To step into the Spokane Sons of Norway banquet hall is to step back in time.
The rich, red walls and the dark beams across the ceiling are reminiscent of a Viking ship. Paintings and maps of ancient Norway dot the walls.
But after this week, nothing will remain in the lodge the fraternal order has called home since 1979. The space will be gutted to make room for a pediatric clinic. The club hosted a complete liquidation auction Saturday, selling all but the most valuable furnishings in the lodge.
Sons of Norway Cultural Director Anne Molstad said declining membership and increasing costs made it impossible for the club to continue at 6710 N. Country Homes Blvd. It costs about $7,000 a month just to maintain the space, she said.
The Spokane group was once one of the largest Sons of Norway orders in the world, Molstad said, boasting a membership of more than 2,000. It will celebrate its 106th birthday this year.
“At 106 years, we want to be around for another hundred,” she said.
But membership has declined to 297. With such a small group, it’s too expensive to justify staying at the lodge. They’re looking for a smaller, more affordable space.
“We’re hoping to focus more on our membership and less on light bulbs,” Molstad said.
Maxine Aman and Lucille Vieira wandered through the banquet hall, looking at the items for sale.
Tables were stacked high with ’70s-style dishes. Several pianos stood unplayed and ready to go to new owners. Even the red vinyl bar and the parquet floor were on their way out.
“Everything goes!” signs dotted across the space read.
Both Aman and Vieira have been members since 1985, but in recent years it’s been hard to encourage young people to join, Aman said.
“The younger ones don’t join, and the older ones die,” she said.
Susan Kirkeby, who has been a member since 1960, attended the auction with her daughter and granddaughter: three generations of Norwegians who grew up with the organization.
The last couple of weeks haven’t felt real for Kirkeby. She’ll miss the “memories, the friendship, the dinners, the dances.” But once she saw everything laid out for auction, the fact that it was over sunk in.
“I never felt it until I walked in today,” she said.
Tami Kirkeby, Susan Kirkeby’s daughter, said she was raised in the club and planned to do the same with her daughter, 10-year-old Anna.
“She won’t get to experience all that,” she said, tears in her eyes.