On Aug. 21, 1911, Moose International chartered Juneau Moose Lodge No. 700 and the founding members met in the old Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall at 336 First Street.
Saturday, current members and their families are inviting the public to a celebration from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Moose Lodge on Old Dairy Road to honor the fraternity’s first gathering, resilience, and good works that have occurred and still occur.
“In those days we didn’t have all the entertainment and the Moose Club was the entertainment,” Sidney Smith, 77, said.
Smith’s father Lee H. Smith and his uncle William Altumueller were members when the Juneau chapter began.
“Playing cards and just a gathering place,” Sidney Smith said. “They put on dinners and it was a family lodge. They didn’t have the TV and the entertainment. It was a gathering place for the families. I try to eat there five days a week if I can, they have awesome Saturday steak dinners and Sunday brunches.”
Smith joined the Moose right out of high school in 1955 before joining the Air force. Smith was treasurer for nine years and is at the Fellowship rank of members. Smith’s siblings Lee W, Francis, Theodore, Joseph, and Delores (Druns) were all active in the Moose or Women of the Moose. Smith’s son, son-in-law, and nephews are current Moose members.
“My father passed away when I was only 12 years old,” Smith said. “But I think he was a reason I joined later.”
The Moose Lodge moved from the VFW Hall to the Odd Fellows Hall and then upstairs over what was the Ludwig Nelson Jewelry Store, and then to the Nugget Shop, which they eventually purchased.
After several successful years they burned the mortgage for the building in 1961. In 1964 a fire in apartments on the second floor, above the Lodge and its social quarters destroyed most of the second floor. A large hall was then built for rentals and lodge functions such as teen dances, Christmas parties, wedding receptions and such.
Business conditions in 1965 had the Internal Revenue Service close the social quarters and the bank foreclosed on the building and its membership of more than 1,000.
From 1965 to 1988 meetings were held in members’ homes, the Fraternal Order of Eagles Hall in Douglas, the VFW Hall and the Elks Lodge. Membership dropped to 65 but those dedicated few worked with volunteers to open the Lodge at the Goodwin Building.
Membership outgrew the social quarters and roughly 250 members moved to the present location, which at the time was the Black Angus Steakhouse. In the summer of 1998 another fire in the middle of the night burned the entire building to the ground. From then until reopening on May 23, 2000, members met at Honda Hut, Hoochies, and Squires Restaurant. In 2003 the members purchased the building from Doc Honsinger.
“I believe fraternities are an integral part of the lives of hundreds of men and women,” current Moose Lodge Gov. Rick White said. “They are a social center and outlet for community service and a great organization to contribute time too.”
The current membership is more than 540. They continue the commitment of their forefathers to provide a family environment and education for underprivileged children in residence at Mooseheart, Ill. and to provide for the needs of senior members at Moosehaven and to promote membership growth. They are supported by Juneau Chapter No. 439 Women of the Moose who chartered in 1920 and currently has 375 members.
“We do good community projects,” Jane Lancaster, a WOM members since 1971 said.
On Saturday there will be booths for the Loyal Order of the Moose and the Women of the Moose to welcome people interested in becoming members, as well as informational booths relating to charitable works including Mooseheart, also called “The Child City,” and Moosehaven, located just outside Jacksonville, Fla. There will be carnival-style games with prizes for kids and adults to enjoy. Hamburgers, hot dogs, soda pop and chips will be provided. Any donations or contributions made to the event will benefit the local Juneau Special Olympics.
• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.