Moose Lodge 1 James Perry has been the administrator at the Moose Lodge on U.S. 31 for 13 years, and has been a member of the Loyal Order of Moose for 41 years. In his time with the Moose Lodge, Perry has reached the fourth degree, Pilgrim, which is awarded to few members for their service in the community. With numbers on the decline, Perry and other active members have worked to provide a family friendly environment and social atmosphere for the lodge

Posted: Wednesday, September 24, 2014 7:00 am By DALE MOSS

I found James Perry in the bar, it already smoky that late morning. Let’s go across the hall to talk, Perry said. The next week, members of the Loyal Order of Moose in Sellersburg voted to keep smoking in their bar area. The subject was sensitive like it has been most everywhere. Here, though, time to change had not come. Should it have? Will appeasing the present derail the future? Membership already is down for these Moose, no different than for many clubs like it. Most-recent tries failed to establish Moose groups in New Albany and Jeffersonville. Perry, a highly-decorated Moose and administrator in Sellersburg, looks ahead optimistically yet worries. “There’s been so much hard work done for so many years,” he said. “I’d hate to see it fold up.”

As Perry listed reason after reason the Moose matter, a dozen or so retirees nearby played bridge in the already smoke-free community room. Few are members but all are welcome to use the lodge without charge. Like does her friends, Nancy Raisor appreciates old-fashioned hospitality that even includes a Perry-made pot of coffee. “They go out of their way,” Raisor said of her hosts. “It’s a shame people aren’t aware. “It’s a shame this is fading, more or less.” At 75, Perry figures he is older than the typical Moose. Then again, the average age seems in the 50s, not the 30s. Like most traditional organizations, this one struggles to appeal to younger generations. Members neither must wear goofy hats nor have been fans of TV’s Bullwinkle. Young people’s loyalties nonetheless lie elsewhere. “There’s too much out there to do,” Perry said.

Perry, Sellersburg, worked at DuPont in Louisville and, at a friend’s suggestion, joined the Moose across the river 41 years ago. Why? “Cheap drinks and dances every Saturday night,” he told me. Two years later, a curious Perry accepted a one-year appointment to group leadership and, before long, he was hooked.

“I saw what they did for kids and seniors,” he said. Perry switched to Sellersburg in 1986, one year before the lodge moved to its current home on U.S. 31. The building is indeed a local hub, a place for wedding receptions and car shows and family reunions and flea markets. The National Rifle Association meets there, same with a large monthly fun gathering for widows and widowers. A shelter house is available, like are RV hook-ups. When fees are charged, they are between competitive and nominal. “Community service,” Perry said in explanation.

The 700 or so Sellersburg members — women as well as men — pay no more than $40 annually in dues. Most of that affords the lodge’s allotment for Moose homes for troubled children in Illinois and for a health-care center for seniors in Florida. The Sellersburg group donates here and there, such as to schools, Little League and the Special Olympics. It also distributes gift baskets at Christmas, an especially warm-and-fuzzy purpose that thins coffers never fat. The lodge mans roadblocks plus buys state licenses — $5,500-worth this year — to host card games and sell pull tabs. The Moose pulled the plug on bingo when competition for the gambling dollar proved too tough.

For a majority of these Moose, the interest remains mostly social. Darts and pool tournaments, for instances, prove nice draws and the crowd for Friday night dinners can reach 100. “Last Friday night we had ribs,” Perry recently said. “It sold out.”

Beer is but $2 and cocktails top out at $3.50. Good deeds nonetheless require commitment at least from enough to keep them impressively going. Jane Harris, the group’s bookkeeper and secretary, offered a veritable stampede of other examples of Moose being public-minded. “Everybody should give back to their community,” she said.

Perry’s health isn’t the greatest. He has played the administrator’s role for 13 years, 12 years longer than he expected. He still shows up pretty much daily, though, cooking and ordering supplies and ... Perry figures the Sellersburg Moose somehow will charge ahead. “Oh yeah, it’ll keep going,” he said.