BPOE 433, Part 6 – The War Years, 1940-1945

Eastern Oregon College of Education in La Grande, Oregon, about 1940

It was in 1940 that La Grande Lodge voted to set up a $1000.00 loan fund for high school seniors who wished to go to Eastern Oregon College. The name had been changed from Eastern Oregon Normal School. President R. L. Maaske of the college appeared at a Lodge meeting to thank BPOE No. 433 for this loan program. This was the beginning of the scholarship program that is still carried on today [1988]. The college had a championship football team in 1940 and the Lodge donated $25.00 to help with transportation to state competition. The Lodge had regular smokers [i.e. an informal gathering, especially of men, for entertainment, discussion] of boxing and wrestling. The contestants were from the college. The Lodge voted to donate $25.00 to the student body fund and $5.00 for bandages.

A Committee for National Defense was appointed as suggested by the Grand Lodge. Our local National Guard unit had been training at Camp Murray. The Lodge moved to buy cartons of cigarettes and send them to Lodge members in the Guard.

It was in January, 1941, that the Tyler was allowed to come into the Lodge room after the opening, and attend Lodge sessions. Before that he had been paid $10.00 a year to be Tyler and set at the outside door of the Lodge room. There was a drive to get a new armory here in La Grande, also a Veterans Hospital and an aviation field. The Lodge voted $25.00 to help send the secretary of the Commercial Club to Washington, D.C.

In April, 1941, Brother Elmer Hansen was installed as Exalted Ruler. The Lodge voted to buy $8000.00 of government bonds.

A donation was made again to send a boy to the American Legion’s Beaver Boys State. This was the beginning of a yearly donation to this program.

It was in September of 1941 that the Lodge received another request to join the Oregon State Elks Association. After much discussion the Lodge voted to join the association. This was 18 years after La Grande Lodge had joined once and then voted to drop out.

A Brother, Herman White, was missing under suspicious circumstances. The Lodge voted a $50.00 reward for information leading to his discovery. There is no record shown of the result of this reward.

Exalted Ruler Hansen reported on the Grand Lodge Convention in Philadelphia in 1941.

The Lodge voted $50.00 to send our softball team to the state playoffs. In a replay of “Casey at the Bat” our team lost the final game here. The Lodge gave the winning team the $50.00 to go to the finals.

In October of 1941, the threat of war was very serious. Elks No. 433 voted to pay dues for members who are in service. A student loan program was voted by the Lodge and $1985.00 was loaned to 51 college students averaging $26.50 per student.

In November DDGER J. H. Peare made his official visitation. Also on that night the Lodge bought $6000.00 in defense bonds.

On December 4th No. 433 voted to buy an iron lung because polio had become an epidemic. It will be housed at Snodgrass Funeral Home and PER Lot Snodgrass will have complete charge of its care and who may use it. Cost of $1650.00.

On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and plunged United States into World War II. La Grande Elks pledged our building and kitchen to the American Red Cross to house and feed refugees in case of emergency. National Defense Council designated Sacajawea Hotel as central headquarters in case of emergency. La Grande Elks Lodge building was second in line in case of overflow of refugees or casualties.

On January 8, 1942, the Lodge voted to increase the secretary’s salary to $100.00 per month. The iron lung arrived and was placed on display in our lobby for members to inspect before it was put into use at the hospitals.

In February, 1942, a feed was put on by the Red Cross on PER Night for 430 members as a test of the kitchen facilities — cost .09 per plate.

In April of 1942 Homer Leffel was installed as Exalted Ruler. It was the same month of 1942 that the suggestion of closing the Lodge membership was brought up on the Lodge floor. A committee was appointed to study the proposal, but no action taken at this time. Lodge voted to buy a grand piano. It was delivered in time for a Ladies Night on a Sunday night for a concert to be played by a musician from Portland. The piano was purchased from Brother George Tiss who had a store next to the old First National Bank building called La Grande Radio & Music Supply. The Oregon State Elks Association held their convention in Bend. The Lodge voted $100.00 to send the Exalted Ruler and secretary to Bend. At the same meeting it was voted to buy $7 000.00 more E Bonds for our saving program. In June our Lodge donated funds to establish a United Serviceman’s Organization in La Grande. At that time there were four passenger trains passing through here each day, and each one stopped here for a short period of time. The Lodge gave the Red Cross permission to prepare food in our kitchen for the USO.

La Grande Rail Road Yards – 1940’s

In July of 1942 Exalted Ruler Leffel traveled to the Grand Lodge Convention in Omaha, Nebraska. At this time the membership of No. 433 was at 550 members. Eighteen La Grande men joined the navy as one group from La Grande. La Grande Lodge honored them by giving a public dinner to show them our gratitude. In September of 1942, at the beginning of La Grande schools, the Lodge voted to buy milk for the school children (19,000 one half pints for $480.00).

Due to the war, the supply of steel and rubber was a problem for our government and scrap metal drives were begun. All the cuspidors and leftover steel pipes from the swimming pool were gathered up and donated. The rubber mats under the spittoons, foot scrapers, and matting on the floor back of the bar in the bar room were turned in. The air force had taken over La Grande airport to train flight cadets. They were housed in the Sacajawea Hotel, which could no longer take care of casualties or emergency housing. The Elks Lodge was designated as emergency shelter in case of enemy attack. There was a rumor of Japanese submarines off our coast.

Esteemed Lecturing Knight George L. Anderson was drafted into service. He handed his resignation in to the Lodge and not many days later Brother Ray Winters, who was our secretary, received his draft notice. He asked for a leave of absence from his position and Brother Jack McGhean was appointed acting secretary while Brother Winters was in the service.

In November the weather was getting cold and the USO got permission to use the Lodge basement for servicemen on their stops in La Grande.

Major Jesse Andrews, Past Exalted Ruler in 1928-1929, was home on leave and gave a report of his tour of duty in and around Australia.

In February, 1943, Brother Ray Winters came home on leave. He was then a corporal in the army. He recounted some of his experiences.

Lt. Bob Zweifel was stationed on an air field in California. He delivered bombers from the factories to air bases everywhere. La Grande was now paying Lodge dues for 65 servicemen.

In March our Lodge named an initiation class after our last Charter Member, H. Peare. There were 29 members initiated that night.

In April of 1943 Brother Les Keffer was elected Exalted Ruler. Jack McGhean entered the service and PER Bob Williamson was elected as secretary pro tem. La Grande Lodge was enjoying an increase in membership and also seeing funds from the club facilities boom. It was voted to buy $10,000.00 more E bonds to comply with our savings program. Total membership was 600 members. In June of 1943 Brother Ray Winters came home from service, returned to his job in the U. S. Bank, and Bob Williamson stepped aside so he could resume his position as secretary of La Grande Lodge.

In July, Exalted Ruler Les Keffer went to the Grand Lodge Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, and on this meeting night La Grande No. 433 bought $7500.00 in E Bonds. The Grand Lodge dictated all Lodges would help raise $235,000.00 to pay for a Liberty Ship — okay-ed. In September of 1943 food rationing was at its highest peak and made it difficult to hold banquets. The Lodge voted to curtail membership feeds until food supplies were more plentiful. Oregon State Elks Association raised the per capita dues from 5 cents to 10 cents.

The Lodge voted to close the membership at 650 and new applications held in the order received, admitting them only on death, demit [resignation] or delinquency drop outs. The Northwest Hereford Breeders held a big show and sale at the fair grounds which were located in the area north of Pioneer Park at that time. The sale committee asked for use of the lounge and banquet room for this event and they promised to obtain the food for the dinner.

Sacajawea Hotel in downtown La Grande, 1928, now known as the Sac Annex

The Sacajawea Hotel had been taken over by the Army Air Force to house the cadets that were being trained at the La Grande air field, so the Elks Lodge had the only available facilities for a large convention.

In early 1944 Exalted Ruler Les Keifer was drafted into the army and Leading Knight Lot Snodgrass agreed to step up and finish the year for Exalted Ruler Les Keifer. In April, 1944, Lot Snodgrass was installed as Exalted Ruler. At this time in 1944 the student loan program was discontinued and in its place a program of giving ten scholarships of $74.00 each was voted in by the Lodge. These first scholarships were to be used at Eastern Oregon State College, but it was later changed to be the college of the student’s choice. This was the beginning of the Elks scholarship program in La Grande Lodge No. 433.

In May, 1944, the City of La Grande wanted to have a youth center in Zuber Hall and requested help from business people, service clubs and fraternal organizations. Our Lodge supported this effort and donated $250.00 to the cause.

The minutes show that BPOE No. 433 bought one half lot in Grandview Cemetery but no records to show whatever became of this lot.

In July, at the annual picnic, the Lodge sold raffle tickets on four $25.00 Liberty Bonds.

The old pool tables were given to the Red Cross which in turn gave them, in our name, to the Naval Air Station in Pasco, Washington.

Exalted Ruler Lot Snograss went to Grand Lodge Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

The war had devastated many Allied cities overseas and the Grand Lodge entered a campaign to raise $110,000.00 for a National War Relief Drive. Our Lodge voted to donate $1000.00 to this cause.

In October the Oregonian newspaper started a plan to send an abbreviated newspaper to all servicemen who were Elk members. Our Lodge voted to support this plan. We now had 102 members in service and it was voted to send each one a $25.00 Liberty Bond.

In December the food rationing had relaxed somewhat and dinners were now being served for our members. The La Grande High School football team won the State Championship so our Lodge gave a dinner for the players, coach and school board members.

Sept 2, 1945 – Japan formally surrendered in ceremonies aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, ending World War II.

In March, 1945, the Elks Grand Lodge suspended the Convention because of the war with Japan. The local ladies of the Red Cross were operating the Donut Hut and our Lodge donated $10.00 to them. The American Red Cross appealed for funds for their work so 433 voted to give them $500.00. A Sister Lodge in Manila had been bombed out by the Japanese bombers and our Lodge gave them $100.00. In April, 1945, Sid Burleigh was elected Exalted Ruler. The Lodge voted to donate $500.00 to the Elks National Home Fund. It was in June that the Lodge voted to build a bar in the southeast corner of the lobby to be able to serve drinks to Lady Elks in the lobby — strict rules about “No Ladies” in the bar room.

The United States asked La Grande Elks Lodge members to sponsor the Seventh War Bond Drive in Union County. The Lodge agreed to handle this drive. In July Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas visited La Grande in conjunction with the bond drive. A banquet was held for residents of Union County to hear him speak. In August, 1945, Japan surrendered after the second atomic bond was dropped.

There was jubilant celebration throughout the whole nation and the United States Treasury Department changed the name of War Bonds to Victory Bonds and 433 bought a $1000.00 Victory Bond. In October the Lodge voted to remodel the Ruler’s Roost for Saturday night entertainment. There would be food and drinks, but the food had to be prepared in the basement kitchen and brought up on the elevator. It was not successful.

In October, 1945, a new Lodge was formed in Burns, Oregon. We were invited to their institution. On November 10 our Lodge put on a show for the 25 year and 50 year members and our Brothers were still celebrating on November 11, Armistice Day, because of the end of World War II and because the Elks held an Open House for members.