Faces have changed, but mantra of helping others hasn’t as BPOE 1431 readies for 100th

Marlys Good

BPOE 1431 of Greybull is celebrating its 100th birthday. A gala is planned on Saturday, July 16 – an all-day social with guests expected from all around “Elkdom.”

We talked about its earliest history dating back to the late 1800s; it took several decades to take root in our small town.

To look at its earliest origins in Greybull, we turned to Tom Davis and “Glimpses of Greybull’s Past” and to some long-ago Greybull Standards, now yellowed with age.

Davis wrote: “In 1921, there were many men in Greybull who wanted to form an Elks Lodge, but they were dismayed to learn that the national Elks organization required a town to have 5,000 people before a lodge could be formed. These men believed that Greybull had ‘almost 5,000 people,’ so they formed an organization named the ‘Antlers Club,’ and started to count and count and count … 

(Unofficially, the Antlers Club was called the ‘Stray Elks.’)

“The local members of the Antlers Club have arranged to take a census of the city and issue a directory. A very thorough canvass is to be made and indexed carefully, all of which will be gotten out in a handy book form which will be valuable to the businessman as a ready reference for not only the names of persons, but also their phone number and street number… (Greybull Standard 6/3/21).”

Davis said in “Glimpses” that “a history of the Greybull Elks Lodge and how it came to be founded was ably told by Fred Koschel, secretary of the lodge. The organization of the Greybull Lodge had its beginning when a group of ‘stray’ Elks formed an Elks Club. … Even though the club had a sizeable membership, a charter could not be granted because at that time an Elks Lodge could not be formed in a city of less than 5,000 population. Mr. Koschel explained. A census of Greybull was compiled by the Big Horn Antlers and when completed in 1922 it showed that Greybull had a population of 5,341 persons.  That the directory figures might have been ‘padded’ was hinted at by Mr. Koschel. Shortly after this directory had been presented as Exhibit A at the Los Angeles Elks national convention, a charter was granted for the organization of the Greybull Elks Lodge in February 1922.”

Davis said, “While it is doubtful that Greybull ever had 5,000 or more residents during either 1921 or ’22, it is very likely that Greybull was home to far more than 2,602 residents in that period”

In 1979, Joe Carey said in an interview, “I think that what they (Antlers) done was to count the floating population, plus the salesmen and everybody else that come in here, see? They’d go to the hotels and get all the people on the register at the time and class them as natives.

Members of Sheridan Elks Lodge 520 came to Greybull and initiated 54 candidates into Greybull Lodge 1431, electing, installing Ed Lander as exalted ruler and LeRoy Joyce as secretary. A charter was granted on July 13, 1922. (Thanks to Ray Valasek for sharing an old GS that relayed this information.)

History does not tell us where the Elks held their first meetings from 1922 to 1934. However, from 1934 through 1937, meetings were held in a building located on the corner of Fourth Avenue North and North Fourth Street. Construction on a new lodge located downtown on the corner of Greybull Avenue and Railroad Avenue began in 1937 and was completed in 1938. 

A new addition was added in 1968. The original lodge was sold to Atwood & Atwood in 2004; the new addition was retained as the present Elks Lodge.

It remains a charitable and giving institution, as it has been since its inception. The major change was in 1995 when it opened its membership to women, one of the first of the 2,000-plus lodges in the United States to do so after a Supreme Court verdict was handed down. The move came smoothly to the local lodge; nationwide it was questioned and opposed for several more years. However, in 2002, the non-discrimination ruling was accepted and adopted nationwide.

The first woman to be initiated into the local Elks Club was Cathy Frautschi on De. 30, 1998. 

Lynna Smith and Colette Denniston were initiated into the lodge on Feb. 24, 1999.

The transition was smooth; women were welcomed as an integral part of BPOE 1431. 

As of June 28, 2022, current officers are: Exalted Ruler, Jeff Sukut; Leading Knight Brant Ogg; Loyal Knight, Bobby Werner; Lecturing Knight, Pam Valasek; Secretary, Gretchen Kelso; Treasurer, Brenda Miller; Tyler: Chris Ogg; Chaplain: Deanna Werner; Esquire: Breanna Laird; Inner Guard: Jim Clifton.

Trustees include: 5-year Ted Peterson; 4-year Sherri Wilkinson; 3-year Lawrence Griffin; 2-year Jake Holtheus; 1-year Donna Dalin.

The lodge sends out a quarterly newsletter and Wilkinson, who compiles the report, said it is sent to approximately 325 Elks, going all over the United States, even as far as Hawaii. “Once an Elk, always an Elk,” she said, noting that when a member of BPOE 1431 leaves, he/she takes the membership and is welcome at any Elks Lodge worldwide.

So while in little ways Elkdom has changed, its most important missions have remained the same.

Some new programs have been added, like the backpack programs in the schools. 

The yearly scholarships that have been granted students in Greybull, Riverside, Burlington and Lovell high schools have benefitted dozens and dozens of seniors with thousands of dollars allocated (seven different scholarships) plus the (Jerry Schmer scholarship). The Elks honor and remember veterans at the two retirement centers; help with the annual Christmas Basket program; host the annual Hoop Shoot; provide funding for local youth sports programs and hold charity fundraisers.

They have also opened their doors for the lodge to be used for a voting precinct, host the community blood drives several times a year, provide a Veterans Day meal and hold a Flag Day ceremony every June 14. 

In a “yellowed with age” Greybull Standard from decades ago, we repeat: “ The mantra is: Being an Elk is not what the Elks do for you, but what Elks do for the community.”  A hundred years later that mantra remains the same.

Happy birthday, BPOE 1431. 

The community applauds and honors you for your generosity to and faith in our community.