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HISTORY OF OUR LODGE
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Editor's note: This material was taken from a pamphlet printed to commemorate the lodge's 50th anniversary, and therefore contains nothing of the years since then.

It was the early in the summer of 1923. The late Thomas (Herb) Elijah, having completed a hard day's work on his orange ranch, had settled down in his easy chair at home. He was completely relaxed as he enjoyed his evening paper, the Orange Daily News.

The national sports news of the day centered around such notable figures as Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Walter Hagen and Charley Paddock, The burning question of the day was Prohibition. President Warren G. Harding, soon to die in office, was on a tour of Alaska.

These topics and others of less interest rancher Elijah read as he scanned his newspaper. Suddenly an obscure local news item caught his attention. Headed "ELKS TO FORM LODGE IN ORANGE", the story went on to say that a movement was gaining momentum among Elks living in Orange to organize a local Lodge.

Since he had been an active Elk in Santa Ana Lodge beginning in 1905, Elijah became vitally interested. Immediately he investigated the source of the story. In 1923 the Orange District was under the jurisdiction of Santa Ana. Approximately 60 residents of Orange were members of Santa Ana Lodge. The late Dr. V. A. Rossiter, local dentist, was Exalted Ruler in Santa Ana. Elijah conferred with Dr. Rossiter and Secretary Adams of Santa Ana to confirm the Daily News story. They stated that they knew nothing of such a movement, but would be glad to cooperate in forming a new Lodge in Orange.

Now fully interested, Elijah discovered that there was a group of Elks in the locality also interested in such a movement. Thus given the idea, Elijah became a dominant factor in the birth of Orange Elks Lodge No. 1475. It was Elijah who started the ball rolling. Others caught the spirit and enthusiasm. Soon A. L. Tomblin, Harry Huff, Stanley Mansur, Dr. J. C. Crawford, C. H. Adams, W. E. Clement and A. R. Todhunter, all of whom are now deceased, along with Elijah and others were holding a series of meetings in Orange City Hall.

Out of these meetings emerged the nucleus of Orange Elks Lodge. Discussions were endless. Many problems had to be solved. Foremost, a census had to be taken of the community. A 9,000 population was necessary by order of the Grand Lodge. To do this, permission was obtained from the City. The census takers were financed by the Elks living in Orange. This accomplished, a series of petitions were sent through Santa Ana Lodge requesting a charter from the Grand Lodge.

There was one final question. Who were to he the Charter Members? This was established by vote of all interested Elks. All Orange residents who were members of Santa Ana Lodge became Charter Members. Inscribed on our Charter, which hangs in our Lodge room, are the 53 names, all of whom transferred from Santa Ana.

Throughout the late summer and fall of 1923, organizational meetings continued. Petitions and official correspondence flowed between here and the offices of the Grand Lodge. In early November the eagerly awaited word was received. The Grand Lodge had approved the Charter. The intense effort and hard work of those members, who had given so much of their time and money was rewarded. Preparations were immediately started for the great day when Orange Lodge would be formally instituted. With mounting excitement the date was set for Monday evening, November 26, 1923. The place: The Lodge room of the I.O.O.F. Hall above Watson's Drug Store.

Here is the story as taken from the files of the Orange Daily News, November 27, 1923:

"Impressive ceremonies, elaborately staged and conducted under the direction of H. S. Williamson, Redlands, DDGER, California South, Orange Lodge No. 1475 B.P.O.E. assumed its place in ranks of the antlered herd as the baby Lodge of this great organization."

"The institution was preceded by a huge banquet at the Coffee Cup Cafe. Tables were beautifully decorated in purple and white and the places were marked by individual miniature Elks."

"The fourteen officers selected to guide the destinies of the new order were formally installed by U. S. District Attorney Joe Burke, Grand Esteemed Lecturing Knight, of Los Angeles."

"The officers impressively installed were: A. L. (Al) Tomblin, Exalted Ruler: C. E. Dickey, Esteemed Lecturing Knight; K. V. Wolff, Esteemed Leading Knight; Albert Rohrs, Esteemed Loyal Knight; C. H. Adams, Tiler; Harry Huff, Inner Guard; T. H. Elijah, Secretary; W. E. Clement. Treasurer; Carl Pister, Chaplain; Stanley Mansur, Esquire; Paul Clark, Organist; Fred Baier, Trustee; Dr. J. C. Crawford, Trustee and A. R. Todhunter, Trustee."

"Many beautiful gifts, including a magnificent set of antlers (which are still in use) and an American flag were presented to the new Lodge. The antlers were given by the Santa Ana Lodge, while the flag was presented by State Association of Elks. In addition, substantial checks, cash and other gifts were showered upon the baby Lodge."

"At the conclusion of the ceremonies the assemblage proceeded to the Elks club rooms in the Ehlen and Smith Building where an attractive entertainment program was given. Among the entertainers were professional vaudeville acts, along with numerous visiting Elks who sang and gave short talks. An excellent string band of Orange Elks furnished the music." (Unfortunately the names of these musically inclined members were not included in the story).

"Exalted Ruler Al Tomblin, warmly congratulated by Joe Burke, upon his selection as leader of the new Lodge, received a tremendous ovation as he took his station on the platform. Other officers were also roundly applauded."

"The affair was terminated late last night by a buffet luncheon served to about 500 visiting Elks by Duffy, Santa Ana Elks chef, who was loaned to the local order for the occasion."

"The new Lodge starts with a membership of 53, all former Santa Ana members, but it is understood that something like 100 applications for membership have been filed with Secretary Elijah."

OUR FIRST CLUB ROOMS

Club rooms that the new Lodge first occupied in the Smith and Grote building, now the Friedemann Building, were a far cry from our present quarters. The rooms had been the meeting place of the old Orange Commercial club, a forerunner of our present Chamber of Commerce. Along with the club rooms we took over their furniture and fixtures. These consisted of a few used chairs, tables and a cigar and candy case, Included were two pool tables, which were used until around 1970. According to the old timers the purchase price of these items amounted to about $600.00.

With Orange Lodge a reality we were now ready for the first class to be initiated. It was the largest class in our history. In impressive ceremonies held in Santa Ana, December 28, 1923, seventy-five new members took the obligation. These 75 new members and the 53 charter members completed the actual formation of Orange Lodge.

During our tenure in the Smith and Grote building and the years that followed, a steady growth in membership was maintained. These years saw the beginning of our extensive activities in community welfare.

WE MAKE OUR FIRST MOVE

In our history, we are constantly reminded of the part played by our fellow Orange fraternal order, the I.O.O.F. Lodge. In 1925 the Odd Fellows started construction of a three-story building on the corner of Orange Street and Chapman Avenue. For those times it was a tremendous undertaking. The building, dedicated in April, 1925, and occupied by them in October, 1925, was built at a cost of approximately $100,000. Of this, $20,000 was for the purchase of the building site. The remaining $80,000 went into construction. This is the building we now own.

When the Odd Fellows moved into their new building, Orange Elks began the first of two moves in which we occupied their vacated premises.

Before establishing ourselves in the Watson Building, considerable remodeling was carried out in the club rooms. New rooms were partitioned and the Lodge meeting hall was extensively redecorated. Members of that time tell us that they were quite proud of the Lodge Room when it was completed. The first meeting was held in the new quarters sometime during the month of December, 1925.

Our first Secretary, T. H. Elijah, continued to fill the post after we had moved from the Ehlen and Smith Building. In those days, the Secretary combined his official Lodge duties with those of a club room attendant. In time he was succeeded as Secretary by William Lee. During Lee's term of office, as far as known, William Kadau became the first paid employee as a club room attendant.

Increasing charitable work in the community and the beginning of the sponsorship of many worthwhile activities highlighted our years in the Watson building. Community home talent plays, of that era, will be remembered by our old time members and their wives.

WE MOVE AGAIN

The depression days that followed the market crash of 1929 saw a retrenchment in our Lodge program. We weathered the storm. In the meantime, the Odd Fellows faced mounting financial difficulties. By 1935 their plight became acute. Their $100,000 Lodge was foreclosed. With these extensive quarters empty an opportunity arose whereby the two upper floors of the building could be rented. A deal was consummated with the Bank of America Land Company and in April, 1935 we occupied our present quarters for the nominal sum of $80.00 per month. For the second, but last time we followed the Odd Fellows into their vacated quarters.

Our new location provided us with more space and accommodations than we had ever known before. The years before the outbreak of World War II saw a steady growth in membership. Our sponsorship of community activities continued to expand. During the late thirties we took over the Boy Scouts, Sea Scouts and Girl Scouts as a sponsoring Lodge. In 1939 the Lodge built and furnished a Scout House for the girls. It was sold several years ago by the Orange County Girl Scout Council.

PEARL HARBOR, DECEMBER 7, 1941

The phone rang for the late Martell Thompson, at that time an officer in the newly formed Home Guard. Thompson came running back from the club room phone, with the electrifying news, "Pearl Harbor has been bombed and we are at war."

With the rest of America Orange Elks Lodge went to war. Some of our members were already in the service and many more soon followed. The war years found us wholeheartedly supporting all wartime activities. We bought bonds. Individual members contributed to the Blood Bank. We sponsored bond shows for the community. We opened our club rooms and provided hospitality for all visiting servicemen. On the third floor of the building, beds were provided for servicemen staying overnight in Orange. The late Jimmy Bryant was in charge of this dormitory.

Sixty-six stars were on our Service Flag. Sixty-five came back. Maurice Gibbs, initiated while in Orange with the 30th Field Artillery, was killed late in the war in an air transport crash enroute from Alaska to the mainland. Gibbs, a youth from Michigan, was proposed for membership by the late Walter Pixley.

WE BUY THE BUILDING

For $15,000 in February, 1942, Orange Elks Lodge purchased from the Capital Company, an affiliate of the Bank of America, our present home. Events leading up to the sale of the $100,000 investment of the Odd Fellows was typical of the opportunities of that time in local real estate.

Increasing rumors were heard that outside capitalists were interested in the building, Fearing loss of their spacious club rooms, Orange Elks finally voted to buy the property. Three members who played a quiet but none the-less important part in the final negotiations for the I.O.O.F. hall were Ivan Swanger, Paul G. Muench and A. R. Benson.

Ed Bula advanced the Lodge $5,000. Lodge finances made it necessary to obtain a loan. The note was signed by the trustees as individuals. In less than a year's time increasing revenues made it possible to burn the Bula mortgage. This was done in appropriate ceremonies held in early 1943.

The ensuing war years brought unprecedented growth in added revenues and membership. The assets of the Lodge showed such a healthy condition by the end of the war that a building program was deemed advisable. By 1946 building restrictions had lifted enough to enable the Orange Lodge to embark an the program.

A building board was elected consisting of Fred McCandless, Chairman, Kellar Watson, Earl Hobbs, Harold Johnson and Bill Hitstein. The architectural firm of Wildman and Faulkner of Santa Ana was retained to draw plans. Suggestions from the membership and the board were incorporated as far as possible in the submitted plans. The contract was let to Allison Honer Company, Santa Ana. Work got under way on the Lodge room in May, 1947. It was finished by the first meeting in October. This is the Lodge room as we know it today. By October, 1947, remodeling was under way on the third floor. The elevator shaft was finished first. By February we moved into the newly appointed club rooms. March 15 saw the first official elevator ride by Ivan "Buck" Kurtz. At that time he was our only living life member. The extensive $150,000 building program was concluded in the summer of 1948 with the completion of the second floor kitchen, dining room, dance floor and ladies lounge.

ORANGE LODGE CELEBRATES ITS SILVER ANNIVERSARY

With the completion of our building program in August of 1948. it was decided by the Lodge to celebrate their 25th year of existence. Thus, during a week in late August we held our Silver jubilee. During the week's festivities we raffled off a new car, staged a big barbecue in the city park, and held a never-to-be-forgotten Open House in our newly renovated quarters. The celebration was concluded at the end of the week with a dinner dance for all guests and members. The special jubilee Edition included many pictures and articles of the Lodge and its activities. The magazine was mailed to all members at that time. Few copies remain today, but are prized possessions of those who have them.

In the years following our Silver Anniversary in 1948, Orange Lodge continued to grow in membership. In 1966 we reached our peak with over 900 members. Since that time changing conditions and times have somewhat slowed our growth.

WE BUY ACREAGE ON TAFT AVENUE

On October 7, 1964 the Lodge voted to purchase 6½ acres of ground on Taft Avenue near Glassell Street and the Santa Fe line. The purchase price was $140,000. It was then our hope and dream to construct a new Lodge building on this acreage. But our hopes for a new Lodge were not realized. Much thought was given to this project. A building fund campaign was instigated. It didn't meet with much success. However we eventually owned the land free and unencumbered. It was paid off in full in August 1966.

AGAIN WE REMODEL OUR PRESENT QUARTERS

During 1972-73, realizing that we may be in our present quarters for a while longer, many areas of the building were renovated and redecorated. Our club room was remodeled with most of the labor donated by members. It has been a beautiful example of what teamwork can accomplish.

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