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Topic: '11 Lodges, 11 Nights' tour set, Frank Mickadeit visit< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
 Post Number: 1
Doug Wells
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 01 2009,9:45 am  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Frank's summer 'Ten Lodges, Ten Nights' tour set
Frank Mickadeit
Columnist
The Orange County Register
fmickadeit@ocregister.com

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I don't know that I've ever awakened with a greater sense of purpose than I did Wednesday morning. It was the day I was to begin formal planning of what I'm not so humbly nor succinctly calling the "Frank Mickadeit 'Ten Lodges, Ten Nights' Summer 2009 O.C. Elks Tour." The t-shirts all might have to be XXL.

Here's the deal: You'll recall that after my appearance at the Garden Grove Library, a woman dragged Kathleen and me over to the local Elks Lodge (No. 1952) for a drink, or, in Kathleen's case, a soft drink. I met the Exalted Ruler, John III, his Knight in Waiting, or whatever they call him, and generally had a swell time.

A few weeks later, I returned to witness a visiting BBQ master from the Westminster lodge (remember, "lodge," never"club") do things with tri-tip that would make any grown Santa Marian weep and, again, I had a great time.

At one of these functions, I don't remember which, I seemed to recall asking someone, I don't remember who, how many Elks lodges there are in Orange County. I do remember that answer: 10. Hmm. What if … And the "Ten Lodges, Ten Nights" idea was born.

I met Garrett Hamblin of the Huntington Beach lodge – he's an area coordinator of some kind – and ran it by him. My thinking: The venerable Elks want to get exposure for the good stuff they do, as well as let prospective members see what they're all about. Having me roll through, hopefully drawing in a fair number of non-Elks each night, plus writing about it, will aid that cause.

For me? I'd get to spend 10 days on the road, traveling from lodge to lodge, in a 40-foot luxury R.V. with the owner-operator, my buddy Stan. We'd set up camp in a different lodge parking lot each morning, and I'd write, smoke cigars and meet people who would entertain me during the day, and smoke cigars, meet people and entertain them at night. Ten Lodges, ten nights. General public welcome!

"Let me work on it," Hamblin said.

I didn't hear anything for more than a month, so I assumed my summer dream was shot and I'd be spending a lot of time prowling the O.C. Fair again for goat thieves and the like.

But last week, out of the blue, Hamblin sent me an email. Not only had he gotten every Exalted Ruler in O.C. to sign off on the tour, but he had actually booked the days.

I called Stan, who immediately went out to ready the R.V., a splendid American Eagle manufactured by his buddy, the late John Crean. Kathleen, of course, resumes her role as Chief Roadie, although I've had no shortage of offers from others who want to jump on the bandwagon, including my editor.

"You what?" I replied. "But you're my editor, for God's sake, isn't that higher than roadie?"

He didn't seem to think so.

I also started to write a special song for the tour that I'll add to my small but impressive repertoire of originals. Working title: "Lawrence Welk Was An Elk." (It has the added bonus of being true.)

I'm also working up some Elks trivia. Like:

Question 1: The main founder of the Elks was named: a) Horace; b) Myron; c) Buford; d) Vivian. Correct answer: d). Full name: Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian.

Question 2: The "B" in "B.P.O.E." stands for a) brave; b) benevolent; c) bootalicious; d) Brittany. Correct answer: b). As in, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks – although chief among my membership-enhancement recommendations will be to consider changing it to answer choice c).

Question 3: The original name of the Elks was: a) The Hooved Ones; b) The Jolly Corks; c) The Purple Reign; d) The Merry Pranksters. Correct answer: b). It was, surprise, the name of a popular drinking game of the 1860s. New name suggestion: The Jolly Quarters.

We open at the Newport lodge July 16 and close at the Orange lodge July 25, with stops, respectively in: Mission Viejo, Westminster, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Buena Park, Fullerton (please let it be Pork Chop Night), La Habra and Huntington Beach.

Little doubt in my mind that 2009 will go down in O.C. history as "The Summer of Frank."

Mickadeit writes Mon.-Fri. Contact him at 714-796-4994 or fmickadeit@ocregister.com


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Stephanie Fitzpatrick
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 19 2009,2:18 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

:jumpie  :confused  :laugh
Ok peeps - we need to show of "the friendly lodge" and have a fabulous dinner and some type of entertainment....thoughts???? :rotflmao  :rotflmao  :rotflmao  :good


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Stephanie Fitzpatrick
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 19 2009,2:20 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

ooops...isn't that Genelle's Jeweling?       :beat

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Stephanie A. Fitzpatrick

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Doug Wells
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(Stephanie Fitzpatrick @ Jun. 19 2009,2:20 pm)
QUOTE
ooops...isn't that Genelle's Jeweling?       :beat

Yes it is.  That's why we haven't planned anything extra for the visit.  When I first heard of this, I wanted to get a band, but Rick reminded me of the Jeweling Ceremony.  At least we'll have a good turn out anyway. :)


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Doug Wells
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 03 2009,5:50 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Tour of O.C. Elkdom set; all welcome
Frank Mickadeit
Columnist
The Orange County Register
fmickadeit@ocregister.com

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The roadies have been briefed, the advance work is done and, most importantly, the T-shirts are in. My historic, nonstop tour of Orange County Elkdom, "11 Lodges, 11 Nights," commences July 15. General public generally welcome. Just sign in as a guest.

While Kathleen has been making a special stage costume for me, my motor home driver, Stan, and I spent a couple of days making site inspections. We liked what we saw.

At the Huntington Beach lodge, for example, they've lardered in 300 pounds of ribs for the Roadhouse – All You Can Eat Ribs Night, July 24, when I'll be appearing behind a chicken wire screen, ala "Blues Brothers." Please throw only plastic recyclables. The Huntington show also coincides with the day Carona is scheduled to enter federal prison. We might have a special moment to honor that. Maybe I can get Spitzer to do "Jailhouse Rock" on his Strat.

At Fullerton, they've stocked up on pork chops. There's even one lodge, San Clemente, that's haunted by a past Exalted Ruler. I'll leave time in my show for a special appearance. (You may remember this was going to be the "10 Lodges, 10 Nights" tour. That changed when I found out San Clemente's had been excluded. It's technically not part of the Elks district that encompasses O.C. We immediately added it to the tour.)

City officials have been great, too. Special parking permits in Orange and Newport are going through swiftly. And when we needed a few extra grommets inserted into our banner, Jessi Castaneda at Newport Sign & Graphics did it gratis.

So here's the schedule, which is now nailed down with, amazingly, the Santa Ana lodge coming in at the last minute yesterday. I say amazingly because it's so close to the Register that from our fourth-floor patio I could take it out with a bottle rocket. Not that I would. Probably.

You need not be an Elk (or any hoofed or antlered species) to attend any event, except my final show in Orange – although I will be hanging out to meet and greet in front of the Orange lodge all afternoon that day. Where it says I'm on site, that's an invite to come down for a meet and greet any time. Best of all, I'm free. (If you have the meal associated with the shows, however, you'll have to pay standard Elk rate.)

•July 15, San Clemente, 1505 N. El Camino Real

Frank on site at noon. Taco Bar opens 5 p.m. Frank Show: 7 p.m.

•July 16, Newport Beach, 3456 Via Oporto

Frank on site at noon. Steak Night serving begins 5:30 p.m. Frank Show: 7 p.m. Karaoke to follow.

•July 17, Mission Viejo, 25093 Marguerite Parkway

Frank on site at noon. Tri-tip Night serving begins 6:30 p.m. Frank Show: 7:30 p.m. Karaoke to follow.

•July 18, Westminster, 6391 Industry Way.

Open House for general public and Frank admirers all day, commencing at 9 a.m. with breakfast, continuing with tri-tip BBQ at lunch. Frank will engage in general "hanging out" no later than 10:30 a.m. His show: 4 p.m.

•July 19, Garden Grove, 11551 Trask Ave.

Open House for general public and Frank admirers all day, commencing at noon. Come watch Stan dump the waste tanks. Hawaiian Luau: 3 p.m. Frank takes stage: 5:30 p.m.

•July 20, Santa Ana, 212 S. Elk Lane

Frank on site at noon to 5:30 p.m. Frank Show time: 7 p.m.

•July 21, Buena Park, 7212 Melrose St.

Frank on site at noon. Taco Night: 6 p.m. Frank Show: 6:30 p.m. Line dancing: 8 p.m.

•July 22, Fullerton, 1400 Elks View Lane

Frank on site at noon. Pork Chop Night begins at 5:30 p.m. Frank Show: 7 p.m.

•July 23, La Habra, 541 E. Whittier Blvd.

Frank on site at noon. Taco Night serving begins at 5:30 p.m. Frank Show: 7 p.m. Karaoke to follow.

•July 24, Huntington Beach, 7711 Talbert Ave.

Frank on site at noon. Frank Show: 5:30 p.m. All You Can Eat Ribs ($20): 6:30 p.m.

•July 25, Orange, 211 E. Chapman Ave.

Frank on site (on Orange Street side of building) from noon-5 p.m. to meet and greet general public. Evening Frank Show and "Jeweling of District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler" restricted to Elks.

Mickadeit writes Mon.-Fri. Contact him at 714-796-4994 or fmickadeit@ocregister.com


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Doug Wells
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 16 2009,10:30 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE



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Doug Wells
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Doug Wells
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 16 2009,10:35 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Tour opens with ghost, groupies
Frank Mickadeit
Columnist
The Orange County Register
fmickadeit@ocregister.com

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Want info on how to hang with Frank and the Elks? Click here

Day 1: "Eleven Lodges, Eleven Nights"

From San Clemente – We rolled into the parking lot of the San Clemente lodge shortly after noon Wednesday and were greeted by Sheriff's Sgt. Bill McGovern, one of the first people to point out to me that San Clemente does, indeed, have an Elks Lodge. So Bill became the first visitor of this historic adventure.

Stan and I rolled out the awning and set up the chairs outside his RV, and a short time later the first groupies arrived. Rebecca Cooper and Susie Hopson pulled up in a white Jag.

As it turned out, they'd come to promote Rebecca's House (www.rebeccashouse.org), which treats eating disorders. Rebecca was seriously, I mean seriously, talking about weight-loss issues, saying, "Right now we have an epidemic with obesity. My mom died of obesity. I've been in recovery 22 years." Right then, Stan showed up with a bowl of very deeply fried potato chips. "Here you go, ladies!" he said with a flourish.

"Have'a Chips!" Rebecca cried, as she dipped her hand in the bowl. About a half-hour later, I gave them tour T-shirts and waved goodbye. Well, 22 years wasn't bad.

The first major Elk domo arrived in the form of Greg Merritt. He'd come all the way from Poway. He and San Clemente Past Exalted Ruler Chuck Nauman sat with us and we discussed one of the most intriguing aspects of the San Clemente lodge: It's haunted.

The spirit is believed to be the ghost of the man who helped build the lodge, donated the land for it and was its first E.R., George Eyre. He died in 1982, and ever since, there've been unexplained noises at night, a clock that goes haywire and more. As Chuck described it: "You'll be sitting at the bar in the 'social quarters' – we don't call it a 'bar' – and you'll feel a chill go right through you."

Chuck's father helped Eyre build the lodge, and Chuck, an electrician, helps maintain it. His wife, Elena, is the office manager and seems pretty much the backbone of the operation.

At Taco Night dinner, I sat with another key woman in lodge history, Marlene Brown. In 1995, after the Elks started allowing women in, she and Donna Dietsch applied for membership to the San Clemente lodge, to which their husbands belong. "I was always down here doing more work than the men, and I wanted to have a voice." Marlene says. On the night of the vote, she and Donna went to the Red Fox down the street and awaited the results. Soon they got the word: Blackballed!

"There were more black balls than there were voters!" Marlene says. "The old dinosaurs didn't want us in." Donna recalls it slightly differently (only three blackballs), but essentially the same. Six months later, they were finally accepted.

Another woman who figures prominently in San Clemente Elkdom is Betty "Boop" Simpson, a comely brunette whose photos of her popping out of a cake and in other cheesecake poses are part of a display near the door. "Great gal," an old guy standing next to me said. "She was pretty much up for anything."

"Wow, is she coming tonight?" I asked.

"No," the gentleman replied sadly. "She's in a nursing home."

One day into the tour, I naturally felt a need to raise some controversy. The San Clemente lodge is part of the San Diego district. It was split off years ago, and the San Clemente Elks I talked to want to be part of O.C. again – although they didn't seem to know exactly how to go about it.

So it falls to me, I guess, to get up a petition and send it to some big shots. Working on it. Doing what I can to further O.C. Elkdom.

San Clemente Lodge profile: Founded: 1958. Members: 282. Combined length of its (two) bars: 55 feet. Good works: Although the second-smallest lodge in its district, it raised the most money in the Elks "Purple Pig" fundraising effort to provide mobile therapists to disabled children. Gave presents and Christmas dinner to 10 needy families at the Gilchrist House for battered women and their children.

Tour sked: Thursday: Newport Beach. Friday: Mission Viejo, 25092 Marguerite Parkway, Saturday: Westminster, Sunday: Garden Grove. Monday: Santa Ana. Details, as well as videos and photos from the tour: www.ocregister.com/columns/frank/

Contact: fmickadeit@ocregister.com


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Dave Johansen
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 17 2009,4:03 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

doug,

had no idea you were posting mickadeict's column and video too!  excellent! excellent!!

need to promote at lodge meetings and/or post on 3rd flr bb.

saw community activities page too.  major ugrade since last visited.  lots of info about our work packed on one page.

whole site well thought out and laid out.

thanks - dave j   :good

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Doug Wells
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(Dave Johansen @ Jul. 17 2009,4:03 pm)
QUOTE
doug,

had no idea you were posting mickadeict's column and video too!  excellent! excellent!!

need to promote at lodge meetings and/or post on 3rd flr bb.

saw community activities page too.  major ugrade since last visited.  lots of info about our work packed on one page.

whole site well thought out and laid out.

thanks - dave j   :good

Thanks Dave! :good

By the way, I just got home from hanging out with Frank, Stan and Kathleen in Mission Viejo. :) It was a very enjoyable afternoon and I'm looking forward to their Orange Lodge visit.

Kathleen said she liked our website. :jumpie


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Doug Wells
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DAY 2: Called out for breaking Elk rule
Frank Mickadeit
Columnist
The Orange County Register
fmickadeit@ocregister.com

Friday, July 17, 2009

Day II: "Eleven Lodges, Eleven Nights"

To get the full schedule, see other videos and read about other Elks tour stops, click here.

From Newport Beach – When the day began, this venerable waterfront Elks Lodge had 990 members. By the end of the night Thursday, it had at least three new members (some of my buds) and one guy who, after evoking a public meltdown by an Elk in front of a packed house, will now never get in. (Me.) Let's go to the action.

Stan and I pulled out of the San Clemente lodge parking lot shortly after 11:30 Thursday morning and arrived at the Newport Beach lodge shortly before noon, docking his 40-foot RV across seven metered spaces in front of the lodge. (Special one-day permit secured with the help of the efficient and personable Assistant City Manager Dave Kiff, who would show up later to pace off the area and make sure I wasn't illegally encroaching on public property. Only fair, since it was Kiff I went to a few years ago when I discovered the city was letting some beachfront residents encroach on the public's sand.)

Anyway, we pulled out the lawn chairs and were soon visited by Bill Rothwall and his friend Dale, who'd driven down from Seal Beach. Bill is the past commodore of the Newport Elks Yacht Club – which turns out to be one of the things that makes the Newport lodge unique. Not only does it have bay frontage and a handful of slips, it is the only lodge in Elkdom that's also a yacht club. That makes it eligible for the highly desirable reciprocity agreements with all the other yacht clubs in Newport and elsewhere, all for the amazing cost of about a hundred bucks a year in Elk dues.

"The California-Hawaii Elks considers this the 'party lodge,'" Rothwall told me.

We did a soundcheck and then I toured the lodge and met various members and workers, among them chef Karl M. Grethe. He was once the chef in the Reagan White House and Playboy International, cooking for world leaders and cads and some, I suppose, who were both. Karl showed me a photo of himself with former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. ("Vice president? When was he vice president?" asked Adam Probolsky, who'd come down to hang out. A question only a Republican could ask.) I was going to advise Karl not to flash the photo around the Elks club too much, but I realized it was probably too late.

Probolsky, Patrick Strader and Jeff Corless, GOP political types all, had come down to schmooze. When they saw the location, the wholesome Americanness that the best of Elks embody, it got them thinking.

"My grandfather was an Elk," Strader declared, calling some family member on his cell to confirm that it was in the Warren, Ohio, lodge." Well, Probolsky countered, "I'm legacy. My grandfather was an Elk, and walked every day from his home to the lodge in Port Jervis, New York. Probolsky's grandfather lived to be 108, so he could easily have been an Elk for 75 years or so.

Then Corless did some quick family research and found out that both of his grandfathers were Elks, one in Moscow, Idaho, the other in Bullhead City, Ariz.

See that's the problem the Elks have. Everybody's grandfather was an Elk. The grandsons not so much. But Probolsky, Strader and Corless signed up on the spot, getting the sponsorship of none other than Newport Beach Exalted Ruler David Leonard, who'd come out to say hello. And this is where the trouble began. I asked Leonard to fill out some paperwork of my own.

The night before, at the San Clemente lodge, I found out that a fair number of people there wanted to return to the Orange County Elks district, from which they'd been split off years ago because of an enrollment imbalance. It was not clear whether this imbalance even existed any longer, and it wasn't clear to the San Clemente officers I talked with how they'd even go about getting back into the Orange County district.

So, I offered to take a petition around to the other lodges on my trips, see if those exalted rulers would sign it, and then send it up the Elks chain of command. The petition clearly stated that it was merely a request for a feasibility study and that the signature represented only the endorsement of the individual, not of the entire lodge. I figured it would, if nothing else, get the ball rolling for a simple look at reunification.

Leonard read the language carefully and signed it.

I spent the next hour or two meeting some Elks who couldn't have been nicer. Jerry and Dianne French, who own a bakery, presented me with a cake bearing the likeness of me in an R.V. Mike White, a car-restorer by trade, showed me a special veterans memorial display he's building that when completed will bear the names of members' relatives who are MIA, KIA and active duty. A three-dimensional work, it includes a full table setting and empty chair waiting for the missing-in-action.

At dinner, I sat at Leonard's table, with some non-Elk friends who'd come by, including Dan McNerney, who brought me the published diary of a WW II P.O.W. that he said was required reading if I wanted to understand what my father went through – but never talked about. My first assistant, Erika, showed up, along with her new beau, and there were at least a couple dozen non-Elks who are regular readers.

Mr. Ed was behind the grill and, with the help of Jack Fettig – the guy who really helped me the most throughout the day – was serving up those amazing $8 filet mignons. Ed said he cooked 156 filets and probably half that many chicken plates. It was a good crowd for a Thursday night.

I went on shortly after 7, coming out in the very special outfit Kathleen made for this tour and opening with an upbeat song I learned especially for this tour – a vaudeville number about the Elks recorded in 1908. Then I did some readings and gave away some T-shirts. Maybe 20 people were around the bar paying no attention to me, either watching the baseball game on T.V. or talking. It was distracting, but what the heck. It's their lodge.

At some point in my patter, I started talking about the San Clemente reunification petition. I was in the middle of explaining it, when some guy, around 60 years old I'd guess, comes over from the bar area and literally brings the show to a halt.

"Stop! Stop it!" he thundered. I was so stunned, I can't remember exactly what he said next, but the gist of it was that petitioning is against Elk rules and I had to stop right now.

Gee, I said, that's going to be news to the leader of your lodge, because he signed it. Didn't matter, the guy said, and started going off some more. I just put my hands up to my face and cringed. I couldn't believe he was doing this – when there were so many other ways to handle it, like maybe passing a note up through Stan or something.

I made some remark alluding to the notion that the right to speak (and to petition government, for that matter) is a right you'd think an Elk of all people would understand. But nobody came to my defense (maybe they were just all too stunned) and, hey, again, it's their lodge and they make the rules.

So I shut up. I was shaken and embarrassed – especially because Dan and Erika and other non-Elks had come to see me – and the buzz-kill was palpable. I cut the show from 60 minutes to 45, didn't take questions and left out the side door. As I was packing, a couple of Elks came up to me and apologized, saying my tormentor was really a nice guy but had one too many.

Leonard, the exalted ruler, came up and said the guy was probably correct about the rules, and asked me to cross his name off the petition. The guy himself came up, not to talk about the incident but to try and make small talk. I ignored him.

"Come in and sing some karaoke," Leonard offered. I could tell he felt bad.

He and everyone else had been so damn nice, it pained me to leave, but I didn't want to be in the same room with that other guy. Stan fired up the diesel and we headed for Mission Viejo, driving in silence most of the way.

Newport Beach Lodge Profile: Founded: 1950. Members: 993. Combined length of its (2) bars: 53 feet. Good works: In addition to supporting the major projects of the national organization, the Newport lodge sponsors several scout troops, the boys and girls club, and last year gave out 15 scholarships. It pays to bring in the snow for the city's annual "Snow in July" event, and it recently bought the city a new police dog.

Mickadeit writes Mon.-Fri. Contact him at 714-796-4994 or fmickadeit@ocregister.com


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DAY 3: Mojo revival at the Mission Viejo lodge
Frank Mickadeit
Columnist
The Orange County Register
fmickadeit@ocregister.com

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day 3: "Eleven Lodges, Eleven Nights"

After what I guess I'll always remember as "that night in Newport," I must confess that Stan and I embarked on the next leg of the tour with some concern. We arrived at the Mission Viejo lodge on Marguerite Parkway late Thursday night and went right to sleep. We woke up Friday morning and put out the lawn chairs to start receiving visitors, but I was starting to wonder whether this tour had been such a good idea.

But a guy in blue surgical scrubs came up a short time later, a relatively young and new Elk named Alan Jones, and he brought chips and other munchies and seemed overjoyed to see us. Alan would turn out to be one of the key guys in our Mission Viejo experience. Not only was he the first one there, but he helped BBQ the tri-tip and then was about the last to leave, at around 1 a.m. Saturday morning, after sharing a cigar with Stan, Sheriff's Sgt. Bill McGovern – making his second tour visit – and me outside the RV.

A number of Elk and non-Elk came by in the morning to chat. Nancy Allen, an Elk and a CPA, talked about her attempts to install an automated "point-of-purchase" system in the lodge that would very closely monitor bar service, but said that it was met with resistance. Man, after the whole Newport flap, the last thing I wanted was to inject myself into Elks internal politics again.

Similarly, a non-Elk but a faithful reader, Babette Grupp, asked me a little later whether I'd be critiquing the tri-tip technique of the lodge brothers who were cooking that afternoon. "Nooooo," I explained. Not only was it a bad idea at this venue, but the unwritten Central Coast Tri-Tip Code more less says that no tri-guy guy should start telling another tri-tip guy what to do unless he's asked for his advice. And these guys didn't need mine anyway. It was awesome.

Former Mission Viejo Mayor and current Elk officer Gail Reavis dropped by in quite the nice halter top, and gave us a hand fan from one of her campaigns. As the temperature built and the asphalt heated up, the fan became more than just a prop. (Later, though, the heat just got too much and we moved on the lodge's shady patio.)

Current Dana Point Mayor and never-an-Elk-officer Lisa Bartlett showed up with current political consultant and former motorcycle officer Steve Spernak. We accomplished two things: 1) I told Spernak I was sorry I hadn't yet reported that the recent Orange County Traffic Officers Association fundraiser made enough to send at least $10,000 to each of the four families of the slain Oakland police officers, but that this would be the perfect venue to accomplish that, and, 2) Stan – accidently, I'm sure – burned the mayor's bare leg with his cigar.

The first casualty of the tour. She was tough, though. Didn't even cry – at least not in front of us. Of course, Stan, who also burned his finger in the freakish mishap, whined all afternoon.

Around mid-afternoon I got the clear sense that my column about the Newport incident had been posted online and that it quickly had become viral within Elkdom. As dinner time rolled around and the lodge started filling up, I saw that the Newport exalted ruler David Leonard and his wife, Melody, had come. We didn't talk about the incident, but it made me feel good to see them.

I'd talked to the Mission Viejo Exalted Ruler Jim Humphrey about what had happened in Newport and he and his special-events chairman, Andy Costello, assured me that by setting me up in the lodge room – not the barroom – we'd avoid that unpleasantness. And we did. The crowd – and I'd guess that 15 percent or so were not Elks – seemed to get into my "Home Depot Woman" song and some of the excerpts from the columns.

Non-Elk Vikki Vargas said she didn't want to appear to be flattering me, but would do so anyway by telling me that somebody she sat with at her table recognized me and not her. That almost made up for the gal I was talking to a little later, a day-spa provider offering me a free facial, who said … Wait a sec, I wrote it down on the bottom of a cardboard popcorn box. … Here we go: "You have tons on dead skin on there, trust me."

Exalted Ruler Humphrey turned out to be quite the crooner. As he was winding up "Sweet Caroline" on the karaoke, the hour of 11 p.m. drew nigh, and everything came to an abrupt halt. This is a solemn moment in every Elks lodge. All in the room gathered in a circle, held hands and Humphrey recited from memory the "Eleven O'Clock Toast." Not having another popcorn box to write on, I later asked Humphrey for a copy, which he gave me. It reads in part:

"… with Elks the hour of eleven has a tender significance. … It is the golden hour of recollection, the homecoming of those who wander, the mystic rollcall of those who will come no more. Living or dead, Elks are never forgotten, never forsaken." Then we sang "Auld Lang Syne." It was a tender moment. A couple of minutes later, someone cued up "Honky Tonk Woman," and the house started rocking again. It was a great night in every way.

Mission Viejo lodge profile: Founded: 1970. Members: 820. Length of (2) bars: 39 feet. Recent good works: Donated four fully trained police dogs to the Sheriff's Department; held a firefighter/police officer appreciation dinner; bought three pitching machines to replace those stolen from local high schools; donates more than 4,000 dictionaries a year to South County third graders; hosts an annual sock-hop and a Christmas party for more than 150 developmentally disabled youths and adults.

Tour schedule: Sunday: Garden Grove. Monday: Santa Ana. Tuesday: Buena Park. See Tour Basics for exact times and locations.

Mickadeit writes Mon.-Fri. Contact him at 714-796-4994 or at fmickadeit@ocregister.com


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DAY 4: Columnist guarded in Westminster
Frank Mickadeit
Columnist
The Orange County Register
fmickadeit@ocregister.com

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Day 4: "Eleven Lodges, Eleven Nights"

From Westminster – First, if you haven't already, you'll want to go to my two online-only columns that appeared over the weekend about our visits to the Newport and Mission Viejo lodges. Newport provided us with a classic "Frank" incident that has apparently sent reverberations through Elkdom and reminded me that the world doesn't necessarily share my views on free speech.

Anyway, after the Bad Night in Newport, we had a glorious day and evening in Mission Viejo – although I can't say the same for Dana Point Mayor Lisa Bartlett, whose bare leg Stan managed to burn with a cigar – and we arrived in Westminster about noon Saturday.

There's something tremendously appealing to me about the Westminster lodge. Tucked into an industrial park, the building started life as a bland concrete-block auto-repair shop and then was added onto over the years by the Elks in a spectacularly unplanned fashion. I used to build backyard forts with a better sense of scale and proportion. It's an original dog's breakfast of wooden lean-to additions and shedlike structures, just a lovable mutt of a place, really. And it also serves to remind you that it's the people inside that really matter.

For example: Like many of the smaller lodges, it can't afford professional cooks and waitstaff, so members take turns. Stan and I were fortunate to arrive the weekend that Lesvia DeLeon and her family were doing breakfasts. Her mother and father – both deceased – were Westminster Elks. Now, Lesvia cooks; her daughter, Gina Montes, cooks and bartends; her son, Mario Albert Parras, and her husband, Byron O'Bryant, both cook; and her 16-year-old nephew, Gary Fuller, washes dishes.

I'm not a biscuits-and-gravy guy, but I actually asked for a second helping of O'Bryant's on Sunday morning – and this after a huge plate of BBQ master Jack Milks' tri-tip, chicken and hot links the night before. Milks has the finest portable BBQ rig I've seen in O.C., and to show you the degree to which Westminster lodge rolled out the red carpet for us, Jack had it freshly powder-coated for the occasion.

The lodge P.R. person, Judy Brooks, made good on her promise to have a Westminster dignitary there to welcome me. Unfortunately, the purpose of his visit apparently wasn't relayed to Mayor Pro Tem Tri Ta. Wearing a three-piece suit, he went to the mic to say a few words. As I stood as his side, waiting to blush, he mentioned the beautiful weather, his beautiful wife, and the beautiful Elks. And then stepped back, never having mentioned the beautifulme.

Wow, I'm thinking. This self-important schmo must think this is all about him. Man, I felt so embarrassed for him. During my brief but erudite remarks, I helpfully pointed out the mayor pro tem's blunder, and he was gracious enough to return to the microphone and make the necessary additions.

There was no lack of pageantry and adoration, however, on the part of the lodge's Beefeater Guards. Being the Westminster lodge, it is proudly unique in Elkdom for its Beefeaters – members who dress in the uniform of the English Beefeaters who guard the queen.

"So whadda you want us to do?" one of the guards, Rick, asked me. Hmm. I said: "Why don't you escort me in when I make my grand entrance at the beginning of the show?" He replied: "Sure, we just gotta get out of here soon. Carl has to get back to Yucca Valley for something."

They were later dispatched all over Westminster (the city, not the abbey) to pose with Judy, who was modeling one of my T-shirts. The photos, which accompany the online version of this column, are not to be missed.

Westminster lodge profile: Founded: 1966. Members: 358. Total length of (2) bars: 49 feet. Good works: Ongoing Christmas basket program for 180-200 families; started the city's Flag Day program. The lodge is starting a push to host dinners for veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. If you know of any, contact Brooks at jbihvh@hotmail.com.

Tour schedule: Monday: Santa Ana. Tuesday: Buena Park. Details, previous columns and complete tour schedule: www.ocregister.com/columns/frank/

Mickadeit writes Mon.-Fri. Contact him at 714-796-4994 or fmickadeit@ocregister.


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DAY 5: Columnist's meddling not flagging a bit
Frank Mickadeit
Columnist
The Orange County Register
fmickadeit@ocregister.com

Monday, July 20, 2009

Day 5: "Eleven Lodges, Eleven Nights"

From Garden Grove – I returned Sunday to where this crazy tour idea was born five months ago as I sat in the spacious barroom one night after an appearance at the Garden Grove library. It was a big, ambitious, over-the-top idea, but that's exactly the persona of this particular Elks lodge.

Although I haven't yet been to Santa Ana – the granddaddy of O.C. Elks lodges – many of the Elks that I've talked to say Garden Grove at least rivals it as epicenter of O.C. Elkdom. It has the most members, (1,321 as of last count), and an ever-improving array of facilities on a sprawling campus just off the 22.

For example, shortly after Stan and I arrived Sunday afternoon, I was ushered to one end of its grassy park, where a bunch of men were standing around a 10-foot-deep pit encased in fire brick and concrete and covered with a 7/8ths-inch-thick steel plate, like a tomb. Which it was, of sorts, for a 298-pound pig they'd been roasting since Saturday. The luau in my honor marked the first use of this new pit, and I really could not have felt more honored.

At 3 p.m. a pit crew under the direction of Dan Rowette unbolted the steel door and employed an electric winch to hoist the door and move it to the side. The winch then was attached to a steel-mesh basket holding the pig, and the its blackened carcass and wrappings were slowly raised to the surface. A forklift transferred the pig to another location to be cut open. It was all very exacting and intense. Changing the fuel rods at San Onofre is less complicated.

Rowette peeled back the burlap and banana leaves they'd wrapped the pig in, stabbed his gloved hand into god knows what part of the beast's anatomy, pulled out a hunk of hot, stringy pork, and handed it to me to sample. "Good pig!" I pronounced, and the boys carried on.

As I walked over to the permanent tiki-hut style bar, however, I became a bit disconcerted. There, hanging prominently, was a full-sized Confederate flag.

Man, I'm thinking, why did I have to see that? Made no sense from any angle. They are trying to attract new members. This is an open-house day for the general public. They have a journalist in their midst who has shown he's not afraid to report the good, the great and the ugly he sees as he tours O.C. Elkdom. (In fact, Exalted Ruler Jim Anderson had pointed out to me earlier that for my visit they did the rare honor of hanging a pair of brass testicles on the underside of their life-size elk statue that fronts Trask Avenue.)

"What's the deal with the Confederate flag?" I asked Jim. He said he really hadn't paid any attention to it before. I pointed out that if you want to broaden your (overwhelmingly white) membership, that particular flag might be a barrier. A few minutes later, he walked me over to the bar and had me witness as the flag was taken down.

Jim had gone out of his way to provide great entertainment. There were face-painting Elks clowns (I had them do an Elk on my cheek), a Polynesian dance team and a Polynesian band that supposedly turned down a chance to play at James Brolin's birthday party because they'd already committed to play for me. Streisand's influence clearly pales next to mine in Polynesian entertainment circles. I actually did two shows so people could catch them and me.

My most valuable time at Garden Grove, however, was spent talking to Ray Kuczynski, who works on the lodge's "Christmas in July," program, which happens to be this week. Elks take envelopes containing small amounts of cash to the V.A. hospital in Long Beach and visit with the wounded, play bingo with them and just talk. Of all the things I hear about the Elks doing, these visits – and they involve all the lodges in the area – seem to go most to the Elks mission.

Garden Grove lodge profile: Founded: 1954. Membership: 1,321. Total length of its (5) bars: 144 feet. Good works: Major Relay for Life participant; major sponsor of Miss Garden Grove scholarships, majority presence on Strawberry Festival board; donated 3,500 dictionaries to Garden Grove third-graders last year; bought portable floodlights for the fire department; sponsored "Day in the Park" for police, firefighters and their families.

Tour schedule: Tuesday: Buena Park. Wednesday: Fullerton. For photo, video and complete schedule: www.ocregister.com/columns/frank/

Mickadeit writes Mon.-Fri. Contact him at 714-796-4994 or fmickadeit@ocregister.com


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DAY 6: Mother lodge 794 exudes history, class
Frank Mickadeit
Columnist
The Orange County Register
fmickadeit@ocregister.com
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

From Santa Ana – Lodge 794. Founded in 1902. The "mother lodge," they call it. Ground Zero for Elkdom in Orange County.

Along with my own newspaper and a very few other organizations, churches and businesses, Lodge 794 is an enduring legacy of turn-of-the-century Santa Ana. The Register and Lodge 794 were once across the street from each other in downtown Santa Ana, and our own R.C. Hoiles would play gin rummy for hours in one of the lodge's back rooms.

By the mid-60s, both had moved out of downtown, but remained just a few blocks away from each other, the newspaper at 6th and Grand, the lodge at 1st and Lyon.

Sounds corny, but the way I felt when I walked into the lodge Monday is the way I felt when I first walked into the Register's sprawling, humming newsroom 22 years ago. Ah, now this is a newspaper. As I entered the lodge, it was, Ah, now this is an Elks Lodge.

Built in 1962, its interior must be one of the best-preserved examples of mid-century American architecture in town. The dark woods, the aluminum casements, the pale greens of the upholstery, the sleek sans-serif font on signage. Its spacious Ladies Lounge is something right out of George Cukor's "The Women" – the kind of place a lady would go when she got "the vapors." The whole place could be a set from AMC's "Mad Men."

But as I said when I critiqued the Westminster lodge's wonderfully unplanned Indiana-roadhouse style, it's the style of the people inside that really matters. In this case, the persona of the lodge and the people happens to mirror that of its exalted ruler, Bob Gross.

Eighty-one years old and a retired city fire captain, Gross is the only person in the lodge's 107-year history to be asked to serve twice. Like Don Corleone, he doesn't bluster, he doesn't sweat. He does his diligence; he attended two previous Frank Shows to get a sense of it. You'll see him quietly ask one of his capable lieutenants for some small favor. Once. And it's quietly taken care of. Every incoming E.R. in the district should be required to shadow Bob for a week. Simple, gracious, genteel – classy as all hell.

But not all is well with the lodge. With seven acres of grounds, one acre of it under roof, it was designed to accommodate the 4,000 members it once had. With only about a third of that now, and the infrastructure showing its age, it is becoming too expensive to operate.

"We're hoping to sell it and get a place that better suits our membership," Bob told me late Monday night as we sat out outside on lawn chairs and unwound.

That's not to say this doesn't remain a fun, active lodge. Thirteen-hundred is still large by Elk standards. Its Monday-night bingo operation is the largest in Santa Ana, netting $125,000 annually and helping to support many charities. It has an institutional kitchen and catering business that does the same. Couples drive in from all over the Saturday-night dances in the huge ballroom. Its girls softball team just won a state championship.

We had a very pleasant low-key chat in the shade with members. Among them was Frank Hermansen, a former member of Merrill's Mauraders, the legendary U.S. Army unit that worked behind Japanese lines in WW II. Betty Tabor (I've now met every woman named Betty or Shirley in O.C.) presented me with a red-white-and-blue scarf that resembled nothing so much as a priest's stole. I wore it as I heard "confessions."

Like my newspaper, Lodge 794 is having to scale back. But I'm optimistic that if we don't lose sight of the values that made us flagship institutions we will each still serve the county for another century.

Santa Ana lodge profile: Founded: 1902. Members: 1,289. Total length of its (5) bars: 146 feet. Good works: Sends 30 care packages a month to U.S. personnel in Iraq; gave 6,000 dictionaries to third-graders in Santa Ana, Tustin and Irvine; takes disadvantaged kids fishing; sponsors a kids' Halloween party, "Boo at the Zoo." Also, the districtwide basketball program for handicapped kids run by Santa Ana Elk Ed Repica is so successful, the Special Olympics put him in charge of theirs.

Tour schedule: Wednesday: Fullerton; Thursday: La Habra. Complete schedule, photos and video: www.ocregister.com/columns/frank/

Kathleen Luppi assisted. Mickadeit writes Mon.-Fri. Contact him at 714-796-4994 or fmickadeit@ocregister.com


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DAY 7: B.P. home of line-dancing candy-eaters
Frank Mickadeit
Columnist
The Orange County Register
fmickadeit@ocregister.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 7: "Eleven Lodges, Eleven Nights"

From Buena Park – After six nights in the RV with me, Stan left after the Santa Ana gig went home for one night to be with his wife, Barbara. It had been the longest the two had been apart in 20 years. He came back the next morning with a big smile on his face. He was in such a good mood, in fact, he said I could run the shower as long as I wanted.

So we got to the Buena Park lodge a half-hour behind schedule and were immediately greeted by, among others, Exalted Ruler Judy Foley, who is the only woman in Orange County Elkdom currently serving in her lodge's highest office. But that's not unusual in Buena Park. Four of its five most-recent exalted rulers have been women.

The lone exception was Dave Hampton. He was another one of the early greeters, and turned out to be invaluable in working through the logistics of our set up. I've found that hooking up Stan with one knowledgeable person within the first 15 minutes on site is key to a good experience. The RV setup, the stage setup, the timing of squeezing my show in between the other events and the dinner service – it's all critical for a smooth run. And Dave became our man on the ground in B.P.

Dave actually lives in the apartment complex adjacent to the lodge on Melrose, as do at least three other B.P. Elks, and they keep an eye on the place when it's closed.

Another early greeter was Lou Belanger, and Lou's personal Elks story illustrates a key moment in O.C. Elk history. If you wonder why there's no Anaheim lodge on the tour, Lou can provide the answer: There's no Anaheim lodge.

But there used be. In fact, from the photographs I've seen, it was one of the grandest venues of any kind in Orange County, with deep wrap-around porches and balconies and a ballroom that in its heyday hosted the social events in north Orange County. There were actually members' living quarters on the second floor – those were the days when lodges were lodges.

But unpaid taxes and other debt grew as the 1923 building aged and membership dipped, and the lodge closed in 1978. The members met at a several other locations, but nothing worked. The Anaheim lodge disbanded and the membership transferred to Buena Park, which, ironically, had been initiated by the Anaheim lodge years before. Belanger was one of the last Anaheim E.R.s.

The Buena Park lodge is a much humbler one-story structure, closer to a roadhouse than an English gentleman's club. That's fine, because that's helped cement its reputation as one of the premier line-dancing venues in the region. Members and non-members alike flock here for the Tuesday and Thursday night line-dances.

After my show, I got out onto the dance floor with, among others, Carrie Washowich, a former colleagues at the Register. We worked together 17 years and I never knew she was an Elk. "You won't believe the number of times I sneaked over to the Santa Ana lodge for lunch, just to get away from the craziness." Which explains why she never asked me.

I continued to do my part in the furtherance of Elkdom. Two of my readers, Steve and Lenette, came to the B.P. show and are joining the lodge. That brings the (known) number of novitiates I'm responsible for to five. (No telling, I admit, how many I've driven away.)

Note: Tour T-shirt to the first Elk who gives me a Lompoc lodge pin.

Buena Park profile: Founded: 1957. Members: 380. Total length of (3) bars: 78 feet. Good works: This lodge's motto is "The Lodge With The Heart," and that's best embodied in retired architect Don Betzsold, who 13 years ago started a one-man fundraising campaign to send Buena Park Junior High students to the East Coast for a one-week American-heritage tour of historical sites in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston and New York. Don, 84, does this by strapping two bags of See's candy bars onto his walker and making the rounds at every Elks function he can get to, selling the bars one by one. Last year, five kids took the tour because of his hard work.

Tour schedule: Thursday: La Habra; Friday: Huntington Beach. Photos, video and schedule details: www.ocregister.com/columns/frank/

Kathleen Luppi assisted. Mickadeit writes Mon.-Fri. Contact: 714-796-4994 or fmickadeit@ocregister.com


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DAY 8: Can you help fix Fullerton's elk?
Frank Mickadeit
Columnist
The Orange County Register
fmickadeit@ocregister.com Comments 0| Recommend 2

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 8: "Eleven Lodges, Eleven Nights"

From Fullerton – Another mayor showed up – Don Bankhead – and this time, Stan didn't try to light him on fire.

When I was growing up, being an Elk mattered politically. The legendary smoke-filled rooms? In a lot of towns, I'll bet they were Elks lodges. Longtime Fullerton newspaper editor Bob Ziebell said yesterday as we were chatting outside Fullerton's spacious new lodge: "When I came here in 1960, I was told, 'If you want to be on the City Council, join the Elks.' "

While that dictum has faded in most places, in Fullerton it still matters. All three male council members – Bankhead, Shawn Nelson and Dick Jones – are Elks, as are longtime local political figures Dick Ackerman and Chris Norby.

The story of the Fullerton lodge is one of rebirth. When Ziebell brought me here for a Pork Chop Night in the mid-1990s, the 40-year-old building was showing its age. But it was sitting on a spacious 7.5-acre site with a killer view overlooking Hillcrest Park and the confluence of busy Brea and Harbor boulevards. Lodge leaders made a bold move: They bartered with Cal State Fullerton, which took half the land and built 42 townhouses for faculty and staff, and on the other half built a new lodge for the Elks.

The process took eight years, some of them painful, as the Elks had to meet in Buena Park and saw membership drop. But when the lodge reopened last year, they had the most modern facility on the West Coast. With its white walls, high ceilings and plenty of windows to naturally light its 13,000 square feet, it feels like an airy community center. Well, a community center that boasts three bars and some impressive antlers. (Stan was also impressed with the 50-amp RV hook-up, the highest we've seen.)

Membership is rebounding (up 32 percent) and even includes one of the new neighbors, a professor of Shakespeare.

We had a pleasant visit under the canopy of the RV. No Shakespearean recitations, alas, but good conversation with many, including Exalted Ruler Dick Moore, and with non-Elks who included two of the three Real Librarians of Orange County (or the "Frankettes," as they go by on stage). They gave us a decoration for the RV. Guided by one of their libraries' coveted copies of the 1973 rarity, "The Pantyhose Craft Book," they built a mobile of dangling circular pieces made from hose clamps and covered in fishnet stockings in Elk-appropriate shades of purple. They wouldn't say whether they'd ever worn the stockings, but we're going to say they did. Can only increase the value.

Elk Steve Vartarian dropped by to tell us about the Hoop Shoot competition he runs. Many lodges participate in this nationwide competition for charity, but it's possible that no lodge has had four national champions. Representing Fullerton, the Samuelson sisters, Bonnie and Karlie, have each won twice. Karlie was the most recent, sinking 47 of 50 free throws in a tension-filled arena.

We also met John and Peggy Darling who, just as we were about to pull away, knocked on the RV door and presented me with a Lompoc lodge pin to claim their Tour T-shirts.

From its perch 246 feet above sea level, the Fullerton lodge still has the most panoramic view in O.C. Elkdom and it still has the comfy light-blue padded barstools I remembered. It also still has the giant elk statue that, when lit at night, was an impressive sight. Sadly, the antlers have broken off and the Elks are looking for a taxidermist or similar craftsman to help them fix it. So, if you know anyone …

Fullerton profile. Founded: 1956. Members: 630. Total length of (3) bars: 57 feet. Good works: Christmas Tree Lane nets $10,000 a year for charities through the raffle of a dozen lavishly decorated trees, complete with hundreds of dollars of gifts. The Special Child Program hosts a dinner for and gives presents to a child with physical ailments. Teenager of the Month recognizes a local kid who's done good. Last month, it was a boy who raised a steer and donated 700 pounds of its meat to a homeless shelter.

Tour schedule: Friday: Huntington Beach. Saturday: Orange. Meet and greet 1 p.m. — 4 p.m. Evening show is for Elks only. Details, photos and video: www.ocregister.com/columns/frank/

Mickadeit writes Mon.-Fri. Contact him at 714-796-4994 or fmickadeit@ocregister.com


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DAY 9: Small lodge, big elk
Frank Mickadeit
Columnist
The Orange County Register
fmickadeit@ocregister.com

Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 9: "Eleven Lodges, Eleven Nights"

From La Habra – The La Habra Elks Lodge is the smallest in the district, with just over 300 members. But it has one thing most of the other lodges do not: a statue of a full-size Elk in full-bugling mode on the top of the building. The scale of the elk combined with the relatively modest size of the building; a large illuminated sign with vertically stacked purple letters E-L-K-S; and the location of all this Elk splendor on busy East Whittier Boulevard, conspire to make this perhaps the most visible lodge in its respective city.

Like the elk that once graced Fullerton's lodge (and we hope will again one day), the La Habra elk was salvaged from a fiberglass statuary at the old Lion Country Safari theme park in Irvine. Abused over the years by the elements, would-be thieves and pranksters (including, allegedly, one drunken serviceman who somehow got onto the roof, stripped his clothes off and climbed onto the elk's back to "ride" it) the elk had seen better days.

The beast's coat had faded to a pinkish hue – a total sissy elk, if you will – and Judy Maxwell was disgusted. During a recent renovation that included fresh exterior paint and landscaping, Maxwell had her brother Elks pull the big elk off the roof. She looked up some photos of real elks and repainted it in colors as close to authentic as she could find at the paint store. For this effort, and more, she was named Elk of the Year and awarded the coveted parking space – second only to the bar manager's in proximity to the front door.

There's no feeling quite like walking out of the burning, blinding sun on a hot summer afternoon and into a cool, dark bar where refreshments and good people are waiting. Stan and I were greeted in such an environment by no less than La Habra Mayor Tom Beamish, who welcomed us to his town with a gift basket, and by City Councilman Jim Gomez. It's interesting how ever since The Lisa Bartlett Incident, mayors know to keep Stan at arm's length.

Exalted Ruler Jim Rutherford and some of his officers then took us across the street for lunch at the landmark local Mexican restaurant, El Cholo, where on Aug. 19, half of the proceeds from the dinner service will be donated to the Elks. We talked about the lodge's renewed civic involvement, and how for the first time in more than two decades it will have a booth at the Corn Festival.

Along the lines of civic duty, one of the Elks, "Dirty" Dave Coffin, told me that a guy I see many Friday afternoons, Richard Hall, still owes the La Habra Children's Museum an old locomotive as part of a development deal he cut with the late city manager, Lee Risner. Hall seems to think his end of the bargain died with Risner, but people in La Habra still remember. And are bitter. Maybe they'd settle for one of Hall's old limousines for the kids to crawl around in.

After lunch, Stan and I sat outside the R.V. and received non-Elk visitors, among them Lee Quarnstrom and Laurie Kilian, who brought us each apple pies and whose business card reads, "Superwoman." My pie was super. Quarnstrom, 69, is a former columnist at the San Jose Mercury News and he sends me little critiques of my work from time to time, but we'd never met. He was also once editor of "Hustler." His business card, sadly, does not title him as "Former Pornographer." A local English teacher also stopped by, but I forgot to write down his name or get his card.

Kilian mostly listened as we men chatted. We hated to see her go, but the second she got into her car to leave, I asked the Quarnstrom a question that had been on all the guys' minds: "What was it like to edit 'Hustler'? " A purely journalistic inquiry, of course.

"I think if Larry Flynt had decided to go into medicine he would have cured cancer," Quarnstrom said of his former boss. The "editing" part of the job was really like any other magazine, although he allowed that sometimes he was moved to "go into the studio and see how things were going."

The best part of the whole job, he said, was being the decision-maker for a publication with a readership of 2 million. Right. And people get "Playboy" for the articles.

Dinner was homemade tacos prepared by Elks Ed and Beverly Jahr, and during said feast I talked to Gerri Endicott about the program she and her husband, Bob, put together for veterans. They gather cookies, candy and other junk food and stuff that 18-to-25-year-olds crave, and send it in boxes to U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. What makes this story sweeter is that one of the Marines who got such a package visited the lodge while on leave so he could thank members. And now Cpl. Leland Vaughan is set to join.

Another near-flawless performance by me on stage, capped by the presentation to me of an actual California State Assembly Certificate of Recognition for my historic "Eleven Lodges, Eleven Nights" Tour. It is signed by Assemblyman Mike Duvall. As I told the Elks, I apologize if the floor debate over that is what was holding up the state budget.

La Habra profile: Founded: 1958. Membership: 317. Total length of (2) bars: 49 feet. Good works: Sponsors of Little League, Pop Warner, youth basketball, the Gary Center food-and-dental-clinic program, and a special Christmas toy drive for the families of Marine Corps NCOs at Camp Pendleton.

Tour schedule: Saturday: Orange. Meeting and greeting general public outside the lodge at corner of Chapman Avenue and Orange Street from about 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. This last show of the tour is for Elks with prepaid tickets only.

Mickadeit writes Mon.-Fri. Contact him at 714-796-4994 or fmickadeit@ocregister.com


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Doug Wells
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DAY 10: Surfer dudes, 92-year-old newbie are cool at H.B. lodge
Frank Mickadeit
Columnist
The Orange County Register
fmickadeit@ocregister.com

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 10: "Eleven Lodges, Eleven Nights"

From Huntington Beach – At just about every lodge I've visited, at some point a member will confide to me the obvious, "You know," he'll whisper, "we really need to get a lot more young members." I'll nod soberly, agreeing to the max.

And then at the Huntington Beach lodge on Friday night, I met Nicholas Dilena, who became an Elk three months ago. At the age of 92.

It was his cigars that first made me aware of Nick. I was standing near the bar as a country-western band was playing across the room, and I saw that one of the dancers had left a couple of Phillies on the bar. Phillies are an old American brand that was immortalized in the Edward Hopper painting "Nighthawks."

"Who the hell still smokes Phillies?" I said to someone nearby. "That is really old school."

"Those are Nick's," a woman next to me said. "He's out there on the dance floor."

And sure enough, there was this spry old guy out there in a big red cowboy hat, boogying with some young thing probably, oh, two-thirds his age.

When he came back over, I introduced myself and asked him why he'd decided to become an Elk. A 48-year resident of north Orange County, he was within bugling distance of a variety of lodges. But until a few months ago he'd never been in an Elks lodge in his life.

But then his wife got Alzheimer's. "I wanted to find a home," he told me. "My wife is in an institution. I see her every day, but I can't take her home. I had to find another life. I feel guilty, but what am I going to do?"

The Elks have given him a second life – literally. A few weeks after he joined, he was at the Talbert Avenue lodge when he went into sudden cardiac arrest and slumped over in his seat. He stopped breathing. Members worked CPR and medics from the nearby fire station on Gothard arrived shortly to take over. They saved Nick. A few weeks later, he was back at the lodge.

The Elks have given him a second life socially as well. He shows up not just at this lodge, but he's driven himself to other O.C. lodges for what Elks call visitations. He's become such an advocate for the Elks, Huntington Beach Exalted Ruler Garrett Hamblin appointed him the lodge's Ambassador of Goodwill, a title Nick wears proudly on a badge on his cowboy shirt.

Nick's only complaint? Well, he's such the gentleman he doesn't like dancing with married women, even in the most innocent way.

He told one of the lodge officers, "You need to get some younger women in here."

My show had a special energy Friday night – or at least I felt it did. I think it was in part because it was my last one for the general, non-Elk public, and the cheerleaders in the audience included some ringers, such as my friends, Patrick and Dana Strader, and my brother and his wife, known collectively as Brunifer.

I hardly even made fun of Bruno, which I think made him cool with the fact that he loaned me a guitar for the tour so I'd have a backup in case my Martin pickup failed again. I promised I'd try not to do to his guitar what he did to the Strat (clone) I let him and his twin brother Albert use when I went off to college. They still owe me a Strat, is the way I see it.

It was also good to see the legendary Art Carr again. Art is an Elk. But Art first came to my attention as the guy behind Art Carr Transmissions, which was the gold standard for hi-po trannies in the my early days of street-rodding. Art lost the use of his name and some other outfit now owns it.

Art's getting up there in years, but he is still making transmissions. He is not allowed to say this but I can: If you want a real Art Carr transmission these days, you go to the business he now operates in H.B., California Performance Transmission.

But if you think Huntington is the Geezer Lodge, you couldn't be more wrong. At 45, Hamblin is one of the youngest exalted rulers in the district, and he's added a surfer dude vibe to the place. He started the Surf Club within the lodge – possibly the only one in Elkdom. The lodge's unofficial moniker is "The Sons of the Beaches."

The Surf Club's most important charitable function is to support "They Will Surf Again," a program in which people who have suffered debilitating injuries, such as paralysis, are taken into the ocean and helped to surf again with special adaptive equipment.

Garrett invited me to judge at their fundraising Chili Cookoff and Car Show next month. Don't know if I can make it, or whether I even want to dive back into Elkdom again that soon. But I can think of one event that would get me back here, guaranteed. I think they need to take Nick surfing.

Huntington Beach profile: Founded: 1955. Membership: 702. Length of (3) bars: 109 feet. Good works: Takes V.A. hospital patients out for a day of fishing. Delivers pizzas to police and fire stations on Patriot Day. Easter egg hunts and Christmas baskets for local military families, and care packages sent monthly to troops overseas. Donates $9,000 a year to the Student of the Month program for local high schools.

Tour ends. The last show is an Elks-only event in Orange on Saturday night. A column on that will appear in Monday's print and online versions. See all the columns, videos and photos at www.ocregister.com/columns/frank/

Kathleen Luppi contributed. Mickadeit writes Mon.-Fri. Contact him at 714-796-4994 or fmickadeit@ocregister.com


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Doug Wells
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 26 2009,10:41 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

DAY 11: Orange lodge puts pieces all together
A fitting end to the tour.
Frank Mickadeit
Columnist
The Orange County Register
fmickadeit@ocregister.com

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day 11: "Eleven Lodges, Eleven Nights"

From Orange – I didn't book the order in which I visited O.C.'s Elks lodges. That was done by Exalted Ruler Garrett Hamblin of the Huntington Beach lodge, and wittingly or unwittingly, he couldn't have made a better call than having the last two stops be his lodge and finally, to close the tour, the Orange lodge.

If the Elks are to reverse the trend of declining, aging memberships that have decimated so many fraternal organizations, they'll have to bring in younger members. No place did I see more evidence of that than in H.B. and Orange, where the top Elks are in their mid-40s.

Hamblin, 45, has even started a surfing club within his lodge, augmenting other lodge subgroups that include an active 100-member camping club they call "The Sons of the Beaches." Read about the H.B. lodge in a column I wrote over the weekend. You'll want to get a load of the 92-year-old gent who just joined and has urged officers to "get some younger women in here."

In Orange on Saturday, I saw what might well serve as the model for the modern lodge. Yes, the rank-and-file members were friendly and active in charitable causes. That is no small thing, but it is true of every lodge. What sets Orange apart is that it has the strongest mix of four elements I've see as critical to survival. In no particular order: 1) a well-kept facility that's both classy and comfy; 2) civic leaders who are members; 3) a tradition; 4) outreach to young adults.

"It seems like a whole generation missed out on this, and I'm trying to figure out why," Orange Exalted Ruler Rick Hatch, 42, said to me at dinner Saturday night in the high-ceilinged, amply chandeliered second-floor dining room that brings out every ounce of class the Jazz Age building in Old Towne has to offer.

I was shocked when a twentysomething college student, Ashley Davis, introduced herself a few hours earlier as Stan and I sat outside his RV. "You should be pledging a sorority right about now," I told her. She said something like, "Ick!" and told me she joined the Elks because of one young Elk named Guy Debeauvieres, who has brought a bunch of twenty- and thirtysomethings into the lodge.

Hatch told me that Guy and a few other young guys are partially responsible for the Orange lodge seeing a net increase in membership of about 100, or 15 percent, in the last four years. The average age of the Orange lodge has gone from about 67 in the early 1990s, to somewhere in the low 50s. Elks include all three men on the Orange City Council, Denis Bilodeau, Jon Dumitru and Mark Murphy. While not in their 20s, neither are they anywhere near retirement age.

All stopped by Saturday, Bilodeau bringing the most amazing gift I received on the tour: a genuine elk-hoof lamp – freshly loaded with energy-efficient bulbs. As much as I loved it, I couldn't accept it from a public official, so I re-gifted it to the Orange lodge for its foyer with the proviso that it bear a brass plaque commemorating my historic tour, as well as Denis' and my names. Lodge officials immediately agreed.

The day's highlights included a tour of all four floors of the building by brother Keith Fraser, who said that, like San Clemente's, the Orange lodge is inhabited by the ghost of an exalted ruler. The old boy, John Milby, turns lights on and off and calls the elevator in the middle of the night. One gal I talked to won't ride it.

The highlight of the evening – and, indeed, the ceremonial highlight of the tour – was the "jeweling" of Bob Genelle, 69, into the highest position in O.C. Elkdom – District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler. Go to the slideshow at the top-right of this column for a photo of the ceremony, held in the most elegant lodge room in the county – as well as a photo of the most elegant elk-hoof lamp in the county.

Orange lodge profile: Founded: 1923. Membership: 777. Total length of (2) bars: 68 feet. Good works: Donated three police dogs to Orange, 3,000 dictionaries to third-graders and $11,700 to a nationwide effort to help disabled youngsters; cooked turkey dinners to feed 179 homeless people at Mary's Kitchen; sent 17 members to the Christmas in July event at the Long Beach V.A. hospital; sponsors Boy Scout Troop/Cub Scout Pack 1475.

Mickadeit writes Mon.-Fri. Contact him at 714-796-4994 or fmickadeit@ocregister.com


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Tom Brown
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 27 2009,7:35 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I like the article.

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Dave Johansen
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 27 2009,9:00 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks to columnist Frank Mickadeit for a effusive column about our lodge and our activities

Congratulations for contributions, large and small, by all who helped  this be a very successful event for our lodge and a wonderful public impression for all of Elkdom.

- dave j    :beer

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Doug Wells
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 27 2009,10:57 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Dave Johansen @ Jul. 27 2009,9:00 am)
QUOTE
Thanks to columnist Frank Mickadeit for a effusive column about our lodge and our activities

Congratulations for contributions, large and small, by all who helped  this be a very successful event for our lodge and a wonderful public impression for all of Elkdom.

- dave j    :beer

Thank you and congratulations Dave for the great pictures that made it to the article slide show on ocregister.com. :good  I'll get those posted to this topic soon. :)

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Joanne Hatch
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 27 2009,12:49 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Orange Lodge Rocks!!!  And now, thanks to Frank at the Register, everyone knows it!!!  I'm proud to be an Elk (and even prouder to be from Orange Lodge)!!!  It was a great night in Elkdom on Saturday and for the Orange Coast District.   :jumpie  :jumpie  :jumpie

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Joanne
"The People"
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Doug Wells
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PostIcon Posted on: Aug. 26 2009,10:40 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE



Frank arrives at the lodge.


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