Keepin’ the love alive at the Elks

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Love is in the air — or, at least, it was once on the roof.

With Valentine’s Day coming this week, talk of love is circling in all aspects of my life. I like to look for connections in things, and this morning when I opened an email from local historian Joe Drazan I laughed when I saw a picture of what looked like a love tryst between the statue of a dairy cow someone placed next to one of an elk on the roof of the Elks Lodge in Walla Walla.

Imagine the effort that went into that 1983 prank.

I mentioned the spectacle in a previous column and in my memory I got it confused — I imagined the elk had gone to visit the cow on the roof at 4J’s Dairy. Still, the the romantic part of me loves the idea of these two cooking up a midnight rendezvous, with the cow sneaking over to see her dear elk on his elegant building.

The Elks was one of the regular Friday night places my grandparents, Pauline and Leonard Mobley, would go to. The two of them always knew how to have a good time; they went out every Friday night from the time they got married.

My grandma, who I call Nanny, still goes out with friends on Friday nights, though my grandpa has passed away.

I asked about her memories of the Elks. “For one thing it wasn’t there ... it was downtown, on Alder,” she said. “When Fafa and I used to go to the Elks we would go up a bunch of stairs and it was on a top floor. We had fun. We would dance and eat. They had a band — seems like I remember doing the Twist there.”

My mom also remembers going to the original Elks, where she attended ballroom dance classes with her friends Candy and Cindy Beck and recalls the elegance of the building.

When I looked on Joe Drazan’s Bygone Walla Walla website I was surprised (and a little sad) to see that the original building on 4th and Alder streets was torn down in the summer of 1973. The photographs show a beautiful building with curved ceilings, chandeliers, and a fireplace — much different from the building we have today.

My cousin, Karie, had her wedding reception at the Elk’s about 15 years ago. It was a great place for our enormous family, especially because the dance floor is so large and we are a family of dancers! My 10-year class reunion also was held at the Elks, where we had so much fun, enjoyed excellent food – plus made use of that dance floor again.

And the Elks is still going on strong today. I had a lot of friends attend a concert there on New Year’s Eve. One even had a midnight kiss with a stranger in a cowboy hat. What kind of love current is in the air at the Elks?

Today, the noble Elk still stands guard on his building, but I don’t know where the cow is. I hope he isn’t too heartbroken; he looks like he may be searching for her still.

Sara Van Donge is a Walla Walla native and middle school dual language teacher. She can be reached at saravandonge@gmail.com.

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