The Friendly Fifth

History of Lodges

Rib Fjell 496
Wausau, Wisconsin

Rib Fjell Lodge 496 was organized December 12, 1969 under the direction of the Sons of Norway Field Representative, the late Ron Holten. That meeting was at the Elks Club in Wausau. Several future meetings were scheduled at the Holiday Inn.

Finally, on January 26,1971, the charter was presented with 75 charter members. The lodge found a more permanent monthly meeting room at the Cloverbelt Co-op complex. Renovation of that building forced the lodge to look for a new location. For several years now we have been meeting at Riverside Center, an easily accessible building between the hub of Wausau's business district and the whitewater course ofthe Wisconsin River.

Credit for suggesting the name goes to Norwegian-born Jorgen Richter Salveson. The members, well aware that Rib Mountain as a high point in Wisconsin can be seen throughout the community, were enthusiastic about choosing the Norwegian/American name "Rib Fjell". When it was decided to have a monthly newsletter, it was the man affectionately known as "Rick" Salveson who suggested that the publication be called "Rib Fjell Utsikt", meaning "Rib Mountain View".

When "Ski for Light" became known, Norwegian skiers were welcomed into homes and meetings. Special outings with the sight-impaired students at North Central College were planned. That was a yearly project until the lack of precipitation prompted the Norwegians to find snow locations farther west.

An annual summer project which continues to the present time is the sponsoring ofthe program of the Norwegian girls chorus known as "Pikkekor" and providing them home accommodations with lodge members.

Two on-going projects for members and guests are the late autumn Torsk Dinner, with a Norwegian-oriented program, and the Syttende Mai potluck supper and program simulating the great Norwegian celebration. In addition to regular meetings, Rib Fjell Lodge enjoys winter and summer outings.

Updated History April 2009

The Rib Fjell Lodge 496 was organized on December 12, 1969. By January, 1970, it had 75 charter members. Its membership soon surpassed one hundred. Early meetings were held at the Cloverbelt Coop complex, but it soon found a more permanent home at the Riverside Center near the whitewater course on the Wisconsin River and more recently at the Aging and Disability Center near the Wausau Airport. The name of the lodge, suggested by charter member J. Richter Salveson, is Norwegian for Rib Mountain, the prominent geographical feature in the Wausau area. Its monthly newsletter was named Rib Mountain Utsikt, meaning Rib Mountain View. 

In its first decade, the lodge sponsored the “Ski for Light” programs in conjunction with North Central Technical College so that the school’s sight impaired students could experience the pleasures of cross country skiing. It also sponsored concerts of a Norwegian girls chorus called the Pikkekor and provided lodging for its members. During the 1980s and 90s the lodge participated in ethnic fests that were sponsored by organizations in the Wausau community and maintained booths in the annual Logjam festivals sponsored by the Marathon County Historical Society and Museum. When local organizations and schools needed Norwegian speakers or cultural displays, the lodge always was willing to help. 

In the early years of the lodge, under the leadership of Orv Evanson, a fall torsk dinner was prepared, initially for the members and soon for non members as well. This ethnic dinner, now held at the American Legion Clubhouse, has been a popular annual event for those in the community with Norwegian roots. More recently the lodge has made its own lefse for this dinner in order to teach interested lodge members the art of making this Norwegian delicacy. The lodge also has celebrated Syttende Mai with a pot luck dinner every year since the beginning of the lodge.
While the lodge has declined in membership in recent years to around 90 members, it has prided itself on having meetings that are centered on a good program – most often about Norwegian culture, history or Norway today. In its many years of existence it is typical for about one third of the membership to attend the monthly meetings. A light lunch and plenty of coffee with opportunity to “visit” have also been a hallmark of these meetings.