Brooklyn Lodge’s 90th birthday

After almost a century, Brooklyn’s Sons of Norway Lodge is not only surviving but thriving

Photo: Ester Hall Brooklyn Lodge’s president of 12 years, Sigrun DiRienzi, and incoming president Corinne Hall cut the birthday cake.

Photo: Ester Hall
Brooklyn Lodge’s president of 12 years, Sigrun DiRienzi, and incoming president Corinne Hall cut the birthday cake.

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

On Saturday, April 26th Brooklyn Lodge celebrated its 90th Anniversary at Sporting Club Gjoa in Brooklyn. Besides the Brooklyn Lodge members and friends, about 60 others came out to wish them well, with a good representation from many Sons of Noway Lodges: Faeder—Brooklyn, Nansen—Staten Island, Fredheim—Staten Island, Garborg—Long Island, Noronna Lodge—Pearl River, N.Y., Bondelandet Lodge—Lancaster Penn., Restauration Lodge—Wallingford, Penn., and others.

As is traditional, the event began with the pledge and the singing of both the U.S. and Norwegian National Anthems. This was followed by greetings from several Sons of Norway lodges. A wonderful speech was given by Mary Anderson, Third District Vice President, offering greetings from the Third District. She began by speaking about what she found in the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper the day that Brooklyn Lodge was formed, November 23, 1923. She had initially investigated its pages to see if Brooklyn Lodge was mentioned. There was no mention of the lodge, but there were some interesting headlines: “Gypsy Women Locks Butcher in Icebox” and “Flavored lipstick soon on the market to improve morals.” She then went on to talk about Brooklyn Lodge’s history. Its challenges and triumphs and how through it all, “You Survived!”

Some highlights of the lodge’s history include their amazing ability to increase membership over the years. They began with 25 members at the close of their charter in 1924. But between 1928 and 1929 they had increased to 240 members. During the Depression their number plummeted to 57, but was more than recouped during WWII when their numbers increased even more, boasting 400 members in 1943. And even then they had not yet reached their peak membership, which was 500 in 1953.

Of course the lodge also excelled at social giving, especially during the war years with the Nazi invasion of Norway in 1940. From the “Brooklyn Lodge History 2012”: “In 1940 came the horror of war. The lodge worked hard, … several thousands of dollars were given to Norway Relief Camp Norge and the Norwegian Seamen’s National Relief. We had entertainment for the crews of the Navy and Merchant Fleet. We kept in contact with our members in the Service, sending letters and packages.”

It is hard to believe today, but one of their most controversial decisions came in 1964 when the lodge voted to discontinue holding their meetings in the Norwegian language, but instead switched to English. The vote was won by a whisper of 30 to 25 and caused a huge rift in the club. Two other lodges, Polar Star and Stavanger, merged with Brooklyn Lodge in 1973.

The current President, Sigrun DeRienzo has served in the position for 12 years. “I became involved because of my parents, and after seeing and being with the members—it was inevitable, since the members are so wonderful. It’s just such a great, easy going atmosphere,” she said. Her last point is one of the core reasons Brooklyn Lodge survives. All feel welcome and at this celebration the inviting atmosphere was enhanced by The Swedish Meatballs regaling us. For this occasion they had added a saxophone to their usual trio, their versatility gliding from Norwegian tunes into tango and cha cha.

Photo: Ester Hall The Swedish Meatballs regale the crowd with the addition of a saxophone.

Photo: Ester Hall
The Swedish Meatballs regale the crowd with the addition of a saxophone.

“Brooklyn Lodge is very special not only because of its dedicated members but all others who enjoy coming to our meetings and socials to partake in the comradeship. We always have a great time celebrating our Norwegian heritage. It is a lot of work but everyone pitches in to help, whether they bring food, raffle prizes, or assist with cleaning up. Thanks to Dave Thorsen and my daughter Corinne Hall (the incoming president) for their efforts bringing in several new ‘young’ members. This is very exciting,” summarized long-term member Ester Hall.

Indeed it is. Gratulerer Brooklyn Lodge! Skal—for another 90 years in which to not only survive but thrive.

This article originally appeared in the May 16, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.