American Legion to celebrate 98th year

By Sherry Vogel

Local American Legion Post # 35 will celebrate its 98th birthday on Wednesday, March 15 at the clubhouse banquet room here in Baker. All Legion members and their guests are invited to attend.  Chili and all the fixins will be served at 5:30 pm.

Our local American Legion Club was established as a post in Baker on Oct. 29, 1919. One of the young returning WWI soldiers, Wade Goble, applied for a state chartered membership on behalf of Fallon County and seven local soldiers returning from the battlefields at the end of WWI.

The young veterans desired to have a club to form a fraternity of brotherhood. They organized themselves as a civic-minded group that helped to serve the development of Baker, as well as further Americanism in Fallon County. They adopted the national motto, “For God and Country.” The newly formed Post #35 held their first meetings in the Pearce Building, later known as Grainger’s. In 1928, the post decided to purchase its own (present) building, which was then the out of business Hough Motor Company.  The cost of the building was $5,600. The members put down a small down payment and borrowed money from a patriotic merchant. The young vets removed the very badly oil stained hardwood floor, had it refurbished and reinstalled it so the building could serve as a large auditorium/community meeting place that Baker desperately needed.

The post lent its new hall to be used as the high school auditorium until 1935 when the high school built one of their own. Various civic groups held their meetings, dances parties and even a Minstrel Show there. The city/county offices frequented the space each year when it became the official election return site.

The entire community was so appreciative of the use of the building that they got behind the legionnaires to help them raise the money to pay off their mortgage. A refreshment stand was set up that sold hamburgers for 10¢ and coffee for 5¢. The county commission helped by passing a rule that any carnival in Fallon County would not be allowed to conduct bingo games on the carnival run way (which was common in those days). Instead, the American Legion had full run of the bingo games with all proceeds benefiting the Legion building fund.

In 1944 the WWI vets held a burn the mortgage ceremony that was celebrated citywide. They left the hall unencumbered for the new batch of WWII soldiers that would soon be returning from war.

Today the national American Legion maintains a membership of 2,400,000 veterans. American vets who have served at least one day of active federal duty during wartime, or are serving now are potentially eligible for membership in the American Legion.

Today, local Post #35 acknowledges a number of patriotic holidays such as Armed Forces Day, Flag Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Memorial Day. On Memorial Day they hold graveside ceremonies and place flags on the graves of vets in the cemeteries in Baker, Plevna and Ollie.

They host a kid’s fishing day to the enjoyment of the children in the area. They also sponsor a junior high school student to attend Boys State each year as well as sponsor high school scholarships.

In the past, the post color guard always marched in dress uniform in the Fallon County Fair parade, now those who are able present the colors on horse back due to  the lengthy distance to march. Also in past years, the club had always entered a float with elderly soldiers from past wars riding atop.

The post currently has an active Honor Firing Squad that provides an escort, a bugler and a color guard /firing squad for a veteran’s funeral.

The post also has a ladies auxiliary group that encourages mothers, daughters, wives and grandmothers of Veterans to join. They meet on the 2nd Tuesday of each month. The auxiliary is active in providing food for the various post social gatherings and funerals. They also make and collect cookies each year for Valentine’s Day. The cookies are   delivered to the Veterans hospital and long-term care. The Auxiliary continues to sponsor a high school junior female student to attend Girl’s State each year.

The club added a members only bar to the north side of the building in 1950.  It was eventually opened to the public.

Today, the building and the bar still belong to the post and are managed by members of Post #35. The public continues to be invited to frequent the bar as guests of the post.

Happy Birthday to American Legion Post #35 as it continues to promote Americanism in Fallon County and provides a place of camaraderie for returning vets from 28 various wars.