Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Odd Fellows Hall, Part 1

For almost twenty years, the Aurora Branch was practically synonymous with the Odd Fellows Hall. You couldn’t think of one without the other. The following excerpt about meeting in the Odd Fellows Hall is taken from a paper I wrote for a creative non-fiction class at the University of Minnesota in 1995:

“Our small congregation met in the same Odd Fellows Hall from the late 1930s through 1959, or almost the entire 28 years my grandfather served as branch president. For many of those early years when my mother was growing up, the Aurora Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had more words in its official name than members in the congregation, but when my memories begin we had about 40 regulars.
“The lodge hall occupied the second and third floors of a commercial building at 62 South LaSalle Street, one block east of Broadway in Aurora, Illinois. Wedged between the Schorr Glass Company and the Lindsay Water Softeners store, its double-door entrance was flanked by pretentious square pillars, whose indentations regularly enticed boys—but never girls—to climb up them when they should have known better than to rough house on Sundays. The second story meeting rooms were reached by a staircase that looked tall enough to lead all the way to heaven right then and there, but it lacked the glory of Jacob’s ladder. Poorly lit and dingy, the steep stairs proved to be a weekly trial for older folks who needed to rest on the landing halfway up and sometimes resorted to pulling themselves hand over hand along the railing before they reached the top.
“As people gathered at 10 a.m. for Sunday School and again at 6:30 p.m. for sacrament meeting, the high ceilings and bare wooden floors in the long, narrow room on the left of the stairs echoed with friendly greetings and the sound of children’s feet. Directly across from the door hung a large American flag, and next to it a banner for the I.O.O.F embroidered with a linked chain and other symbols, including appropriately enough, an enormous peering eye of God.
“Every Sunday morning Brother John Wendt, a counselor in the branch presidency who happened to be the janitor for the Odd Fellows, came early and cleaned away the remains of Saturday night’s lodge revelry and neatly arranged wooden chairs in careful rows facing the windows to the west. In the late afternoon meetings, the sun glared in our eyes. Summers, it roasted us. If we opened the windows for ventilation, the sounds of the street and the tavern across the street drifted into the meeting. And every Sunday, exactly on schedule, the California Zephyr, that famous passenger train from Chicago to Denver and parts west, roared by, rattling the windows and drowning out the speaker.”
More to come. (Photo courtesy of the Aurora Historical Society)

1 comment:

  1. I took tap dance there as a child, back around 1958. All I can remember is the gentleman’s first name, Ray, my mother took tap from him as well. Wish I could remember his last name.....Any info? Thanks