The Visiting Ladies of 1909
by Geraldine Knatz, LACHS Board Member
These days when you leave a conference or convention, the first thing you discard is your name badge. Who wants to be caught with a lariat around their neck or a big card pinned to their chest displaying their name? Not so, 100 years ago. Convention goers would be decked out with pins, pinbacks, ribbons and watch fobs to commemorate their attendance at an event. Often well made, these pieces of ephemera have stood the test of time and help us image the life of a conventioneer in Los Angeles over a century ago. The discovery of a “Visiting Ladies, Los Angeles 1909, pin with an elk head on it was a tip off that this pin would have adorned the dress of women who accompanied men attending the Fraternal Order of the Elks 1909 convention in Los Angeles. The convention was hosted by Elks Lodge No. 99, located in downtown Los Angeles.
What a convention this was! Thousands of people came in by special trains from across the country. Delegations from other states spent thousands of dollars to adorn floats for the grand parade, representing their home state lodges. The parade would rival the Rose parade. Some delegates even endured a long sea voyage to attend- the five delegates from the Philippines, representing the 500 members of the Elks in Manila, were lauded for traveling the furthest. The conventioneers traveled throughout the region seeing the sites the Los Angeles region had to offer. A “Long Beach Day” during the convention boasted the largest crowd ever in that city- 35,000. Three and four car trains were leaving Los Angeles every three to four minutes to head to Long Beach. By noon, all the bathing suits to rent were gone as 5000 people played in the surf. Everyone proudly wore their badges and badge-swapping between lodge members was in full swing.
Fortunately for the Elks Lodge No. 99, their building or “temple” was directly adjacent to the Los Angeles Incline Railway, also known as Angel’s Flight. A passenger record was set during the one week convention that began on July 11th and ended on July 17th - Angel’s Flight handled 60,000 passengers that week.
The Elks had both a main building and an annex. The annex was the old Crocker Mansion, at the corner of Olive and Third Street, the former stately home of the Crocker banking family. The structural issues associated with the building had been known for some time and the Elks purchased the building for $65,000, aware of its faults. About a year before the convention, the Elks hoped to remodel the building but engineers advised them to tear the mansion down and build a concrete-reinforced structure.
The year after the convention, the architectural firm of Train and Williams designed new arches in the Beaux Arts style for Angel’s flight. Look closed at the arches today, and you will see the letters B. P. O. E. are clearly visible. Although the Elks Club History (https://www.elks.org/who/history/angels.cfm) reports that the lower arch had been constructed and the letters B.P. O.E. were carved in by the Elks in time for conventioneers to easily find their way up to their new building, the permit to construct the arches was not filed until well after the convention was over, in May 1910. The Elks however did make a donation for construction of the arches, their contribution likely acknowledged by the B.P.O E. letters proximately displayed in the arch. 
Today the letters B. P. O. E. are painted over but still clearly visible. People pass below them every day without having any inkling of the connection to the Elks Lodge No. 99 of Los Angeles. At one time, the letters were painted black so they could be clearly visible. Then, later the depression created by the carved letters was filled in, obliterating them, creating a blank panel.  Today, this small bit of Los Angeles history is still visible, although not as prominent as it once was.
Angel Flight riders might assume, as Elks do today, that the B. P. O. E. stands for the “best people on earth.”
Many people carried memories of the July 1909 Elks convention, especially the ladies, as witnessed by the number of ladies pins that can be found today. These pins are not particularly rare. For those who wanted a more precious memory of the convention, enterprising Los Angeles jewelers could make them a pin in solid gold!
 Los Angeles’s Angels Flight by Jim Dawson, page 32.
 Angel’s Flight by Virginia L. Comer, page 41.
 Ibid, page 42.