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The B.P.O.Elks was founded in New York on Feb. 16, 1868, by entertainers who would meet above the Jolly Cork Tavern. Its founder is regarded as Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian (1842-1880), an English music hall entertainer, who was a member of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes in England. Vivian died in Leadville, Colo., Mar. 20, 1880. At the time of his death. he was the leader of a repertoire company performing in Leadville. The RAOB and the "Eleven O'Clock symbol on the Elks' emblem and the Elks' Eleven O'Clock Toast, in theory, trace their history to the period prior to the Norman Invasion of England in 1066. During the 1067 uprising, Oda, half-brother of King William, instituted a curfew, from the Norman French term couvre le feu, "cover the fire," when all hearth fires were required to be banked at 11:00, thus ending all meetings. At the hour of 11:00 a toast was made in remembrance of those who were gone.
If you enjoy historical "spelunking," you might try to find someone initiated before 1952, when the blindfolding of candidates was done away with (ER rapped four times as the signal to remove blindfolds), or even better, ask some of Elkdom's older Lodges if they still have paraphernalia for the old "Part II" wherein pranks were played upon incoming members. Some of these were quite complex electro-mechanical wonders, while others squirted water or shot off blanks.
The most widespread practice was for each candidate to ride a live goat around the Lodge room. A 1901 poem, "When Father Rode The Goat" should give some idea of the former initiation's arduous nature:
When Father Rode the Goat.
The house is full of arnica
And mystery profound;
We do not dare to run about
Or make the slightest sound;
We leave the big piano shut
And do not strike a note;
The doctor's been here seven times
Since father rode the goat.
He joined the lodge a week ago --
Got in at 4 a.m.
And sixteen brethren brought him home
Though he says he brought them.
His wrist WAS sprained and one big rip,
Had rent his Sunday coat --
There must have been a lively time
When father rode the goat.
He’s resting on the couch to-day!
And practicing his signs --
The hailing signal, working grip,
And other monkeyshines;
He mutters passwords ‘neath his breath,
And other things he'll quote --
They surely had an evening's work
When father rode the goat.
He has a gorgeous uniform,
All gold and red and blue;
A bat with plunges and yellow braid,
And golden badges too.
But, somehow, when we mention it,
He wears a look so grim
We wonder if he rode the goat
Or if the goat rode him.
Originally posted by The Axeman
thus ending all meetings. At the hour of 11:00 a toast was made in remembrance of those who were gone.