The Mighty East St. Louis Council of 1971
This blog post was written from the perspective of an early 1970s Lodge member and contains terminology, such as “Clans” and “Lodge Chief,” that were used at that time in Lodge’s history. Please note, neither clan nor chief is currently used by the Loyal Lodge of Ondessonk & Tekakwitha. The organization has evolved significantly over the years. Though it was never our intention, we now know that some of the terminology and practices of the past were culturally insensitive. Our evolution continues. Camp Ondessonk, a youth (and adult) development organization that impacts thousands of people annually, is growing and learning.
The East St. Louis Clan (now referred to as “Councils”) included East St. Louis, Cahokia, Fairview Heights, and all of Madison County. By 1971 the population of East St. Louis was rapidly decreasing but the Catholic Schools and Parishes remained strong.
To my 18-year-old eyes the dining hall seemed packed! The Lodge Reunion was on and the annual Lodge meeting was in full swing. Clans made signs and banners in friendly competition to prove that they were the best! A spirit of rebirth filled the dining hall as the new Lodge Chief (now referred to as “Lodge Official”) extolled the crowd to fulfill the Lodge’s mission to serve Camp Ondessonk.
The new officers of the East St. Louis Clan committed to reinvigorating their group and serving Camp through active involvement. A meeting was held at Assumption High School for all members. The turnout was outstanding! A slide show of the past summer (thanks to Fr. Tom Barrett) was shown and the officers could feel that this year could be very special.
A member council was set up and met monthly to plan activities. A work weekend would be the first activity. A school bus was rented, sleeping bags and luggage were loaded, and the very crowded bus headed for Camp.
The weekend was one of those beautiful fall weekends where the days are warm but the nights cool. A work list was given to the group by Royce Reeder, the Camp Ranger, and the group got it all done! The members got closer as a group, made some new friends, and the officers could tell this group was special.
The clan officers tried to plan one activity each month. These activities included:
- Bake Sales at local grocery stores
- Christmas Caroling in neighborhoods (in those days you would just load up cars, find a promising neighborhood, and go door to door singing for donations)
- Helping the Camp Secretary with mailings at her house
- Work Weekends at Camp
The Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) had a very active sports program. The East St. Louis Clan decided to create a softball practice team that played practice games with any school team that wanted to schedule us for a game.
The Lodge officers called all members back to Camp in the spring for a convention. Two awards that hadn’t been given in years were presented to members who showed outstanding service to their clans – Valiant Warrior and Faithful Maiden (this would later be known as the Lodge Arrowhead). A new award, Council Member, was established to recognize exceptional service to the Lodge as a whole (in time this would become similar to the St. Jean de Brebeuf Award). There was no limit to the number of people who could receive these awards.
At the 1972 Lodge Reunion and Convention East St. Louis Clan and Paducah Clan were named, for the first time, Clans of The Year. Paducah was the smallest clan and East St. Louis was the second biggest clan. Both clans proved that the number of active members that a group had was not as important as the spirit and enthusiasm that the group possessed.
Written by: Pati Egan