The Buena Park Elks Lodge

Elks Care and Elks Share

Buena Park 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 Buena Park – After six nights in the RV with me, Stan left after the Santa Ana gig went home for one night to be with his wife, Barbara. It had been the longest the two had been apart in 20 years. He came back the next morning with a big smile on his face. He was in such a good mood, in fact, he said I could run the shower as long as I wanted.

So we got to the Buena Park lodge a half-hour behind schedule and were immediately greeted by, among others, Exalted Ruler Judy Foley, who is the only woman in Orange County Elkdom currently serving in her lodge's highest office. But that's not unusual in Buena Park. Four of its five most-recent exalted rulers have been women.

The lone exception was Dave Hampton. He was another one of the early greeters, and turned out to be invaluable in working through the logistics of our set up. I've found that hooking up Stan with one knowledgeable person within the first 15 minutes on site is key to a good experience. The RV setup, the stage setup, the timing of squeezing my show in between the other events and the dinner service – it's all critical for a smooth run. And Dave became our man on the ground in B.P.

Dave actually lives in the apartment complex adjacent to the lodge on Melrose, as do at least three other B.P. Elks, and they keep an eye on the place when it's closed.

Another early greeter was Lou Belanger, and Lou's personal Elks story illustrates a key moment in O.C. Elk history. If you wonder why there's no Anaheim lodge on the tour, Lou can provide the answer: There's no Anaheim lodge.

But there used be. In fact, from the photographs I've seen, it was one of the grandest venues of any kind in Orange County, with deep wrap-around porches and balconies and a ballroom that in its heyday hosted the social events in north Orange County. There were actually members' living quarters on the second floor – those were the days when lodges were lodges.

But unpaid taxes and other debt grew as the 1923 building aged and membership dipped, and the lodge closed in 1978. The members met at a several other locations, but nothing worked. The Anaheim lodge disbanded and the membership transferred to Buena Park, which, ironically, had been initiated by the Anaheim lodge years before. Belanger was one of the last Anaheim E.R.s.

The Buena Park lodge is a much humbler one-story structure, closer to a roadhouse than an English gentleman's club. That's fine, because that's helped cement its reputation as one of the premier line-dancing venues in the region. Members and non-members alike flock here for the Tuesday and Thursday night line-dances.

After my show, I got out onto the dance floor with, among others,Carrie Washowich, a former colleagues at the Register. We worked together 17 years and I never knew she was an Elk. "You won't believe the number of times I sneaked over to the Santa Ana lodge for lunch, just to get away from the craziness." Which explains why she never asked me.

I continued to do my part in the furtherance of Elkdom. Two of my readers, Steve and Lenette, came to the B.P. show and are joining the lodge. That brings the (known) number of novitiates I'm responsible for to five. (No telling, I admit, how many I've driven away.)

Note: Tour T-shirt to the first Elk who gives me a Lompoc lodge pin.

Buena Park profile: Founded: 1957. Members: 380. Total length of (3) bars: 78 feet. Good works: This lodge's motto is "The Lodge With The Heart," and that's best embodied in retired architectDon Betzsold, who 13 years ago started a one-man fundraising campaign to send Buena Park Junior High students to the East Coast for a one-week American-heritage tour of historical sites in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston and New York. Don, 84, does this by strapping two bags of See's candy bars onto his walker and making the rounds at every Elks function he can get to, selling the bars one by one. Last year, five kids took the tour because of his hard work.