The Orange Elks Lodge

Elks Care and Elks Share

Orange 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 Orange – I didn't book the order in which I visited O.C.'s Elks lodges. That was done by Exalted Ruler Garrett Hamblin of the Huntington Beach lodge, and wittingly or unwittingly, he couldn't have made a better call than having the last two stops be his lodge and finally, to close the tour, the Orange lodge.

If the Elks are to reverse the trend of declining, aging memberships that have decimated so many fraternal organizations, they'll have to bring in younger members. No place did I see more evidence of that than in H.B. and Orange, where the top Elks are in their mid-40s.

Hamblin, 45, has even started a surfing club within his lodge, augmenting other lodge subgroups that include an active 100-member camping club they call “The Sons of the Beaches.” Read about the H.B. lodge in an online-only column ( I wrote over the weekend. You'll want to get a load of the 92-year-old gent who just joined and has urged officers to “get some younger women in here.”

In Orange on Saturday, I saw what might well serve as the model for the modern lodge. Yes, the rank-and-file members were friendly and active in charitable causes. That is no small thing, but it is true of every lodge. What sets Orange apart is that it has the strongest mix of four elements I've see as critical to survival. In no particular order: 1) a well-kept facility that's both classy and comfy; 2) civic leaders who are members; 3) a tradition; 4) outreach to young adults.

“It seems like a whole generation missed out on this, and I'm trying to figure out why,” Orange Exalted Ruler Rick Hatch, 42, said to me at dinner Saturday night in the high-ceilinged, amply chandeliered second-floor dining room that brings out every ounce of class the Jazz Age building in Old Towne has to offer.

I was shocked when a twenty something college student, Ashley Davis, introduced herself a few hours earlier as Stan and I sat outside his RV. “You should be pledging a sorority right about now,” I told her. She said something like, “Ick!” and told me she joined the Elks because of one young Elk named Guy Debeauvieres, who has brought a bunch of twenty- and thirtysomethings into the lodge.

Hatch told me that Guy and a few other young guys are partially responsible for the Orange lodge seeing a net increase in membership of about 100, or 15 percent, in the last four years. The average age of the Orange lodge has gone from about 67 in the early 1990s, to somewhere in the low 50s. Elks include all three men on the Orange City Council, Denis Bilodeau, Jon Dumitru and Mark Murphy. While not in their 20s, neither are they anywhere near retirement age.

All stopped by Saturday, Bilodeau bringing the most amazing gift I received on the tour: a genuine elk-hoof lamp – freshly loaded with energy-efficient bulbs. As much as I loved it, I couldn't accept it from a public official, so I re-gifted it to the Orange lodge for its foyer with the proviso that it bear a brass plaque commemorating my historic tour, as well as Denis' and my names. Lodge officials immediately agreed.

The day's highlights included a tour of all four floors of the building by brother Keith Fraser, who said that, like San Clemente's, the Orange lodge is inhabited by the ghost of an exalted ruler. The old boy, John Milby, turns lights on and off and calls the elevator in the middle of the night. One gal I talked to won't ride it.

The highlight of the evening – and, indeed, the ceremonial highlight of the tour – was the “jeweling” of Bob Genelle, 69, into the highest position in O.C. Elkdom – District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler. Go to the online version of this column for a photo of the ceremony, held in the most elegant lodge room in the county – as well as a photo of the most elegant elk-hoof lamp in the county.

Orange lodge profile: Founded: 1923. Membership: 777. Total length of (2) bars: 68 feet. Good works: Donated three police dogs to Orange, 3,000 dictionaries to third-graders and $11,700 to a nationwide effort to help disabled youngsters; cooked turkey dinners to feed 179 homeless people at Mary's Kitchen; sent 17 members to the Christmas in July event at the Long Beach V.A. hospital; sponsors Boy Scout Troop/Cub Scout Pack 1475.