During WWI, from 1914-1918, financial depression hit the area very hard. During these years the Elks rallied their forces and came to the help of many of those in need. B.P.O.E. #1291, was the main agency for charities such as food baskets, clothing drives, and toys for the children at Christmas. It was the Elks who extended a helping hand in the true spirit of Charity and Brotherly Love.
The Elks of Lakeland were famous in leading the entertainment at large gatherings or conventions in the city, such as the annual minstrel shows.
The victorious return of our troops from the Great War brought exuberance throughout the city as the war to end all wars came to an end. Some had visible scars of battles, while others were well hidden within the minds and memories of our troops. Such is the heavy cost of freedom, a price paid in blood, time and time again, by our proud servicemen and women.
A terrible epidemic had hit Lakeland toward the end of WWI which took its toll on many families. The spread of Spanish influenza inflicted fear among everyone. Lakeland’s hospital was full beyond capacity and the medical staff worked beyond the limits of endurance.
On October 13, 1918, every church closed for the first time in the history of Lakeland. The return of our troops and the end of a terrible epidemic was a great factor in the growth of our Lodge. Membership grew and everyone’s thoughts turned to better things to come. Peace was here at last and the economy was about to explode into the greatest boom in history.
December 7, 1941, was burned into everyone’s memory with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It truly was, as President Roosevelt stated, “a day of infamy”. Soon afterwards Germany declared war on the United States. Our reaction was that of retaliation. Patriotism swelled in everyones’ hearts and the Elks rallied to the call. Our Lodge was set up as a recruiting office, we promoted the sale of war bonds, raised large sums of money to support the Elks Field Hospital and declared the Lodge Building a Civil Defense Station.
The Brothers of our Lodge who helped with this effort were too many to try and research, however, a special mention of thanks to our Exalted Rullers of those years: William Wolfe, 1940-1941; Lon Oxford, 1941-1942; Earl Toole, 1942-1943; Aldine Brinson, 1943-1944; and J.C. Rodgers 1944-1945.
President Theodore Roosevelt bestowed the honor upon the B.P.O.E. as being the founder of Flag Day in June of 1908, and declared its observance to be June 14th of each year thereafter. At the end of W.W.II, President Truman, a member of the B.P.O.E. himself, publicly reaffirmed that honor. Grand Lodge now has declared the Annual observation of Flag Day mandatory by each subordinate Lodge since 1908.