Tag Archives: O.V. Catto

O.V. Catto Elks Lodge

Octavius Valentine Catto was a 19th century educator and activist. He was killed on October 10, 1871, Election Day, when he tried to exercise his right to vote guaranteed by the 15th Amendment.

O.V. Catto

Located at 16th and Fitzwater streets, the O.V. Catto Elks Lodge was a hub of community life for 30 years. In addition to its large meeting space and recreation facilities (including a full boxing ring and a basketball court), the building boasted a large roof garden for formal gatherings.

O.V. Catto Lodge - Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries

The lodge’s Two Bit Club was also a draw. In Whisper Not: The Autobiography of Benny Golson, the NEA Jazz Master recounted that for two years he played with the Mickey Collins Orchestra every Sunday at this South Philly landmark. This photo was taken in 1946 when Golson was 17.

O.V. Catto Lodge - Benny Golson

Published by Temple University Press, Golson’s autobiography is available for purchase here.

The O.V. Catto Elks Lodge 1903 banner has been conserved by the Philadelphia History Museum.

O.V. Catto Elks Lodge Banner

Two Bit Club

The Two Bit Club was located on the top floor of the O.V. Catto Elks Lodge, a cultural center for the African American community. The building was demolished in 1994.

O.V. Catto Lodge - Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries

From a 1994 Philadelphia Inquirer article lamenting the loss of this landmark:

Lois Fernandez, who lives a few blocks away, was one of the mourners who stopped by last week to see the wrecking ball at work.

“Damn, we’re losing a big part of our history and nobody cares,” said Fernandez, co-founder and director of Odunde, the annual African American festival on South Street.

Back in the 1950s, when Fernandez was a teenager, the “O.V.,” as she called it, was the late-night place to be.

After dinner at the former Postal Card, at 15th and South, and drinks and jazz at the former Pep’s, at Broad and South, young African Americans told each other, “Meet you at the Two Bit” after all the other clubs had closed at 2 a.m.

They were referring to the nightclub that once was located on the top floor of the old Elks Lodge.

On weekend nights until 5 a.m., couples danced the stroll, the strand and the Philly bop. The men wore their hair in the close-cropped “hustler” style and dressed in suits of silk and sharkskin. And their dates did their hair in pageboys or poodle cuts and wore long flared dresses over crinoline slips, accompanied by high heels and white gloves.

It was at the Two Bit Club that then-19-year-old Fernandez held her breath as she waited to get past the man at the door. Once inside, she ordered a Tom Collins or a Canadian Club and ginger ale, and let it sit all night until it turned to water.

“You felt so adult when you went to the Two Bit Club,” Fernandez said. ”You were always trying to act so sophisticated.”

It was at the Two Bit Club that Fernandez listened to jazz bands and saw tap dancers, her first shake dance and her first striptease.