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Verdugo Views: The early days of the Elks

February 07, 2012|By Katherine Yamada
  • In 1932, members of Glendale Elks Lodge #1289 gathered around a Studebaker President 8, which was on its way from Seattle (site of the 1931 national Elks convention) to Birmingham, Alabama, (site of the 1932 convention). Convention promoters made stops at many lodges on their way to Birmingham. (Photo courtesy of the Special Collections, Glendale Public Library)
In 1932, members of Glendale Elks Lodge #1289 gathered…

The group known as the Elks has been around since 1868. That’s when the first lodge was formed in New York City. Over the years, other Elks lodges were organized throughout the United States, and, as newcomers arrived in Glendale, they brought with them memories of good times in their old hometown lodges. By 1912, there were enough Elks around to form their own unit right here in Glendale.

The very first Elks group was inspired by an Englishman, Charles A. Vivian, who had been a successful comic singer in London. In 1867, he came to New York to try his fortune. His magnetic personality drew other performers to his circle of friends. By city law, pubs and bars were closed on Sunday, so Vivian and his friends formed a group to supply alcoholic beverages for their gatherings, calling themselves the “Jolly Corks.” The name was derived from a trick introduced by Vivian in which the uninitiated ended up buying a round of refreshments for the others, according to a national Elks website.

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When one of their members died in 1867, the others banded together to help his widow and in doing so realized they needed a more enduring organization to serve those in need.

Shortly after, in 1868, they established the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Membership grew rapidly, as their social activities and benefit performances increased their visibility.

As members of the New York lodge traveled to other cities, they spread the word, and soon there were requests to form lodges in other cities. In response, in 1871, the Elks were chartered as a national organization, with the New York lodge designated #1.

In 1912, right here in Glendale, a number of Elks who were members in good standing in their hometowns, gathered to discuss the possibility of establishing a lodge in our then very young city. (Glendale had only been incorporated for six years.)

Their request was approved by the Grand Exalted Ruler of the national organization, and in October of that same year, officers of Los Angeles Lodge #99 instituted the Glendale lodge at a banquet at Casa Verdugo restaurant. They became Lodge #1289.

The lodge flourished, and by early 1913 there were 243 members. Within a year, another 176 people had joined, and the lodge continued to grow to the point that, in 1917, there were 737 members and a promise of more. Many of their meetings were held in the Central Building on Broadway.

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