Today’s Word: ‘Elks’ as in… the Club.

My dad has been on my mind today. Gene Gauche would have been 96 years old. I’ve been wondering what our conversations would have been like had I been able to bring him two soft tacos from Taco Bell, and a Blizzard from Dairy Queen … both for lunch.

I’ve been wondering what he would have thought about all that’s been happening. It would have been fascinating to hear his thoughts about a global pandemic and not being able to see the family that he moved here to be with. It would have been fascinating to hear his thoughts about the senseless death of another black man in the streets of Minneapolis.

I was in something like the 4th or 5th grade the first time “race” and “justice” got talked about in our home. My dad returned home from an Elks Club meeting and was visibly irritated. A good friend of our family, a good friend from our church community, a good friend to many people in town, my dad’s good friend – my dad’s African American friend – was not allowed to join the Elks Club.

My dad could join, but my dad’s friend could not join. The Elks would not welcome a black man into membership.

When I asked my dad why they wouldn’t let him join, he simply replied, “Because he’s black.”

I don’t remember much else from that conversation, but I do remember the sense of disbelief that “Because he’s black” would be a reason for anyone not being able to do anything anywhere. I could see it in his face: righteous indignation. For a 10 or 11 year old kid, it was like saying someone couldn’t join my tree fort club because their shoes were the wrong brand.

Wait, what?

If dad were here today on his 96th birthday, I would have asked him about all of that. My only hope is that whatever details he remembered would have included him telling me he never went back. I can only hope.

A toast to Gene: Let’s never go back there.


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