Editor’s note: This story is part one in a series of stories about the history of Dunnellon Moose Lodge. The lodge celebrated their 35th anniversary last month.
Thirty-five years ago, gas was at $0.89 per gallon, U.S. Postage Stamps were $0.24, a dozen eggs cost $.65, and a pound of bacon was just $1.80.
President Ronald Reagan delivered his famous speech where he urged Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union, to “tear down this wall.”
Aretha Franklin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The U.S. Stock Market crashed with a 508 point drop, or 22.6 percent.
It was also when Dunnellon Moose Lodge 2308 first opened.
It all started with a chance encounter with Whitey Burdick, of the Ocala Lodge.
As Lowell Smallridge remembers, “There was a man who came into Dunnellon one day at Alan’s Auto Parts. I was there with Allen (Fort) and he got to talking to us about the Moose,” Smallridge said.
“Long story short, he explained the Moose Lodge and wanted to know if we would be interested in starting a Moose Lodge.”
Within two weeks, over 50 men had signed up to become Charter Members of what would be known as Dunnellon Moose Lodge No. 2308. Both Smallridge and Fort were on that list.
The first task at hand was to locate a place that the members could meet.
Smallridge set up a temporary meeting space after hours where he worked at Rainbow Springs Golf Course.
Lydia Mills still remembers a time when her husband, Wayne, would go to meetings at the American Legion.
But the group needed a permanent place for the Lodge home, and it was not hard to find.
“Vera (Smallridge) and I actually owned the building the Moose Lodge is in now,” Lowell Smallridge said.
The building had been under contract and was scheduled to become a barbecue restaurant, but the deal fell through, so Smallridge rented the space to the Moose to hold their meetings.
Once 41 Tavern and several small restaurants since it was first built in 1972, the building was small, and after a few years, it was determined that more space was needed.
“It was so small that sometimes to walk from one end of the room to the other, you had to walk behind the bar to get there,” Lydia Mills said.
Smallridge served as the Building Committee chairman and acquired the necessary materials while Wayne Mills and Jim Wilson made sure the work was completed.
“It could not have been done without them,” Smallridge said.
Eventually the Lodge purchased the building and made the Moose home permanent.