As Older Lodges Shrink, One Newcomer is On the Attack

NATICK, Mass.  This town, like many others across America, was once home to a veritable menagerie of fraternal orders–Lions, Moose, Elks, and the Loyal Order of the Buffalo Heads.  “Those were the days,” says 84-year-old Samuel Pondalfi, who once belonged to the International Order of Friendly Sons of the Raccoons and the American Legion.  “You could go from lodge to lodge to lodge, one beer after another, and all the while telling yourself ‘It’s for a good cause.'”

lodge
“Resolved–that the proceeds of the ‘Walk for Thirst’ be used to buy a keg of beer.”

 

But those days are gone, the victim of a fragmentation of civil society described by sociologist Robert Putnam in his book “Bowling Alone.”  “Men eventually realized there were no women at men’s lodges,” he says in a non-existent email exchange, “and so they stayed home with their families where the beer was cheaper and they could look at porn on the internet once their wives were asleep.”

 

lodge1
“My lodge mascot can eat your lodge mascot!”

 

A new lodge on the block is trying to reverse that trend, however, and is attracting younger converts with a message and a totem that is edgier than the old fart-vibe that emanates from the premises of older fraternal orders.  “We’re not going to sponsor a Little League team,” says Ken Whittle, president of Lodge #3 of the Loyal Order of the Komodo Dragon, which takes its mascot from the Indonesian lizard that can grow to ten feet in length.  “We might eventually decide to have a kids’ mixed martial arts league, but first we have a lot of liquor to consume.”

lodge2
Elks Lodge Fever–Catch it!

 

Marketing experts say the old lodges have shrunk because they failed to respond to changing demographics among adult males.  “You need to imprint yourself on a man’s consciousness before all his grey matter is taken up with boring things like his kids’ names and his wife’s birthday,” says Todd Zelinsky of Griddle Cake Consultants, a brand and image-remake firm.   “The Komodo Dragons have a positive message of random, carnivorous violence that the other lodges seem to have lost sight of.”

lodge3
“I’ve got the old lady in my cross-hairs.”

 

Older lodges say their rough edges have simply been softened by the normal interaction of a social group with non-members in their communities as they seek accommodations to pursue their charitable goals.  “We have an annual parade on our motor scooters,” says Worshipful Master Bob Girardin of the Keokuk, Iowa Shriners lodge, “so we need to get a temporary permit to terrorize our fellow citizens.”

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