PREWAR ELKS CLUB
When the Japanese occupied Guam in World War II, they grabbed what they wanted and turned it into what they wanted. This they did with the prewar Elks Club in Hagåtña. Instead of a clubhouse for statesiders as was its original purpose, a local Japanese resident of Guam made it his own business - a clubhouse for Japanese military officers. Officers paid for their liquor, their main activity, but also for any meals they might order. It became known as the Ōmiya Kaikan; or the "Guam Hall."
Many Guam residents at least know of the Elks Club and its clubhouse located in Agaña Heights. Many a wedding reception, private party and bingo game has been held there. The original, before the war, was in downtown Hagåtña in a fine-looking, two storey, concrete building.
The Elks were founded in the US as a social club for white men, whose lodges were a place where they could socialize. They also have done a lot of charity work for all segments of the community. Among the several membership requirements, being white and a US citizen immediately disqualified nearly every Chamorro male on Guam from joining. The establishment of the Young Men's League of Guam was in reaction to such restrictions in American clubs. The Elks eliminated the racial qualification in 1973.
Members of the Elks Club who were living on Guam thanks to their military assignment began the process of petitioning for the establishment of a Guam lodge. This finally came about in 1914.
A clubhouse was essential to the Elks and they found one in a two storey, concrete building built by Jose K. Shimizu, a Japanese businessman on Guam. The lodge bought the building from Shimizu and in time the building had three dining rooms, a hall, a bar, a club room and a reading room. By the 1930s, there were between 70 and 80 Guam members, all statesiders.
DURING THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION
When the Japanese took over Guam on December 10, 1941 everything was at their disposal. Automobiles, generators, boats, machinery, homes and buildings were all fair game. The Japanese felt especially free to grab whatever was owned by Americans on Guam, since the US was the enemy. The Americans were all rounded up and sent to prison camp in Japan anyway, so why not use the cars and buildings they left behind.
So a local Japanese resident and businessman, who became tied to the highest level of the Japanese government on Guam, took possession of the now-empty Elks Club and made it his own business, which he called the Ōmiya Kaikan. Ōmiya was the Japanese name for Guam, and kaikan meant "meeting hall." The club was to function mainly as a bar for Japanese officers. Meals could be served, too, as there was a kitchen, but the focus was on drinking and socializing. Whiskey, beer and soda were available.
The common Japanese soldier was not allowed in, unless he was the driver for some officer. Japanese civilians also could not just walk in and be served. One employee of the Kohatsu, a Japanese corporation that controlled commerce during the Occupation, strolled down the street intoxicated, heading for the clubhouse hoping to get in. The Japanese Governor, who was at the clubhouse at the time, took a sign off its hinges and put it on the front steps of the club, sending the man away. It was believed the sign said "Officers Only" or something to that effect.
THE BAR AT THE PREWAR ELKS CLUB
William Johnston left behind the bar
Oddly enough, Chamorros were allowed in, but only as guests of the Japanese officers, and there was no lack of Chamorro guests. The Chamorro guests usually fell into one of two categories. Either they were of the higher class, such as businessmen or property owners, who could provide resources to the Japanese or make things happen in society. Or they were Chamorro socialite women; the pretty faces whose company the Japanese officers enjoyed.
The ordinary Chamorro folk used to gather outside the Ōmiya Kaikan when it first opened, peering in to see what was going on inside. They would be shushed away, being told the club was not for the general public. After another week of that the curious, uninvited didn't come around anymore.
A Chamorro staff was hired to run the place, cook and serve as waitresses. Vicente M. Taimanglo worked for a time at the club as bartender. After the war he testified that he didn't always receive his pay! Besides Vicente, there were Chamorro waitresses and a young boy who did odd jobs. The waitresses also said they weren't always paid as promised.
VICENTE M. TAIMANGLO
FLAG DESECRATION INCIDENT
The next story is controversial. Some witnesses say one man did it, other witnesses say another man did it.
But they all say it happened! And what did happen? The second floor of the Elks clubhouse was where the hall was located. Although the clubhouse served meals, it wasn't really designed as a restaurant so the meals were served in that upstairs hall on the less frequent occasion when meals were ordered.
An evening party was to be held one night and as the hall was being prepared for that, some spillage was noticed on the floor. It could have been from a meal served earlier. Mops were looked for but instead an American flag, folded and stored away, was taken, spread over the spillage and used to mop the floor. The person doing so moved the flag with his foot.
The local Japanese who ran the club was accused after the war of being the guilty man. Several witnesses, including some Chamorro employees, claimed they saw him do it. But other witnesses, also including Chamorro employees, said it was a Japanese non-resident who did it.
Either way, the Elks Club members would have been outraged this had been done in their clubhouse. The Elks Club prides itself in having great devotion to the American flag. The Elks observe the national Flag Day observance and one cannot join the Elks if they are not willing to salute the flag.
DESTROYED BY AMERICAN BOMBS
RUINS OF THE ELKS CLUB