Odd Fellows Normal in Fulton
You can barely get a word in edge-wise.
"We're definitely a fraternity," explained Warren Hollrah, Odd Fellow member. "We get along and chat about all kinds of stuff."
And you get quite a greeting when you come in the door.
The laughter never dies, and with the Odd Fellows. The odd jokes never get old.
"Yes, very strange," said Jessie Purvis Odd Fellow lodge 105 "Very odd! You know what they say about that it takes one to know one!"
Some have been odd longer than others.
"I actually joined when I was 13," said Kenneth Higgins, Old Fellows Grand Secretary of Missouri. "I've just said my membership was sort of like one of those pre-arranged marriages. He came home and said I've signed you up to join the Junior Odd Fellow lodge."
Some joined later in life like Doc Kritzer,"About three years, but my Dad was in for 65 years."
And some were destined for the title, like Jessie Purvis who's been a member for "All my life!"
The independent order of Odd Fellows opened its Fulton lodge in April of 1857. At its peak, the Odd Fellow lodges peppered the state.
"Used to be 890 in the state and now have 58," said Higgins.
Callaway lodge 105 has been united for 150 years in their desire "to improve mankind."
From charity donations and educational scholarships to sending a high schooler to the United Nations, the 58 Missouri lodges strive to help others.
"Across the state, we're helping about 100 people who can't leave their homes but lack the finances to supports that. So we're supplementing their income," said ____
Its an organization steeped in ritual. One of the only things that secretive about the Odd Fellows is their voting process; its a secret ballot.
Every Odd Fellows organization across the country uses a ballot box like this. White is yes; black is no; you stick it in, and nobody knows.
A lot has stayed the same, but, as of 2000, there's been one big change. The "fellow" in Odd Fellow is misleading, this is no longer a "no girls allowed" kind of club.
"We're the first fraternal organization that permitted women to belong at least in the United States," said Higgins.
The only rule "We don't discuss religion and we don't discuss politics and that keeps us in more of a neutral area, " said Higgins.
"Very good principles that makes you proud to be a part of it," said Kritzer.
The Odd Fellows were started in England in the 1700's.
Four U.S. Presidents have been members of the Odd Fellows.