Celebrating 90 years
Ninety years of friendship, community service, and fun will be celebrated by Juniper Rebekah Lodge No. 229, at its "90th Birthday Tea," slated for 2 p.m., Saturday, May 3, at the Odd Fellow/Rebekah Lodge, 16 S.E. D St., Madras, and the public is invited.
According to a history of the lodge taken from 1918 notes compiled by Edna Behrens-Eaton, and a 1987 account by Leita Richardson, the idea for the ladies' lodge began eight years before it was formed.
"A small group of men had an Odd Fellows Lodge and met on the second floor of a small building used as a business house. The town was growing, so they decided to build a nice brick building on the corner of D and Fifth streets. During the summer of 1917, our present building was constructed with a lodge hall upstairs and the downstairs to be rented out for a business space," Behrens-Eaton wrote.
"By the next spring, the men decided that it was time to have a Rebekah Lodge to join them. So, on Feb. 22, 1918, 24 Odd Fellows and ladies met to institute Juniper Rebekah Lodge," she said.
The Madras lodge received its official charter on May 24, 1918. Charter members initiated included: lodge brothers, Frank Stangland, Perry Henderson, Charles Bye, A.E. Peterson; and lodge sisters, E. Pearl Guyton, Minnie Pinkerton, Lilly Read Turner, Florence Newell and Effie Anderson.
(Both men and women can belong to the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, although the men's activities tend more toward doing large fundraisers, supporting a Little League baseball team and funding scholarships, while the women enjoy teas, decorating and serving dinners, bazaars, helping those in need, and performing in marching drill teams).
That same year, the applications of 17 additional persons wishing to join were received and approved, and they were initiated by Eatolia Lodge No. 227 of Culver.
"The Culver sisters put on a drill following the initiation of officers," the report said.
Leita Richardson's records note that through the 1980s, the lodge was honored to have several major state officers. In 1949, Lela Gard Ramsey was state assembly president, with Vera Evick as her marshal, and in 1966, Jessica Darrar was state assembly president with Emma Zemke as her chaplain. Also in 1966, Fannie Haberstich Regnier was installed as the state president of the Ladies Auxiliary Patriarch Militant of Oregon (a higher level group), and Jessie Darrar was the LAPM president in 1978.
Military-style marching drill teams that performed to music were a popular part of lodge activities.
At an event in Bend, Richardson said, "Twenty-four girls wearing green dotted nylon voile dresses presented a beautiful drill. Some years later at Springfield, 14 girls presented a drill wearing centennial dresses."
By 1987, Richardson wrote, "(A running total of) 526 members have signed the membership roll. We now have 99 members in the lodge and an average attendance of at least 15 members at our regular meetings."
"We would have a larger attendance, but many of our members are getting up in years and can't climb the stairs," she said of the lodge's steep second-story climb. However, 21 years later in 2008, members are still managing to make the climb.
Today, Juniper Rebekah Lodge has 62 members, and an average attendance of 15 to 20 at its meetings, held at 7 p.m., the first and third Tuesdays of each month.
A Christian-based group, where drinking is not allowed, the members are dedicated to benevolent principles portrayed by women characters of the Bible.
The Rebekah motto is: "Fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Gal. 5:22.
Current Juniper Rebekah Noble Grand Liz Blann and treasurer Carolyn Northup shared stories of how they joined the Rebekahs.
"I joined in 1951 in Van Nice, Calif., became an associate member when we moved here," Northup said, adding she was Noble Grand two times as an associate member before finally transferring her membership to the Madras lodge.
Friendship was what drew her to the lodge, she said. When she and her first husband Ken England moved to Madras in August 1973, they didn't know anyone.
"I saw an article in the paper about a Rebekah's picnic at The Cove and we went, and everybody welcomed us. Then we went to the first lodge meeting and everybody welcomed us," she said.
When she discovered two of the people she met, Jimmy Northup and Lucile Ryun, were related to a Rebekah member she knew in California, she said, "I felt we'd picked the right town to live in."
After her husband passed away, Carolyn married lodge member Chuck Northup and she has now been a Rebekah member for 57 years.
Initiation was a little different for Liz Blann, who lived in the remote town of Mitchell.
"Let's just say, that when you marry into the Blann family, you weren't asked -- you became a member of Rebekahs!" she laughed.
Her husband Ron Blann, wasn't even an Odd Fellow, but her mother-in-law and aunt-in-law made it clear she would be joining their lodge.
"We got married May 30, 1956, and my first lodge meeting was in September," Blann recalled. Luckily, she enjoyed the group as a social outlet.
"It was a wonderful opportunity to meet people in the community. Everybody was on ranches and scattered all over. We lived 11 miles out of Mitchell and our babysitter was 35 miles away," Blann said.
For those who didn't have a whole lot of knowledge about etiquette, Blann said lodge activities taught them how to set tables and do a dinner correctly.
"The installations were elaborate occasions and we always wore white formals. I used to love the drills, the footwork of marching to music in formals," she said.
For fundraisers, she said they held pinochle parties, bake sales, bazaars, and had chili feeds for hoards of hunters passing through Mitchell in the fall.
Northup remembered the Madras lodge running a restaurant during years of Good Sams and Rockhounds gatherings to raise money to redo the local lodge's kitchen.
During moves, Blann's membership lapsed for a while until she joined the Madras lodge 12 years ago. "If I'd kept my membership in Mitchell, I would have been a member for 51 years," she said.
Membership still active
The Juniper Rebekah's membership is aging, like other long-established lodges, which means repeated service as an officer. "This is my third term as noble grand," Blann chuckled.
Holly Kumble, in her 30s, Kandice Duke, 40s, and Pattee McConnell, 50s, are the youngest members, while the lodge prides itself on its oldest members, including 102-year-old Fannie Regnier, her husband Almond Regnier, 87, Jerry Wilson, 92, and Chuck Northup, 94.
The Rebekahs are trying to recruit more younger members, but, "Too many of the gals are working now and they don't have enough time," Carolyn Northup observed. Anyone interested in joining can contact the ladies at 475-2990 or 475-6178.
Blann has a slate of 31 events listed for 2008-09, including holiday dinners, a summer picnic, game nights, Halloween party, and hosting meetings for visiting dignitaries.
Members also serve at the Community Kitchen, march in local parades, have participated in the Relay for Life, visit shut-ins and hospital patients, and help the Odd Fellows with scholarships and fundraisers for local youth. For years, the lodges funded a free two-week "United Nations Pilgrimage" trip for a Central Oregon student to visit the U.N. and New York.
Fun and socializing is also at the top of the list. "We just had a `Come As You Are Party.' Members got called early in the morning and whatever you had on, you had to wear. It was April Fool's Day, and turned out to be a goofy PJ party. We had a style show and judges picked out the best outfits," Blann said.
At Rebekah's affairs, she said, "We try to make it special. The tables are always decorated and some try to outdo the others."
For the 90th birthday tea, the Rebekahs plan to get out the good china. "We have beautiful Rebekah dishes and plates we will use for our tea. The women also used to wear regalia collars, which we are making a display of," Blann said.
The tea will feature speakers, old-time music and refreshments. "We're hoping some of the past noble grands will come and reminisce with us a bit," she said.
"When you look at the other lodges around us that are gone -- we're doing pretty well. In 1987, we had 99 members and now still have 62, which is not bad," Blann noted.
Six years ago, the Prineville lodge consolidated with the Madras lodge, which is still going strong. And Blann and Northup think they know why Juniper lodge continues to be active.
"It's because we meet in the evening. Those that went to daytime meetings have folded," Northup remarked.
"We have a group of people who are real go-getters. And the support of our men -- a few years ago when we had financial problems, if they hadn't helped us we wouldn't have made it. It's such a neat companionship. If we ask, they're always there to help us," Blann said.
Both women have belonged to other organizations, but find Rebekahs unique.
"We keep up with our members, know if someone's sick or needs help, who's been visited and who's in the hospital. There's just a caring I don't see in some other organizations," Blann observed.