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Elk’s problems rest solely with club leaders

This has been painful to watch. In my billfold rests a membership card, granting me access to the Ironton Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Lodge #177.

In the lower right-hand corner of this card is a sticker denoting my 19 years as a member of the lodge.

The way things look now, I won’t make it to 20 … even though paying my dues by April 1 would ensure it.

The Elks was recently placed on probation by the grand lodge in Chicago for a host of violations, which in layman’s terms means that babysitters have to be supplied by the governing body of the order to quell the quarreling amongst lodge leaders in an attempt to restore its integrity.

If this cannot be accomplished, the grand lodge reserves the right to revoke the charter of the Ironton lodge, which effectively means “no more Elks in Ironton.”

The painful part for me is the personal history in that Park Avenue building where I have spent so much of my past … and where a portion of my family’s past is still present.

My great-grandfather, Joe Moreland, was the exalted ruler in 1941 when the former gentlemen’s club celebrated its 50th anniversary. My grandfather, Paul Anderson, and my father, Bill Bruce, were both lifelong members of this once esteemed organization.

I passed by the names of all three of them, posted prominently on the right-hand entranceway wall, every time I walked through the doors … which used to be often.

Following in their footsteps, I volunteered in different capacities as an officer in the club.

I once had a home at the Elks and felt like I belonged.

But then, something changed. Lethargy crept through the door.

Slowly, the Elks became the personal sandbox for a likeminded few. A typical day became: Horseracing on the TV, bartender on the slot machine and don’t play the jukebox.

The perceived mantra to those outside the “clique”: “If you don’t like it, go somewhere else.”

One day, I’m guessing sometime around the beginning of March (although it should have been years earlier), somebody woke up and asked, “Where did everybody go?”

And the answers might have been, “out of your living room” or “anywhere but here.”

Many of us can find a part of our past in this building. Many of us have roots that dig down into the Elks heritage.

Ten months ago, I wrote a story for The Tribune extolling the virtues of the Elks and offering an historical perspective of this once proud organization.

But now, the Elks is looking like a thing of the past in Ironton. To be honest, it has looked that way for several years.

In-fighting, nepotism, indecisiveness, unwillingness to embrace change and plain old stubbornness among “elected” leaders have all contributed to the decline of a membership that was, in the not-so-distant past, proud to call themselves Elks.

I put quotations around the word “elected” because few members bother to show up for elections anymore; they have long since found other places to spend their leisure time. Winning a seat by a 9-8 vote in a formerly grand organization should be noted for emphasis.

The biggest emphasis is this: being an Elk no longer evokes any sense of pride.

As recently as three years ago, a packed house was a certainty on any given Friday night.

Ten years ago, a packed house could have occurred on any night.

Today, it would take two months worth of the current attendance just to fill the club room.

And even that would involve cloning, two or three times, the few members who still frequent the lodge on a regular basis.

It’s well past time for Spring cleaning at the Elks.

Out with the old and in with the new.

As the old saying goes, “if you keep doing what you’ve done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve gotten.”

I don’t know about anybody else, but until something changes there is one thing they certainly won’t get from me: My dues.

Billy Bruce is a freelance writer who lives in Pedro. He can be contacted at hollandkat3@aol.com.