The Huntington Beach Elks

Elks Care and Elks Share

Huntington Beach 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.

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.