —— a New Year`s Eve Dance. J. Donald Meyers owned the movie theaters in La Grande. He made an offer of a one month free pass to the Brother who sold the most tickets to the Annual Birthday Ball. In February, 1940, the Eagles Lodge offered to sell the adjoining lot and building back to the Elks Lodge. A motion passed to buy it back. La Grande Lodge donated $170.00 to the La Grande High School Band to go to a contest in Los Angeles.

In 1940 Brother Kenneth McCormick became Exalted Ruler. Brother Bob Williamson was elected as Alternate Delegate to the Grand Lodge for the first time. The Lodge bought $4000.00 more government bonds in accordance with the ongoing saving program that had been adopted. Brother Arnold Gralapp, superintendent of La Grande schools, was present and thanked the Lodge for their contribution of milk and clothing to the schools. He also presented a film of the High School Band trip to their contest in Los Angeles. Brother August Stange presented him with a set of elk teeth mounted as a watch fob chain decoration for his vest.

Exalted Ruler McCormick attended Grand Lodge Convention in Houston, Texas. In September of 1940 war clouds were heavy in the news from overseas. The local company of National Guard was called to active service. Because the summer practice war games had depleted their funds, an appeal was made to local organizations for help. La Grande Lodge voted to donate $77.00 to this cause, and also decided to pay the dues of Lodge members who were called to active service.