Tuesday, August 31, 2004 Backward Glance by Steve Smith Golden Anniversaries:
Elks club, part one
When we look at the history of our area we can be heartened by one fact, we look
out for each other. Our old newspapers are full of stories of neighbors helping
others in the community. It is also full of organizations dedicated to helping our
community like the Elks, which celebrate their 50th anniversary this year. Backward
Headquartered in Chicago, The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the USA
(their full name) has an interesting and colorful start. Charles Algernon Sidney
Vivian, an English comic singer and dancer, moved to New York in November 1867.
Theaters were closed on Sundays due to Blue Laws so he and fellow performers got
together for their own amusement. Vivian was the leader of this group who called
themselves the Jolly Corks after a trick that Vivian used to get the unaware to
When one member of the Jolly Corks died shortly before Christmas 1868 leaving his
family destitute, the group decided they needed a more enduring organization to
help those in need, in other words a benevolent organization.
The Jolly Corks also had aspects of a labor union before unions were legalized.
They all agreed not to work below a certain wage and to support their unemployed
brethren. So they were also a protective order.
On February 16, 1868 the Jolly Corks became The Benevolent and Protective Order
of Elks of the USA, Vivian was elected their leader. The name Elks was chosen because
the elk has many attributes that members of the order strive to maintain. Elks are
prominently an American animal, lives in herds, is fleet of foot and graceful in
movement, quick and keen of perception; and, while it is usually gentle, it is strong
and valiant in defense of its own.
Not long after their start, the Elks were infiltrated by other professional men.
They unseated Vivian as leader and removed the original Jolly Corks. The Order's
focus changed from amusement and labor issues to more of a benevolent, fraternal
organization concentrating on helping their fellow man. Fifty years later the Elks
made their first appearance in Barstow.
Our modern Elks Lodge No. 1920 is actually the second try at a local Elks organization.
The first attempt at a Barstow Elks club started November 1, 1921. This first group
called themselves "The Antlers." These poor guys had some bad luck. They
met on the second floor of a drugstore on the old Main Street between the tracks,
possibly A.A. True's that later became Cunningham Drug, which was later located
across the street from Barstow Tire and Brake.
On July 11, 1923 the building burnt down and the lodge was left with ". . .
a rug, and the drums, and a Victrola." (A Victrola was an early record player,
if you don't know what records were ask your grandfather). The lodge moved to the
First Congregational Church on the corner of Second and Cottage Streets and followed
when the church was moved to the corner of Third and Hutchinson where it still is
today. The secretary's book recorded seventeen meetings, it is believed that the
group disbanded in 1926 or 1927.
The second try at an Elks Lodge in Barstow started in April of 1948. A number of
local Elks petitioned district leaders to organize a lodge. The national organization
rejected the petition due to the small number of members, lack of a meeting place
or the fact that the city was unincorporated when the petition was filed.
Our local Elks did not give up and they started an Elks Organizational Committee
in Barstow. The group's first meeting was at the Barstow Rodeo and Riding Club near
where the cemetery is today. There were 24 prospective members and 7 members from
the Victorville Lodge present. Bud Schaefer was elected chairman and Chuck Harris,
The committee next met in the Blue Room at the Beacon Hotel. They held a number
of fundraisers towards their cause including raffles, dinners and dances. They used
the media well in their efforts by posting ads in Barstow's Printer and Review,
San Bernardino's Sun Telegram, on radio and on taxis.
On March 25, 1954 the committee's efforts paid off and The Benevolent and Protective
Order of Elks Lodge #1920 was chartered. All lodges are numbered sequentially. Ceremonies
were held at Waterman School (now Central High School) followed by a celebratory
barbecue at the rodeo grounds. The first lodge officers were: W. H. Smart -- Exalted
Ruler, James Reynolds -- Leading Knight, C. D. Harris -- Loyal Knight, Glen Robertson
-- Lecturing Knight, Mike Schley --Secretary, C. D. Shafer --Treasurer, Fred Freeman
--Tiler, Ray Nowlin -- Chaplain, with Horshel Boucher being elected Chairman.
Is vice president of the Mojave River Valley Museum, (760) 256-5452
He can also be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org