“We raise money to give it away,” said Mount Shasta Elks exalted leader Norm Dettman during the organization's celebration of its 50th anniversary April 23, 2016.
Original Mount Shasta Elks charter members Don Green and Phil Cary attended Saturday night’s 50 year anniversary celebration at the lodge in downtown Mount Shasta.
Memorabilia from those 50 years was on display, and Exalted Leader Norm Dettman recounted what the club was like in its early years.
“The initiation was done in the basement, it was quite interesting,” he said.
When the Elks Lodge opened Dettman said there was a “pool hall and a little hamburger joint in the corner. I remember going to the movies for 25 cents and a matinee was 15 cents.”
“Without you people I wouldn’t be here,” said Warren Middleton, who received an award for honorary lifetime membership and Lodge Historian.
The Elks are “heavily” involved in veterans programs, and the local chapter began the same year as the first Super Bowl, according to Dettman’s wife Karen and daughter Kimberley.
New members have to be sponsored, but anyone can join, they explained. Karen is part of the Ladies of the Elks Lodge, while Kimberley is a member of the Elks Lodge.
“It’s been a family tradition,” said Kimberley.
Karen said the Elks Lodge was involved in many community activities including the Easter egg hunt, veterans support, food baskets for the needy at Christmas and Thanksgiving, a Fourth of July booth, help with Toys for Tots, and grants for a junior golf program through the recreation district. They also support the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, she said.
“We raise money to give it away,” said the Exalted Leader. “Sometimes we can’t even pay our own bills,” he laughed.
“There is a long history going back to 1868,” said Norm Dettman about the Elks Lodge organization, “in New England, by British Actors, based on Charity, Justice and Fidelity.”
Asked about the meaning of his title Dettman said, “the Exalted Ruler is like the president of the organization; there is a staff of officers including the Leading Knight, Loyal Knight and Lecturing Knight.”
Christine Winte, Exalted Ruler of Yreka Elks Lodge and retired Siskiyou County District Attorney, said laughingly that she and another female “were blackballed” when they first applied to the then-all-male Elks Lodge. “We didn’t want to sue, it wasn’t the organization. After that they started letting us in.”
“All I can tell you is the ladies we have here, we wouldn’t survive without them,” said member Skip Tuttle in response to Winte’s memory.
“We were the only organization who said we must have provisions for women and children,” recounted Winte. “We built the first field hospital in World War I. In the Chicago Fire the Elks were the only ones who held a benefit. In the 1906 earthquake Elks were the first responders and built shelters. The Elks built, equipped and staffed the first hospital for veterans and then they turned it over the federal government in 1918, so the Elks created the Veterans Administration.”
The primary concern is veterans, she said, but they are also one of the leading scholarship funds, second only to the federal government.
“Some of our famous members are JFK, Ben Affleck, Will Rogers, FDR and Truman,” said Winte.
“The first charter of 1868 came after the Civil War when we as a country needed to heal our wounds. That’s what we do,” she continued. “We are barred by our own laws from tooting our own horn. It’s a pretty amazing organization, but no one knows about it.”
The “mother lodge” to Mount Shasta is the Yreka chapter and their mother lodge is in Ashland or “grandmother,” Winte said.
Saturday night’s dinner was served by the Mount Shasta High School Choir.