60 years for Shrine at former Arensdale School
Some organizations exist to have fun, others to carry out serious functions.
Then there's the Shrine Club, which does both.
At least that's the simple version by Dr. Ralph Hathaway, secretary of the Westside-based Colorado Springs Shrine Club.
The organization holds weekly dances and, like most of its counterparts around the country, is famous for its clowns and various parade units (average participation is 18 parades a year). Mean-while, the 300 or so Colorado Springs members also support the Shriners' 22 hospitals, which provide free care to children across the continent (20 in the United States, 1 in Canada and 1 in Mexico) afflicted with orthopedic disabilities, spinal cord injuries, burns and other health issues.
The club's fun side will be on display Friday, June 27, as members celebrate their 60th year on the former Arensdale School property, 6 S. 33rd St.
The public is invited to join the event, starting at 4:15 p.m. and featuring comments by local political leaders and Al Kaly Potentate Bill Stoner, plus a picnic and (from 5 to 8 p.m.) ballroom dancing to Bill Emery's band. The only charge is for the picnic meal - $5 a person for non-members.
(Note: Al Kaly is the name of the Shrine temple covering southern Colorado. There are 191 temples throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Panama.)
The anniversary not only marks 60 years for Shriners in Colorado Springs, but 60 years as owners of the old Arensdale School building, which they began calling home in May 1948.
The club has actively sought out former Arensdale students - no easy task, considering the school closed in 1931. One of the two they have found so far, Crystal Rhodes, now 85, still lives across the street on Pikes Pikes Avenue, in the same house she grew up in. She only attended one year, in first grade (there was no kindergarten then). After that, she and other kids from the neighborhood got bused to Whittier.
During her year at Arensdale, she recalls just two classrooms - one for grades 1-2, the other grades 3-4. At the time, the school had a large lawn out front (now a parking lot) “The school janitor kept the lawn perfect,” Rhodes laughed, and only allowed the kids onto it for an Easter egg hunt.
According to historian Mel McFarland, Arensdale had originally been a town of its own, getting annexed to Colorado City about 100 years ago. The school was built in 1910, as part of School District 1. When Colorado City itself was annexed into Colorado Springs in 1917, all the SD-1 schools became part of School District 11.
In 1920, Arensdale was temporarily closed for a year, then reopened in 1921, according to a District 11 history. After the school's 1931 closure, it sat 17 years, vacant and unused, until it was bought with the formation of the Colorado Springs Shrine Club.
Several times over the years, the Shriners have expanded the building, to the point where now, at 11,452 square feet, it's nearly three times as big as the original two- room facility, Hathaway said.
The additions have consisted of a hardwood dance floor and offices, a kitchen, upstairs restrooms and a handicapped entrance which, just last winter, was insulated and paneled. A future addition is in the talking stages - an estimated 1,200 square feet on the north side of the building that would bring the Al Kaly temple to Colorado Springs from its current rented space in Pueblo, Hathaway said.
Sitting on about two acres, the facility is available for rent, including events such as wedding receptions or bar mitzvahs. That's a key source of income for the Colorado Springs Shrine Club, Hathaway said.
Formed in 1872, Shriners are a kind of extension of the Masons, a centuries-old, worldwide fraternal organization dedicated to faith, good works and individual integrity. Masons have included George Washington and 13 other presidents. A Masonic lodge is on the Westside, at 1150 Panorama Drive.
The other current officers of the Colorado Springs Shrine Club are Swede Hansen, president; and Billy Swartz, treasurer.
Hathaway, a retired Air Force flight surgeon and hospital commander, uses that background in leading the Shrine Club's monthly medical screenings for children aged 18 and under who come in with medical issues. Other Shriners assist with the screening paperwork.
After examining each child, Hathaway writes up what he learned and submits it to a Shriner medical board. “The board says yea or nay [on whether the child should be allowed to go to one of the Shriner hospitals],” Hathaway said. “And it's always 'yea.'”
One local youngster the club is seeking to help is the boy who was recently mauled by a pit bull, requiring about 2,000 stitches, he said.
Facts about the Shriners hospitals are impressive. Since the first one opened in 1922 - inspired by the crippling effects of polio on kids in those times - close to $7.6 billion has been spent in treating more than 800,000 children.
All care and services are provided without charge. According to Shriner information, the money comes from “gifts, bequests, income from an endowment fund, hospital fundraising events and the annual assessment paid by every Shriner.”
For more information, call Hathaway at 494-1788.
Westside Pioneer article