"Everything moves. You've got to move with it. Nothing can be the same." So said Harold Halverson Saturday night (Oct. 2) at the last big bash at the Squamish Elks' Lodge, a building that has literally moved with the times.
The lodge on the corner of Second Avenue and Victoria Street is going to be torn down after 53 years of hosting events and gatherings.
Halverson, who joined the Elks in 1957, said it was "time it closed," a sentiment reiterated during the night by other members.
"It's sad, but it's time," said Peter Harris, the exalted leader of the Squamish Elks.
The Elks could no longer afford the building and the property, so it was sold for almost 100 times what they paid for it on March 21, 1951. Then, the property and the building cost $4,000.
The building, which was estimated to need $200,000 in repairs, has a history all over town.
It was purchased from the Pentecostal Church in 1951, said Tony Sprenkels, the secretary-treasurer of the Elks, and a member since 1971.
He said the money to purchase the land and building was borrowed from members, who put in $300 each.
John Drenka then moved the building from its lot on Fourth Avenue to its current home.
When they moved the hall, they only had a three-ton truck, and while Drenka was moving the building, he got stuck, so he just left the building where it was on the lot, Sprenkels said.
"It's still crooked," he laughed.
The end to the building's long history brought visitors from Elks lodges and Royal Purples all over the Lower Mainland, including Burnaby, Delta, Langley, Abbotsford, Aldergrove, North Surrey and Port Coquitlam. People from as far away as Grande Prairie and Yellowknife to the last event.
"I'm going to miss this place in a sense," Harris said. "I understand there were some good all-night parties here at one time."
Over the years, the number of members has dwindled to about 40 members.
"In our heyday we had 300," said Sprenkels, who estimated the high point to be around 1958."In those day it was pretty quiet around here," Halverson said. "It was the place to be."
But over the years, as their numbers shrank, the Elks have faced financial difficulties. It's a small organization, and it gives away more money than it makes, Sprenkels said.
Last year, the Elks gave away $12,000 to the Food Bank, the Soup Kitchen, Christmas Care, Air Cadets and a variety of other people and groups in need of financial aid. The money was raised through dinners, raffles, the B.C. Elks dream van giveaway, meat draws and other events.
The Elks have directly benefited some local people's lives for years. Recently, the Squamish Elks donated $150 to Cole Sanderson, 16, so he can participate in the Summer Deaflympics Games in Melbourne, Australia. But it wasn't the first time. "We sponsored him when he was a baby," Harris said.
Elks members throughout B.C. sponsored Sanderson, who is profoundly deaf, so he could go to the B.C. Family Hearing Resource Centre in Surrey, an Elks-supported facility. It is this type of tie that makes the Elks so valuable to Squamish.
"The Elks are a very important part of our community," said Mayor Ian Sutherland. "Without volunteers and service clubs, we wouldn't have the things in Squamish we have today."
Council is trying to find a piece of land for the Elks and other service clubs and is looking at facilities in the downtown area, Sutherland said.
In the meantime, the Elks have been given permission to use the Masonic Hall on Cleveland Avenue.
"It's sad to think of all the people who have gone through this building who have passed away," Halverson said.