The Garden Grove Elks Lodge.. A Friendly Place

Elks Care and Elks Share

Garden Grove Lodge

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These write-ups are the fine work of Frank Mickadeit of the OC Register who published a series of articles on the Elks Lodges.  There are repeated onto this site to make it easy for our friends to find.

Garden Grove Elks

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.