PLATTSBURGH — His marriage to his wife is the only commitment Charles Harold Raymond has had longer than his membership in Plattsburgh Lodge 621, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
“All my friends were joining,” said Raymond, who is a resident at Meadowbrook Healthcare. “It was a nice men’s organization to belong to. Some of our friends were exalted rulers. I was just married. I was on some committee for membership. I could have worked through the chairs; I had different guys ask me. I didn’t want to dedicate that much time. I had just been married and starting a family.”
For Raymond, the Elks embodied fellowship. Today, he is the lodge’s oldest member.
“The ladies weren’t allowed then, only once or twice a year,” he said.
Raymond traveled all over with the Elks. In his visits to Florida, he partook of Elks’ dining rooms and camaraderie.
Getting in the fraternal organization was hard.
“I waited six to eight months. I was sponsored by a past exalted ruler. You had to be sponsored,” he said.
During that time, $100 purchased a lifelong membership.
“I paid by the year, $12,” Raymond said.
Once he reached the magic age of 65, he didn’t have to pay the full amount.
He hasn’t attended the lodge in about five years, but his wife, Jean, plays bridge there weekly.
“We used to have some nice parties,” Raymond said. “I used to take people down for dinner from out of town. We used to have good lobster bakes. Christmas, Elks always took care of poor children.”
Raymond met his wife through a friend, Robert Mehan, when he returned from his tour of duty during World War II.
“His wife worked at the bank with my future wife,” Raymond said.
Aug. 16 marks 67 years of marriage.
“We get along,” he said. “She’s right. I’m wrong.”