Meant to link to this Lisa Gray column about the Odd Fellows lodge in the Heights and its recent growth in membership last week, but since I didn't do it then I figure now is as good a time as any.
Find us some new members, the old guys told Ramon Martin, who was by several decades the youngest member of Odd Fellows Lodge 225 in the Houston Heights. That lodge had been around for a century, but like fraternal groups across the country -- the Elks, Jaycees, Shriners -- the Odd Fellows had largely failed to attract new generations. The old guys were afraid Lodge 225 would die with them.
Ramon, a musician, tried recruiting history buffs and battle re-enactors. (Such great old costumes and photos at this lodge!) He tried recruiting Goths. (Floating eyeballs! Coffins! Other weird old symbols!) But none of those recruits stuck.
Ramon mentioned the lodge to some art-car people he knew. They thought it was cool, and they brought friends.
But he didn't expect that crowd to stick, either.
"Look!" says Kenny Browning, sticking out his foot. "Skull camo!" When I look closely at his Chuck Taylor sneakers, I see little skulls grinning among the gray blotches. The shoes will look great with one of his art cars.
Seven years after Ramon began his recruitment drive, Kenny is the Heights lodge's Noble Grand -- which is to say, its grand poohbah -- and he's an obvious symbol of the Odd Fellows' odd comeback. The lodge claims 45 members and is growing fast. This year, it's on track to become the largest Odd Fellows lodge in Texas.