Elks celebrate 100 years in Hagerstown

June 30, 1997


Staff Writer

Irvin Bloom had been a member of Hagerstown Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge No. 378 for only three years when he participated in its 50th anniversary celebration in 1947.

At the time, it didn't occur to him that he would probably be around for the lodge's 100th anniversary celebration, Bloom said.

Watching fellow lodge members burying a time capsule in honor of the landmark Sunday afternoon, Bloom, 88, laughed when Charles H. Koeneke Jr. - dressed in turn-of-the-century garb - suggested he and other elder members would be present at its opening in 2047.


"I was here for the 50th and the 100th," said the Hagerstown native, who holds the office of Tiler in the fraternal organization. "I doubt I'll be here for the 150th."

"I'll be here. I'll be 86," piped in 14-year member Chris Zittle, who said he plans to celebrate the lodge's 150th anniversary with his son beside him.

"My father brought me in, and I bring my son over to the events," said Zittle, 36, of Williamsport. "He's already said he wants to be an Elk."

The time capsule was buried in front of the lodge home on Robinwood Drive as part of a family-oriented day for members culminating last week's celebration of the lodge's 100th anniversary.

It should give its openers a "firsthand impression" of how the lodge decided to celebrate its centennial and what members at the time felt was important, said Koeneke, a Past Exalted Ruler who served as chairman of the centennial committee.

The long box was filled with numerous items including programs from the lodge's 100th and 50th anniversary events, Elks newsletters, local newspapers from the past week, and a variety of Elks paraphernalia, like pins, a hat and a shirt, said Exalted Ruler Lee Ridenour.

Ridenour said he included a personal message addressed to the 150th Exalted Ruler in which he talked about the centennial festivities.

He said he also enclosed one of his lodge pins along with an explanation that he chose a fire truck design in recognition of the firehouse next door to the lodge's first permanent home in downtown Hagerstown.

Other events Sunday included a memorial service in honor of the lodge's 1,820 deceased members, a tree planting, family picnic, children's games and musical entertainment.

The centennial celebration started on Tuesday, the 100th anniversary of the lodge's establishment, when 51 new members were initiated, said Past Exalted Ruler George W. Hamilton.

That boosted the lodge - started with 37 charter members in 1897 - to 2,975 members, said Hamilton, who is serving as president of the Maryland, Delaware and District of Columbia Elks Association.

The Hagerstown lodge has the largest membership in the state association of 43 lodges and is one of the largest in the country, Hamilton said.

Keeping up the Elks' long tradition of supporting veterans' hospitals - the organization helped form the first veterans' hospital in Boston at the turn of the century - Hagerstown lodge members make monthly visits to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., Ridenour said.

The lodge also sponsors a variety of fun events for kids, including its annual fishing rodeo, awards two dozen college scholarships annually and donates money to local non-profit agencies, he said.

The Ladies of the Elks No. 378, for wives and widows of members, started in 1965 with 24 members, said President Dottie Miller.

It now has over 400 members, Miller said.

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