Elks Lodge Commerates 50 Years of Sharing and Caring
The 1960’s were a time of change and growth in the Santa Clarita Valley (SCV), a rural area comprised of Canyon Country, Newhall, Saugus, and Valencia – now the City of Santa Clarita. The SCV was a remote area at the time, located roughly 35 miles north of the City of Los Angeles Civic Center.
The year of 1967 was a pivotal year for growth and change in the area. Community leaders felt the need for a local Elks Lodge and residents wanted a college of their own; November 15, 1967, Elks Lodge 2379 was chartered and November 21, 1967 residents voted to create College of the Canyons (COC). During the summer of 1967, the community of Valencia was born, luring young families from over the hill. Valencia Industrial Center was being developed. The single-screen Plaza Theater in Newhall and the Mustang Drive-In off Soledad Canyon Road were the only cinematic venues.
In 1966, Gayle Dillenbeck contacted Bob Gill, a member of Santa Monica Lodge, and members from other lodges saying, “The SCV community is growing and needs a lodge of its own!” A local Lodge concept was born at a meeting in Charles Dillenbeck’s home. Two hundred fifty-eight members with Gayle Dillenbeck as Exalted Ruler, were initiated to become Elks Lodge 2379 on November15, 2017.
Of the remaining twelve Lodge Charter members, six members – Nathan Beverly, Bruce Fortine, Bob Gill, Robert Tallent, Buzz Tripp and Jim Williams – reside in the SCV area; the other six members have left the area. Five Charter members – Nathan, Bruce, Bob, Robert and Jim – convened as a panel in May to share historical memories of these early days. Beverly, a member of San Fernando Elks Lodge in the 60’s danced to big name dance bands such as Harry James. “Dancing and a $5 steaks were great times!” Fortine shared his memories of community growth. His mentor, Bill Bonelli, owned Saugus Speedway (where stock cars raced) – now the Saugus Swap Meet location. The community was growing – COC was formed; Bruce was elected Trustee and remained in that position until 2017. Gill was a friend of Ed Dillenbeck, owner of Dillenbeck Market at the corner of Sierra Highway and Soledad Canyon Road; Ed approached Gill to become a local Elk and the rest is history. As Lodge bartender, he recalls serving Wild Turkey whiskey to Tex Williams, an American Western Swing musician. Tallent says, “Upon release from the Navy in 1966, I owned a service station in Palmdale and worked from 6 am until 10 pm, seven days per week with only two days off work during the entire year”; he was asked to join. Williams was a member of the Van Nuys Lodge; when Jim mentioned moving to SCV, his wife asks “Just where is that place?”
Roy Rogers, American singer, actor and one of the most popular Western stars of his era, with wife Dale visited the Lodge; Cliffie Stone, American country singer, musician, record producer, and radio and TV personality visited the Lodge.
The Elks is a national fraternal order, with more than 2000 lodges and approximately a million members across the country. Elk Lodges are places where neighbors come together, families share meals, and children grow up. Elks offer programs that help children grow up healthy and drug-free, meet the needs of today’s veterans, and improve quality of life.
Today, Elks Lodge 2379 has 689 members led by Exalted Ruler, Maurice Hamilton. Maurice says, “It is an honor to serve the lodge and community during our 50th year celebration.”
For more information about the Elks 50th Anniversary, their programs and projects, contact Phyllis Walker at 661-251-1172 or visit www.Elks.org.
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