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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Free Resources Stories & Photos
(Seattle & Northern 1890)
Covers from British Columbia to Puget sound. Counties covered:
Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan. An evolving history dedicated
to the principle of committing random acts of historical kindness

Noel V. Bourasaw, editor ?? 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp ?? Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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American Legion Post #43, Sedro-Woolley,
today and yesterday

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Vietnam-era veteran, Post #43 Historian
(Please note: this is not an official webpage for either the American Legion or Post #43)

American Legion today, Auxiliary, Sons of the American Legion & Forward Group
      The American Legion George Baldridge Post #43 meets on the first and third Wednesdays of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Legion hall at the corner of Murdock and Ferry streets in downtown Sedro-Woolley. George Baldridge was the first local boy to die in battle in World War II and was the grand-nephew of the founder of Hamilton. You can read about him in the post history below. The post commander of 2001-2002 is Jerry LeDent. The post is proud to be the home of the present departmental Washington State commander, William Schrier. You can phone 855-0520 for information about membership. The private American Legion club lounge is open daily starting at noon.
(Honor guard at parade)
Post #43 provides honor guards for parades like this one at Burlington and firing squads for funerals of American Legionnaires and other veterans

      The club lounge is new, having opened in a new street-level location on Pearl Harbor day, Dec. 7, 2001. It replaces the old club lounge that was in the basement of Legion meeting hall since 1946. The new lounge was constructed in the former Eagles Hall to the south of the Legion and is easily accessible by the handicapped. It does not have stairs like the old one in the basement. The club features rotating bands on Friday and Saturday evenings, dinners on Friday nights and special occasions, pool tables and a social area for veterans and their guests. Membership in the post has been increasing steadily over the last few months, partially because of the new lounge. It is unique since many posts and their lounges are closing all over the country. Read all about the evolution of the club lounge from 1946 on in the history section below.
Forward group starts with Vietnam vets
now for vets of all wars

      One reason that Sedro-Woolley has been growing while other posts are declining is because of a unique program called the "Forward Group," which enables veterans to help each other overcome service-related problems and follow-up cases for disability and health needs. The Forward Group began meeting at the Sedro-Woolley post in January 2001. It was an outgrowth of another similar group in Whatcom county, but the Sedro-Woolley volunteers improvised and incorporated a whole new spirit. Local veterans were frustrated that they had to travel so far to meet with counselors and service officers to follow up their cases, so they decided that banding together and helping each other locally was the best solution.
(Bill Schrier)
Post #43 veteran Bill Schrier, state department commander

      Over the first year nearly 200 veterans met at any of weekly evenings meetings or a Friday morning meeting that was added later on. The amazing part of the program is that it is not paid for by the government. It is administered by volunteers who are veterans themselves and even a psychologist who donates his time because he believes in the concept. Many of the vets are trying to cope with a syndrome called PTSD, which is diagnosed in some vets who were in highly stressful combat theaters. Soon, a spouses group was set up for those who live with vets with similar situations.
      Service officer Max Stephens participated in the program early on and decided to train to become a service officer himself. Late last year, George Lennox, the longtime Post #43 service officer was hospitalized for long-term care and Stephens was especially needed. He helps vets with their paperwork and advises them about how to deal with the Veterans Administration and other agencies. He also welcomes veterans who need help with their medical supplies and who need transportation to the VA hospital. Forward meetings are here at 7 p.m. on Tuesday evenings and 7:30-11 on Friday mornings. The post becomes a veritable veterans service center on Fridays. And the group offers a social function also, a place where veterans can discuss their common experiences and help each other solve problems. If you have specific questions, you can phone Max at (360) 856-2937 or email Forward@valleyint.com

(Mike Baker mural in the lounge)
      This mural by artist and Post #43 veteran Mike Baker honors the Marine Corps, one of five in the new lounge that honor all five branches of the military service.

      The value of Post #43's community service cannot be exaggerated. Everything is based on supporting and aiding fellow veterans and educating the public and especially students on Americanism and respect for veterans and the American flag. Volunteers form an honor guard for parades and a firing squad for the funerals of veterans. They also distribute Christmas baskets and provide speakers at schools throughout the area. American Legionnaires participate in or donate to dozens of charitable events and groups throughout the year. The post also hosts an Auxiliary post, which meets at 7:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month, and a Sons of American Legion post, which meets at 7 p.m. on the first Monday. Both of the latter posts have eligibility for other relatives of veterans besides spouses and sons, so phone (360) 855-0520 for details about how you can join any of the posts or if you want to request an honor guard for firing squad.

History of The American Legion Hall

      The American Legion was born in Paris on March 15, 1919, when a group of World War I veterans met to discuss transition to civilian life and what veterans could do to help each other adjust and to work together to further the rights of veterans. A caucus was held in St. Louis two months later, where "The American Legion" was adopted as the organization's official name and the Preamble to the Constitution of the American Legion was adopted, the one that is still recited today at post meetings. On June 9, 1919, the National Executive Committee of The American Legion adopted the Legion Emblem and on Sept. 16, 1919, the U.S. Congress chartered The American Legion.
(Painting the Legion, 1947)
Volunteers paint the front of the original Legion hall in 1947.
Charles Pressentin on the right.

      World War I Veterans from Washington state wasted no time getting started with the Legion. In fact, the first meeting of the American Legion Post #43 in Sedro-Woolley was conducted on Sept. 12, 1919. Frank Hill, Jr., a Lieutenant in World War 1, was elected temporary Chairman and plans were made to establish a permanent Post. The first order of business was to select a deceased veteran for whom to name the Post. Eleven names were submitted and the 15 veterans who signed the charter application at the meeting decided to choose the man who was the first Sedro-Woolley area resident to fall in battle. That was George Baldridge, who was born in Hamilton in 1897, the son of John and Ellen Baldridge [see his biography below].
      There are no records in either the Minutes Ledger or the Historian Scrapbooks for the early location of Legion meetings, but we do know that they were in rented quarters. Minutes from the Dec. 5, 1919 meeting show that Warrack Construction of Seattle submitted plans for a proposed hall at an undisclosed location and Commander Hill pegged the proposed cost at $35,000. That proposal faded away over the next year. We know that meetings were often conducted in the IOOF (Odd Fellows) Hall [also burned down in 1949], which was located on the lots where the old Eagles Club stood on Murdock. The Legion bought those lots in 1998. Contrary to old rumors, the American Legion never owned those lots previous to 1998. That hall may have been the site for meetings from the beginning of the Post. From Legion minutes of 1921 and articles in the Courier-Times, we know that there was a drive for a new hall from 1920-23, but that plan never progressed because there was no mention of it afterwards, possibly for financial reasons. Post officers actually invited President Warren G. Harding to dedicate the proposed Legion Hall before he died in August 1923.
      We know that commercial real estate prices had soared during this early 1920s, pre-Depression period, so that may have made prices prohibitive for the young post. We also know that the Royce Hankin Mill, located on the original Sedro site by the river, burned in 1924, causing a local recession when that payroll was lost. The Cokedale mine was also permanently closed in the early 1920s, removing another important payroll. And finally, another vital local payroll was eliminated when the Clear Lake Lumber Company closed in 1925. During that same time period the Masonic Lodge constructed the building on the northeast corner of Metcalf and State in 1923. That building, which now houses Bus Jungquist Furniture, has a first floor and mezzanine, but the Masonic Lodge originally planned to soon add a second story. Financial conditions postponed that addition and the same fate may have forestalled construction of a Legion Hall.
      We know from the Legion minutes of Feb. 15, 1930, that the "first [Legion] meeting was held at the new city hall." The meeting was held in the auditorium on the third floor and several references were later made to that meeting room for Post meetings and dinners. Several other Clubs also met there in 1930-31.
      During that first decade of the post, activities were based on three main areas: veterans affairs, athletics and social gatherings. The national Legion was very successful in the early 1920s in lobbying for higher pensions for disabled vets and Washington state Legionnaires were prominent in the efforts. On Aug. 9, 1921, the U.S. Veterans Bureau, forerunner of the Veterans Administration, is created as a result of efforts by The American Legion. Today, the Legion continues to lobby for adequate funding of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Click on these thumbnails to see the full-sized photo
(Loggerodeo meeting 1961)
Legionnaires Chuck Carroll, Hank Geary and Vic Bourasaw (left to right). Post commanders and Loggerodeo stalwarts, 1961
(Jim Pizzuto)
Jim Pizzuto, 2nd District commander and Post #43 past commander in the '80s.
(Gene Mohler and Inge Foss)
Gene Mohler and Inge Foss, both Post #43 commanders, discuss weighty subjects in 1960

      Local Legionnaires were very active in promoting the local all-purpose athletic field that was located on the lots between Metcalf and Murdock streets north of where the fire/police headquarters stand in 2001. Members from Post #43 were very active in the Sedro-Woolley Athletic Association, which sponsored boxing and wrestling matches and provided maintenance for the municipal field. That field was also used by the high school for football and track until the early 1930s, according to the late Howard Miller, a longtime Legionnaire. Another important activity was sponsorship of the local Boy Scouts troop. The Legion and the Knights of Pythias were the local leaders in that movement, starting in 1922. Social gatherings were centered on sports. Post football, basketball and baseball teams were fielded and competed against other posts in the county and the Northwest, with Mount Vernon Golden Stars Post being the most heated rival.
      Dad Abbott, owner of the Dream Theater, down the street on Woodworth, rented out the 700 seats to the Legion for special benefits several times a year and Legionnaires put on special pageants there along with showing patriotic and western movies. One event in 1922 was especially notable, a community sing-along at the Dream featuring comrade John Henry Lyons of Tacoma, who gained fame in World War II as "Everybody Sings Lyon," while stationed at Camp Lewis. Finally, there was a little matter of Prohibition, which meant that the Post could not have a club lounge. Believe it or not, there were rumors from those days that every Legionnaire seemed to have a coffee cup in front of him at Post meetings and that sometimes the "coffee" seemed to be the same color as local moonshine. But we are sure that Legionnaires would not have violated the law during Prohibition from 1919-33, right? Starting in 1920, the American Legion became very active in promoting the Fourth of July celebrations here. Comrade Puss Stendal was the leader in organizing the local carnival that was staged annually in the week of the Fourth. It was usually held on Metcalf street.
      By September 1926 a 21-piece Drum and Bugle Corps was formed with ten bugles, nine sets of drums and two leaders. The instigator was Jac Running, who owned a small grocery and music shop just north of the Great Northern tracks. He had gained fame as a member of the John Philips Souza marching band. His wife was Ruth Bovey Shrewsbury, the granddaughter of the owners of the first boarding house in old Sedro and daughter of Woolley pioneer and mill owner, Homer Shrewsbury. Back in those days the corps marched all the way from downtown to cemetery for Memorial and Armistice Day ceremonies.
      Minutes of the Feb. 24, 1924, meeting show that discussion started about an Auxiliary organization. There is no more record of it for four years. But in the meantime a woman who had been a local resident since the pioneer days made quite an impact on the club. Josephine Green died in 1926 and on March 17 of that year the post voted to drape the charter for sixty days in her honor. We know from other records that she was the wife of George Green, who was the founder of Lincoln, Kansas, in 1870. They moved to Clear Lake in 1891 and he became a prime partner in several shingle mills plus the Union Mercantile store downtown. Jody, as she was known as a girl, was the Annie Oakley of Lincoln, Kansas, considered the best shot in the state while in her teens. They were the grandparents of George Hammer, original partner in Oliver-Hammer Clothes Shop. We have not been able to find the original Auxiliary minutes [often misspelled as Auxillary], but we know that Cleo Gilbertson was the first president from 1928-30. She was the wife of World War I veteran Gust Gilbertson, the first manager of J.C. Penney's store here and later the manager of the Hardwood Products Mill, which was located in the 1920s where P.A. Woolley's mill originally was. Skagit Steel's shell plant eventually took that spot.

1932: First Legion Hall
      The Legion minutes of April 1, 1931, note that the city council had not ruled on the rental price of the City Hall Auditorium and there was considerable discussion at the Post about what to do about a future meeting place. On Aug. 5, 1931, the Legion building committee again began researching sites for a permanent meeting hall. On Dec. 2, 1931, Post Commander John Fife instructed the building committee to "close the deal" on the recently vacated West Coast Telephone Co. building on the east side of Murdock in the 700 block. The price was $400, according to he minutes, but that may have been the balance owed. A 1975 history by comrade Joe Fisher notes that the post bought the hall from Joe Lederle for $800 at eight percent interest. The building had been vacant since the phone company was fat with cash before the Crash of October 1929 and built the brick phone exchange on Ferry across from the Gateway. On Jan. 6, 1932, Fife reported that $130-260 was needed to "repair our building," so we may assume that the deal was closed. The purchase money and money for the repairs was in escrow "at the bank," awaiting completion of the paperwork. On Feb. 3, 1932, the building committee recommended in the minutes that the kitchen be placed in the basement of the new building on account of the cost of repairs to the small annex in the rear, on the east end of the telephone building.
      Meanwhile, a near tragedy had unfolded. We know that the First National Bank in the Wixson Hotel building, the bank in question, was forced on Feb. 1, 1932, to close its doors after a massive run on the bank the day before. The funds for the building were frozen and all or part of them was never recovered. The bank failed because of lack of liquidity since much of their assets were invested in South America. The minutes of March 2, 1932 are brief but indicate a bit of panic. The building committee reported that repairs were progressing satisfactorily, but Commander Fife noted that he would personally finance the building cost himself "if it becomes necessary."
      Luckily, in the depth of the Depression a Legionnaire and a banker came to the Club's rescue. We do not know all the details but the minutes from March 16 note that "Commander Fife reports that building finances will be taken care of by C.E. Bingham & Co. and Emil E. Runck." Charles Bingham started his family bank in old Sedro by the river in 1890. Runck was a longtime Legionnaire and he owned a bicycle shop on the north side of Woodworth street between city hall and the old Dream Theatre. His sacrifice was considerable since he was a self-made man, hardly wealthy. He came to Sedro-Woolley in 1901 as an assistant to E. Reno, the original shop owner. Their donations saved the day for the Legion. A. Bingham said in an interview before his death in 1992 that Runck brought half the money, all in silver in a large gunnysack, over to C.E. Bingham and challenged the banker to match it. We have not yet found any other records after the spring of 1932, so we do not know exactly when the present Legion Hall opened, but we do know that the Legion moved into the building sometime that year. The post Building Association was incorporated on June 13, 1932. Joe Fisher's history notes that the total mortgage was paid off in 1935. Apparently the hall was not substantially changed for the 14 years afterwards through World War II.
      Update: January 2002. We were thrilled in December when Emil's daughters, Josephine Runck Fullerton and Michelina Runck Nelson visited the post. They are both widowed and live on Camano Island. They have photos of their father when he served at Camp Lewis and when he sold Harley-Davidson motorcycles while living here. They are 50-plus year members of the Auxiliary.

1946-47: The Birth of the Club Lounge
      From articles in the Courier-Times and notes in the Historian Scrapbook we know that by the beginning of 1946 the Post membership swelled to 171 members with returning veterans from World War II. Joe Fisher recalled that he was recruited for the post that summer, shortly after he and his wife moved to town. Dutch Miller was the membership sparkplug and the post staged a spectacular Armistice Day dinner for all returning veterans. Back during World War II, on Sept. 19-21, 1942, the Preamble to the Constitution of the American Legion was changed for the first and only time since its creation in 1919 by changing the word "War" to "Wars." On Oct. 29, 1942, the American Legion's charter was amended to allow veterans of World War II to join the organization.
      Once again plans were made for a new hall. In the summer of 1946 the Legion, commanded by E.B. "Bert" Cook, purchased two lots on the south side of Ferry Street across from the Gateway Hotel (former Wixson) with options on two more lots adjacent to them on the east side. When the West Coast Telephone Co. moved in 1931, they built a new office building just west of those lots, the structure that is now occupied by attorney William McCann in 2001. This is the historic site for the original Frank Hoehn Livery stable. The stable burned in the famous July 1911 fire and the lots have been vacant since then.

Click on these thumbnails to see the full-sized photo
(First members-only lounge, 1946)
(1st club lounge, late 1940s)
(2nd club lounge, 1954)
Upper left: World War II vets open their members-only social room, Sept. 16, 1946 (from left: John Pulsipher; Commander Fred Slipper; Al Lisherness, center back; Fred Vochatzer, far right) Slipper and Vochatzer are still active members in 2002. Center: first actual club lounge in the north room of basement under the original hall, late 1940s; future-commander Gene Mohler customer at bar; Ted White, bar manager; Legionnaires in back shooting craps. Right: Second club lounge opens March 17, 1954: Sam Green, bar manager; Marion Bowlby, assistant (her daughter Sue was the Legion-sponsored Loggerodeo queen in 1958.

      But meanwhile, the vets wanted a social club where they could meet and talk about their war experiences and have a toddy or two. A makeshift, very private lounge was carved out of the storage room underneath the old hall and on Sept. 16, 1946, a few dozen thirsty vets christened it. In February 1947, Bert Cook resigned part way into his year as commander and First-vice Fred Slipper, a World War II vet from Hamilton, took over and served as commander for nearly two years. Fred Vochatzer served as adjutant both years. We are lucky to have both those comrades still attending our meetings in 2001 to provide continuity and leadership as well as a sense of history. Under the leadership of Slipper, Vochatzer, Al Lisherness, John Pulsipher and others, the makeshift club served as a temporary lounge until a permanent one could be constructed. An undated article in the scrapbook [probably sometime in 1946] notes that within a few months, "having abandoned plans for a new hall," the post borrowed $8,500 from Skagit State Bank and planned to spend $2,500-3,000 for an addition to the old hall on Murdock street. The addition was built in stages:

  1. Al Lisherness was appointed chairman of the building committee and the carpentry work was done by developer Otto Greenstreet.
  2. The basement, which was formerly used as a kitchen, was extensively remodeled and waterproofed for a "Club" room.
  3. The main room on the first floor, the one that we now think of as the north room, was remodeled to become the meeting room.
  4. A new oil furnace was purchased from White Fuel & Transfer, which was located on the south side of Ferry Street across from the present Vern Sims Ford Co. Former Post commander P.A. "Puss Stendal" was a partner in the firm.
  5. In addition, fluorescent lights were installed throughout and new restrooms were built on the main floor.
  6. The upper hall was remodeled by April. The original Club lounge was only open to Legion and Auxiliary members.
      What we now think of the as the club lounge did not actually appear until 1947 and it was then open only to Legion and Auxiliary members and their spouses. In that year, the Washington state legislature passed an act that authorized sales of "liquor by the drink." From the time repeal of Prohibition — on Dec. 5, 1933 — to 1947, only beer and wine was allowed to be sold by the glass in state liquor establishments.
      In the spring of 1947 the Legion appropriated funds to build an outside entrance to the basement Club on the north side of the building. A bar was built into the east side of the room that later became the site of the pool table and the large-screen TV in the old club. A card and craps room was built behind the bar in the basement, the room that is now used for storage. At the same time a full kitchen was built into the annex room at the east side of the main hall upstairs. That was back when the Legion Auxiliary women were expected to prepare all meals.
      On June 6, 1947, a "23T" license was granted to the Legion Club lounge (equivalent of the modern class-H license), and the lounge opened to considerable merriment. Until the State Liquor Board changed the rules six months later, the Club was authorized to be open 24 hours a day. Drinks originally could only be bought with "scrip" that was purchased in books that cost $2.50 or $5.00. Drinks cost 25 cents and "one-armed bandit" slot machines were allowed back then. Ted and Bernice White were the original club managers and Walt Deierlein was the House Committee chairman. Within months Legion membership rose above 250. Commander Slipper noted that the Legion planned to eventually widen the building, contingent on securing the property adjacent on the south side next to the old IOOF hall, which had been bought by the Eagles in 1925. On December 12, 1948, Washington state liquor laws were revised and the Club license was changed to an "H" class. Club hours were restricted to conform with hours for other liquor establishments and scrip books were abolished as were the one-armed bandits. December 1948 also marked the burning of the mortgage for the new club, quite an accomplishment just 18 months after the launch of the lounge. Joe Fisher attributed that success to the five slot machines.

1948 and the beginning of the Loggerodeo
      The year 1948 also marked the revival of the American Legion's leadership of the Fourth of July celebration. The name Loggerodeo actually dates from the spring of 1948 when John Conrad coined it to win a city contest, sponsored by Post # 43. Conrad was county historian for 30 years and owned a service station at the corner of Collins road and Highway 20, which was then called the Burlington highway.
      "He won $25 for the name and that was back when $25 lasted a while," recalls Fred Slipper. Fred should know. He was commander of the post that year. The other surviving member of the original Loggerodeo committee is Fred Vochatzer. Slipper was the first Loggerodeo secretary and the late Joe Fisher was the first president."
      The 1948 affair was a merger of two events that had often been conducted separately around the 4th: logging contests and a rodeo. Even though logging had changed radically in the fifty years before that, rugged men competed to prove who was best at exhibiting skills from the original logging days of the 1880s and '90s. And a rodeo was staged for cowboys and cowgirls who recalled the days in 1889 when pioneer Frank Hoehn brought the first herd of horses through a pass in the Cascades from eastern Washington. Hoehn was a member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show and he would have loved the hurrahs. Kids in the 1950s shivered with delight as they watched tree toppers race up spars carrying 50 or more pounds of gear and a topping handsaw. The new Legion club lounge became Loggerodeo Central and stayed that way for three decades.
      The year 1948 was also important for the post for two other reasons. In March of that year, many of the bodies of veterans who had been killed overseas during World War II were returned to Sedro-Woolley for burial. Comrade Walt Deierlein from Post #43 was appointed chairman of the Graves Registration Committee for the state of Washington. And in that month the firing squad became a permanent unit. The firing squad for deceased veterans is still one of the most important functions of Post #43, and the squad also appears to present the flag at local athletic events as well as parades and patriotic holidays and events. In 1949, Post #43 presented a special, large memorial plaque to the high school that listed veterans who were killed during World War II.

1953: Legion & Eagles expand together
      The next major addition to the Hall came in 1953 when the Legion began phase two of its expansion. Back on Oct. 17, 1949, the old Eagles Hall burned, two lots south of the Legion Hall on Murdock. At that time, there was an empty space between them. For the next four years, the Legion shared its hall with the Eagles Aerie. In 1952 the Legion bought the 30-foot empty lot from the Eagles for $1,000 and began digging for a foundation. The two organizations then began an ambitious building program that would lead to a new Eagles Temple that would share a wall with a new south addition onto the Legion hall. Jess Sapp, who was a state and national Eagles officer at the time, led the Aerie program and comrade Andy Cromarty, a local contractor and brick layer, led the Legion expansion. The post borrowed $10,000 from plumber Otto K. Pressentin for just five percent interest and payments of $100 per month.
      Work started in March 1953. Cromarty proposed a common 270-foot brick front for both buildings. He planned, organized and supervised work details of from 18-35 men at a time, with meals provided by auxiliary members and a few cases of beer from the club. Old photos show present businessmen such as a very skinny Bus Jungquist learning how to roof, pour basement flooring, plastering, painting, pouring concrete walls, laying tile floors and general grunt work. This was the model for what volunteers provided for the new hall in 2001. The volunteer work saved thousands in labor both times. David McIntyre Jr. of Skagit Steel provided the angle iron and slate for the outside front and side of the building. Roy Perry did the cement work on the glass and flower planters. Elmo Woodmansee donated the fancy wood moldings and even the past-commander plaque-boards in the new meeting hall. Costs were rising so the post sold the two lots on Ferry street — which were originally planned for a new hall, to comrade Charlie Coffman for $3,000. That made up for the difference in the total cost of $19,000 for the remodeling and the eventual completion of the upper-floor meeting hall in the new south addition. The Eagles opened their new temple on Sept. 15, 1953, but since the Legion already had a meeting hall, post members expended their initial efforts on a club lounge that would be the finest in the area.

1954: downstairs club # 2 opens
      On March 17, 1954, the new Club lounge opened with a slightly different bar that extended along the Murdock street side of the basement, where the present bar is. Sam Green was the bartender and Marion Bowlby [name could be misspelled] was his assistant and waitress. A luau theme was adopted for the opening and at least 300 people signed in during the evening. The club was the hottest place in town. At that time there were only two other Class-H lounges in the area. Another grand opening was staged on July 4, during Loggerodeo, celebrating Loggerodeo Queen Emily Runck, the daughter of the man who had helped save the original hall back in 1932.
      In 1955 the American Legion donated the spectacular plaque at the State street park, which was flanked by a beautiful stone entryway. That plaque, dedicated to the war dead, is largely unknown today, but was a centerpiece of the community back then. It pre-dated the senior center, community center and library at that location. Those lots were all donated to the city decades ago by Joe Hoyt, pioneer Prairie mill owner, and his family. At that time, a large, two-story woodframe building stood where the community center is today. It was mainly for girl scout meetings. Interestingly, it was the original Baptist church, built in the 1890s and moved first from Northern avenue to State street, and then moved to the spot between Pacific and State streets in 1949. Many patriotic gatherings were staged on those lots in the 1950s and '60s, centered on that Legion war memorial.

1957: new Legion meeting hall
      In 1957 the floors of the two upstairs room were completely re-tiled and the new meeting hall, the south room upstairs, was dedicated in June. On April 18, 1957, Senator Henry Jackson, was the keynote speaker for a dinner in the nearly-finished new hall. Post membership had swelled to more than 250. In August 1957 the club was allowed to be open until 2 a.m. on weekdays. This addition did not address the problem of the antiquated, small annex on the back of the building, which was used for the kitchen. That problem was addressed on Dec. 9, 1959, with the final addition to the Legion Hall. In the spring of that year, construction began on an 18x50-foot extension on the north and east side of the building. First, a team led by Bob Taylor chain-sawed off the old kitchen annex with chain saws, according to longtime Legionnaire Lyle Buchanan. Then the roofed north entrance to the Club was sawed off and the brick addition was built around the hall on two sides. This allowed space for new restrooms and an office in the basement, a modern roomy kitchen upstairs, storage space both south of the kitchen and where the north entrance used to be, plus a new heating and ventilation plant.
      It is interesting to note that the most famous Pancake Breakfast ever was staged upstairs on March 28, 1959, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Legion Post. Aunt Jemima, from AJ Pancakes of Seattle, headed up the cooking team. Breakfast cost 75 cents apiece for adults and 50 cents for children, or $2.00 for the whole family. Net proceeds were donated for vets in hospitals and child welfare. Somewhere between 3,000 to 3,500 pancakes were prepared, using 80 pounds of flour. A contest was staged for the largest number of pancakes consumed. Don Skiles won the adult prize for 26; Greg Apple won the junior prize for 23. Charles Utley, a veteran who was then 91, addressed the crowd about his 43 years service in both Canadian and American Legion Posts.
(Aunt Jemima)
Aunt Jemima flipping
flapjacks in 1959

      Back in 1957, the Auxiliary produced the new Washington state (Department) president, Mrs. Grace Evans, wife of Courier-Times publisher Frank Evans. She had served as president of the second district in 1952 and was a leader of local auxiliary programs that contributed to the health of local citizens. She was also a Red Cross Ground Observer during World War II.
      In 1958 the Legion post sponsored one of the most popular local attractions in years, the Jalopy Races at Hopke field near the Oasis Tavern, at the junction of Railroad avenue, Hoehn road and the Minkler highway. The late 1950s also marked the large contingents of local Legionnaires who passed the gavel annually between Post #43 and the Canadian Legion post in Mission, B.C. The year 1958 was the grandest ceremony of all, when local car dealer and comrade Fred Nelson arranged for 140 units in a special parade here, which attracted 1,500 Legionnaires.
      The year 1958 also marked a rebirth of the Drum and Bugle corps with Joe Running and Myron Cornett in the lead. More than $5,000 was invested in uniforms and instruments.
      The 1960s decade included several changes of the grounds around the Legion Hall to beautify the external area. The post borrowed $2,500 in 1960 at six percent interest so that the kitchen could be completed and a parking lot could be constructed in the back. The latter was completed in Febuary 1963 and sewer lines were connected to the club. In July 1962 the large tree in front was removed and the sidewalk was repaired where the tree roots had caused severe damage. In May 1964 the back lot was blacktopped for just $294.
      Old timers at Post #43 and kids who grew up here will remember the old Oscar Johnson house that stood at the corner of the alley behind the post and Ferry street. The post bought the house in January 1965 for $7,700 and later rented it out to Art and Ginger Thompson for Ginger's Beauty Shop, which provided rental income for the post. That left only the railroad property to deal with and that took some real work.
      Old timers may remember that railroad tracks ran north of the hall on a diagonal and across the alley, the reason why Skagit Lumber and Paint is had a triangle northern part of their building. Those were the original tracks of the Fairhaven & Southern Railway, the first standard-gauge, common carrier railroad north of Seattle, which connected Fairhaven and old Sedro by the river starting on Christmas eve of 1889. The need for the train lessened in 1924 when the old Royce-Hankin mill burned in 1924

Preparation for Club/Lounge #3, 1998-2001
      Over the next 40 years the Hall and Lounge remained pretty much the same. The only major change was when a kitchen was incorporated downstairs in the mid-1960s and a full menu was available daily. Then in 1998, the Eagles decided to move into a new hall across town and their hall adjoining the Legion went on the market. Some members of Post #43 considered this a tempting opportunity. Since a large percentage of the post membership was aging, the only access to the basement lounge by stairs in front and back seemed to be limiting access. And the lounge was showing wear and tear of any 40-year-old building. The Eagles offered an attractive price for their old hall and the sale was completed later that year. The next challenge was to come up with the substantial money to gut the old Eagles hall and create a first-class club lounge with a larger dance floor and more seating room than the old Legion lounge. The post, under the leadership of commander Jerry LeDent, sold their old Legion Park property north of Highway 20, which provided the balance of the money needed. That process took longer than anticipated but was completed in the spring of 2001.
      After the sale of the Legion Park, work on the new lounge proceeded full speed ahead under the leadership of Jim O'Bryan, construction engineer and architect. Commander Jerry LeDent emphasizes that the success of the club and the informal opening before the planned Dec. 7 Grand Opening was due to the work of dozens of volunteers from the Post #43, Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion. The project included the complete gutting of the old Eagles Hall, an addition built onto the back of the building and complete recreation of the hall from the floor to the ceiling, centered on a spectacular new dance floor. Artist Mike Baker added a special touch with five murals of all branches of the U.S. Military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. The murals are all original creations that represent hundreds of hours of design work and final preparation. The year 2001 also marked the first year that a local Legionnaire was elected commander of the Washington state Department of the American Legion. State Commander Bill Schrier has been a very active member of Post #43 and has served in various state and national posts over the years.
      Perhaps we should hang a plaque somewhere to the two unrecognized heroes of our Post history, C.E. Bingham and Emil E. Runck, whose donations saved our hall 69 years ago and led to our present hall and lounge complex.

Excerpts from Vic Bourasaw's Pearl Harbor diary of Dec. 7, 1941, and the days afterward.
See the World War II Homefront exhibit at the Skagit County Historical Museum in LaConner, a wonderful collection of memories, photos and stories from Skagit county veterans and their families who adjusted at home during the war.

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You can read about our prime sponsors:
Vern Sims Ford Ranch, either on the Sedro-Woolley page or directly at www.vernsimsford.com
DelNagro Masonry Brick, block, stone — See our work at the new Hammer Heritage Square
See our website www.4bricklayers.com
33 years experience — 15 years as a bonded, licensed contractor in the valley
Free estimates, reference, member of Sedro-Woolley Chamber ?? (360) 856-0101

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