These men are Odd Fellows.
Note the capital letters. They are not odd fellows, but Odd Fellows as in the "International Order of Odd Fellows," a fraternal organization that dates back several centuries.
These men belonged to the local chapter, Golden Link Lodge No. 167. According to the St. Louis Park Historical Society, it "appears to be a consolidated Lodge that covered the entire metropolitan area, since officers were from Minneapolis, St. Paul, Mound, and Spring Lake Park."
The headquarters of this group was at 4388 France Avenue in Edina, the building located in the northwest corner of 44th and France. In this circa 1950s photo, Hawkins Confectionery and Morningside Grocery & Meats also occupies the building.
This is the current Google maps street view of the building. Although there have been some updates over the years, it still looks much the same as it did when it was built in 1918.
Here's a closer look at the Odd Fellows sign above the door to the stairway to their second floor meeting hall.
Not only did the Odd Fellows meet here, but the rest of the neighborhood also found uses for the space. As Dudley Parsons, Sr. wrote in his Feb. 27, 1920 "Morningsider" column in Lake Harriet News:
"The Odd Fellows’ Hall on France Avenue and 44th Street is a community center of increasing usefulness. Not only are the lodge meetings and social functions held there but regular Saturday afternoon dancing classes, neighborhood parties and entertainments, and the service of the Morningside Church and Sunday School. The Hall is equipped with kitchen accommodations and has a stage for amateur dramatic performances. There is a commodious reception room and there are two other rooms available. The Hall is occupied nearly every night in the week."
It was here in 1920 that Morningside residents met to discuss seceding from Edina, and later where the Village of Morningside council held its meetings.
The organization itself was "known affectionately as the 'Oofs,' wrote Parsons in his November 19, 1936, column, noting the importance of the lodge in creating a sense of neighborliness. "For a quarter of a century it has been gathering weekly – and sometimes oftener – two score of the neighbors in pleasant social business and pastime. I suppose that fully a hundred families have been represented in these gatherings – lodge meetings, lectures or dancing parties. It is very doubtful that ever a member of these families is ill or unfortunate without the intelligent sympathy of the others, and many an hour of pain and grief has been lessened in its intensity by the comfort of this ministration. I am the right person to say this because I have never been a member of any lodge..."
According to Minneapolis Tribune stories, the Golden Link Lodge met in other cities prior to 1920. Their name is listed in local phone directories until at least 1967.
Were you an "Oof," as Parsons would say? Did you go to one of the dances or other community gatherings in the meeting hall? Please share your memories with us by commenting here or emailing me.
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