LE CENTER — Le Center’s American Legion Post has, over the past 100 years, provided camaraderie and community service opportunities for military veterans and their families.
Legion members, along with the Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion members, will celebrate Post 108’s centennial Saturday, Sept. 28.
Their organization’s history began when an application was submitted Aug. 23, 1919, to establish an American Legion post in Le Sueur Center — the town in the middle of Le Sueur County that since the early 1930s has been called Le Center.
Local veterinarian B.J. Thomas signed the application.
Aug. 26, 1919, American Legion Secretary of Minnesota George G. Chapin assigned the number 108 to the post application and forwarded it to the secretary of the National Executive Committee. Three days later Secretary of the National Executive Committee Eric Fisher Wood approved the application and a temporary charter was issued.
At that time, Post 108 became an official post of the American Legion.
The post’s charter members were: A.J. Bradshaw (first commander), Alphonse A. Traxler, Ray L. Dickinson, John F. Kolars, George Krava, Gilbert Miller, Michael H. O’Meara, William T. Hobday, Clement Simmonette, Lee J. White, Theodore B. Traxler, Wencle G. Krenick, Emmanuel Moudry, L.J. DeGonda, Faye F. Smullen, H.E. Traxler and Ronald Dickerson.
Secretary Charles C. Traxler reported in October 1919 membership was up to 58 members.
The first meetings took place in Weber’s Hall, upstairs in the Weber Building. At the time, the hall was also used for many other community functions.
Post 108 American Legion Auxiliary was organized Jan. 12, 1921, at the direction of Post Cmdr. George J. Krava. Many of the original 19 auxiliary members were married to charter members of the post. Their auxiliary’s first official meeting was Jan. 28, 1921.
Many of the early programs of the auxiliary centered around children’s welfare, a Christmas fund and gifts for the disabled and hospitalized veterans. Members raised lots of donations for veterans through its poppy sales and funded other programs with the proceeds from bake sales, card parties and dances.
In the mid-1940s, Post 108 acquired the John Schindler property at 52 W. Minnesota St., a former liquor store. Along with the property, the post acquired a license from the city of Le Center for its first official home and club location.
As the post grew in membership, so did its presence in the community.
In the early 1950s, the post acquired property at 97 South Park Ave., the former O’Laughlin Garage. The building was remodeled to include a bar in the front, a small kitchen in the middle and a meeting room in back.
The post used the address until a disaster struck Sept. 5, 1982, when a fire severely damaged the front half of the building and made the structure uninhabitable.
Members decided on Oct. 22, 1982, to build a new bar and lounge next door to the old building and to convert the fire-damaged structure into a large banquet hall.
With much help from members and the dedicated work of contractors, the new bar and lounge opened Feb. 28, 1983, just 176 days after the fire. The banquet hall opened a few weeks later.
After a grand opening in May 1983, the members decided to work on the basement. By November 1986, the finished basement included two meeting rooms, two offices, an armory room and storage space for donated items such as equipment for disabled veterans.
On Dec. 5, 1995, a mortgage-burning party was held with all the members invited for the ceremonies.
Recently, the interior of the club was remodeled and a large outside deck was added to the east side of the building.
In 1984, the Legion started its sponsorship for an annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration that provides numerous scholarships for its queen candidates. This celebration continues today; however, it is now at the direction of its own organization.
Post 108’s banquet hall will hold close to 400 people. The facility has become a mainstay within the community, with many other organizations holding meetings and fundraisers within it space. Public events, such as steak frys, are offered regularly by Post 108.
The Post’s membership today totals more than 340 members.
It annually sponsors School Patrol Camp and supports other functions within the school system. The Post also donates to the Le Sueur County Veterans’ van and to many other veterans’ causes and community functions.
The Auxiliary’s 150 members are active in many projects, such as Education Week, a flag coloring contest, DARE, Santa Anonymous and annual American Legion poppy sales.
Under the leadership of Greg O’Connell in 1985, a Sons of the American Legion chapter was established within Post 108. Charter members were Mike Lundon Jr., Tim Connolly, Tim O’Connell, Pat O’Connell, Travis Blaschko, Jared Blaschko and Don Larson. The young men learned parliamentary procedures and held monthly meetings.
Today, Post 108’s SAL membership stands at more than 150.
As the membership of the Post becomes older, the SAL has become a very important part of Post 108. SAL now has its own programs within the Post. Each year they sponsor a fishing contest and a backyard barbecue contest. They also sponsor a Veterans Day breakfast and an annual children’s party, where American flag etiquette is taught between games. Many of the older SAL members volunteer at various events and assist with the upkeep of the facility.
One of the most important programs of Post 108 is the color guard/honor guard. The joint venture with the Le Center Veterans of Foreign Wars provides numerous flag-raising ceremonies within the area.
The honor guard also marches in local parades and provides military honors for deceased veterans. The typical honor guard attendance at a military funeral is between 25 to 30 members.