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Independent Voice

Odd is Optional

Jan 09, 2024 09:24AM ● By Debra Dingman, photos by Debra Dingman

The IOOF annual steak dinner and raffle raises money for student scholarships.

DIXON, CA (MPG) - No one asked another if they had been searching for a way to help others and be part of something bigger than themselves? No one asked anyone if they were odd enough either.

But inside, members of the IOOF Montezuma Lodge #172 reacquainted with loud laughter and firm handshakes, hugs, and slaps on the back showing they were happy to fundraise on behalf of Dixon students who would earn their scholarships.

IOOF scholarships fundraising

Friends gathered to enjoy a steak dinner and support the IOOF Montezuma Lodge #172 fundraising for local scholarships.

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), chartered in Dixon in 1870, is now composed of about 50 members. This was their annual fundraiser where monies go toward local scholarships. The outdoor grills were aflame while men plopped thick steaks on plates and loud greetings filled the cold night air. The fun of a raffle hadn’t even begun.

Who Are Odd Fellows?

Evolving from earlier Orders of Odd Fellows that was first founded in England during the 1700s, the American version was formed in 1819 as a non-political, non-sectarian, co-ed international fraternal order by Thomas Wildey in Baltimore, Maryland.

“It started to take care of orphans and widows at a time when there wasn’t government involvement in that,” said Cherie Fanning. The ‘command’ of the IOOF is to “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan.” The mission is to “improve and elevate the character of mankind.”

Dixon’s Montezuma Lodge #172 was organized in 1870 with 10 charter members. It soon ballooned to 150 members over the next several decades. The walls inside the IOOF Building at the corner of First and A Streets are full of pictures of the galas and gatherings.

“Everybody in Dixon belonged to it,” said Cherie. “The whole hall is full of pictures, and to have that many people in Dixon in one club, you know it was all of Dixon.” Now, there are Odd Fellows in all 50 states, with 108 in California, and there are only 25 of those with memberships as high as Dixon’s.

The building has been well preserved by Dixon’s Odd Fellows who oversee the building that also houses a pool table and card room upstairs. When Bud and Cherie Fanning purchased the restaurant in the bottom part of the building for Bud’s Pub & Grill in 1996, IOOF Board member Charlie Peters approached Bud about joining the Odd Fellows.

Odd Fellows Bud Fanning Bud's Pub & Grill

Bud Fanning stands behind the Odd Fellows podium where members meet twice a month above Bud's Pub & Grill.

“When Bud joined, he was the baby,” said Cherie.

“I made the fifth member, and one soon died,” Bud said. “What I saw was a few old guys and wondered what would happen if the club died? They are our landlords.” If the club dissolved, Bud explained, it would revert to the control of an international office, most likely, far away from Dixon, or it would be sold. So Bud went to work to grow the club. He recruited friends as well as co-workers from Albertson’s where he worked at the time. One was Dixonite Ed Nishizaki who joined about 25 years ago. He is the club’s secretary.

“I like the camaraderie,” Nishizaki said. “We’re friendly, and get along, and we all enjoy doing things for the community.”

Grand Efforts

The meeting place is up above Bud’s Pub and Grill. It is an unusual space — a large square lined with one or two rows of seats. The chairs face a podium that has an emblem of a linked gold-colored chain with the letters F, L, and T centered in them. That stands for friendship, love, and truth.

They meet twice a month and still do a traditional initiation for new members. Their titles sound formal like “Noble Grand and Vice Grand.” Ken Middleton is this year’s Grand Noble. And, they are reverent unlike the annual fundraiser that exudes all the fun of a post-football win. Dues are $75.

“We raise about $10,000 a year,” Bud said, sounding proud. “I just like to do things for the community.”

The group gives away eight to ten $500 or $1,000 scholarships annually.

“I like knowing there’s a young kid out there that you’re helping with a nudge up,” said member Tommy Raycraft.  

The members have also spent their time doing repairs and upgrades to the building, including new carpet, paint, and installing a motorized chair lift that carries someone up the 25 steps. And there is the endearing contribution of Bud’s pocketbook, like when he personally paid for all the new plumbing throughout the entire building.

“I like to keep the history going,” said Bud showing off original documents and photos from 100 years ago.

Bud Fanning Odd Fellows history

Bud Fanning overlooks one case of several that are full of ribbons, awards, and photos of the past 100 years of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

If you are interested in joining the organization, contact Nishizaki at (916) 837-6865, or by email at [email protected].

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