As far as Chicago-based secret-ish societies go, The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (way to not sound like the Pepsi to Scientology’s Coke, b-t-dubs) may have a huge temple-thing where epic ass spankings and blood-splattered orgies (probably) happen all the times, but I’d much rather be a member of the The Wicker Park High Tea and Dodgeball Association. This group of thinking-outside-the-box whippersnappers realized that the reason most people are uninteresting and slavish is probably due to the lack of adult recess in their lives. The basic premise of the group is organizing weekly dodgeball games in an abandoned parking lot, having some “tea,” and trying to take each other’s heads off with rubber balls. The group’s website also chronicles its gripping history. Here are some highlights:
- “The Association was originally called Wicker’s High Tea Gentleman Group in 1873 by Charles Wicker, to cultivat(e) the Higher and Noble Spirits of man through gathering of right minded spirits, and the drinking of the most righteous of drinks, tea.”
- “In 1881, the Presidency of B. Innizirp began. Records are scarce from this period, and B. Innizirp himself has been cut out from all of the Group’s pictures. I was able to obtain financial records on the sale, and a few of the property purchases of the group from the 1881-1886 period, which is where the name B. Innizirp comes from. In this period, the group changed from a gathering of tea afficionados to a rabble of drunken German Socialists.”
- “In those times it was customary for dodgeball games to begin with all balls placed in the center of the court, a countdown from three, and a pistol shot to announce the beginning of the match. The twenty players lined up, the referee counted down from three, and a beat after one, the sound of several pistols was heard. Nineteen men rushed forward to try to claim a dodgeball, but one man did not. James McCluth took two steps forward, and fell down, shot through the heart.”
- “The year was 1892, and the Wicker Park German Tea Drinking Club had fallen on hard times. Their membership had waned to only six members, including Henkleman himself, who insisted that there be no other officers. On a humid and hot August day in 1892, James McCluth walked into their headquarters requesting membership. It had been three years since anyone had joined, but Heinkleman refused on the grounds that ‘I have heard that no Irish man bathes, and will never allow one into my club.'”
Eventually, curiosity took hold of me and I managed to scrape together a ragtag crew that was interested in checking out the WPHTDA on a summery Thursday evening. The association apparently hadn’t played in a while, and the vets were itchin’ to throw some heat. Early-bird rookies hung out on curbs, sipping on their “tea” from Gatorade bottles, while cars and bikes pulled into an empty parking lot located behind a bank in Noble Square. After JB hauled a mesh bag full of dodgeballs from the trunk of his car, we picked teams and a little bit of smack talk started goin’ round. Maybe it’s something about the game sparking flashbacks of awkward gym-class experiences, but people tend to get really rowdy for dodgeball. Everyone in attendance was ready to throw some balls, drink some brews, yell “hey bro what’s up!” and pretty much feel THE BEST.
Most standard dodgeball rules applied, except outed players re-entered the game only if they caught a ball from a teammate while they waited in the “jail” zone. It was sweaty; it was a blast. We even managed to coax some random passersby into joining the game, and the local five-O rolled by to ask us if they could play. Though I was sore the next day, I had realized, “well shit in a sandbox, I think my life just improved.” A visit is highly recommended. How do you join? Figure it out, or ask us on our Facebook page.