elks 3

Originally published Oct 11, 2009.

I was thinking as I am doing the series on the Houses of Williamstown, about other small towns and the outsize edifices of grandeur built to exude permanence, status, and a desire to go inside.

Of course, this is easy for me, I live in a small town.

And the answer is: The Elks! Small town belonging, particularly important when Sunday Blue laws made a private club the only place you could get a drink; before the lotteries when ditto for gambling; and in small towns, the only place the male burghers could go a couple of times a year for a ‘smoker’ with a stripper.

Membership soared until the seventies, when booze was suddenly available at Safeway, the states were sponsoring gambling instead of censoring it, and nudity was available everywhere including topless shoe-shine parlors.

And so we have on Main Streets across the Heartland, temples and lodges that parallel the houses on campi. Many, as you drive past, seem to be ‘for sale’ or have been converted into other uses.

Membership in Fraternal Orders named for animals or the job skills of construction are dwindling and their remaining members approaching their dotage.

Has small town America lost a way of life as well as Williams? And if so, does any one care except for aged Past Exalted Rulers?

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