April 9, 2007
Delano American Legion Post 377
By Cullen Schultz
The American Legion has been around for more than 80 years in communities all over the US, including Delano.
The organizations are a pivotal part of every community they are in, and work diligently to get and keep veterans of the armed forces together, working to improve their communities.
The American Legion has a long history in the US, but the organization was not founded in America. The creation of the Legion took place after the war to end all wars, World War I.
“It was created in Paris, France in 1919,” Delano Legionnaire Dick Amundson said.
The idea for the Legion came from the officers and troops of the American Expeditionary Force, which fought in Europe during WWI. The reason for the creation was to help build morale and bring the troops together after the war.
“Camaraderie was the original thought behind it,” Delano Legionnaire Charlie Rieland said.
In May 1919, the group adopted The American Legion as its official name, and in September of the same year, the US Congress chartered the organization.
Congress chartered The American Legion to be a patriotic, mutual help organization for wartime veterans, which provides community service to its local communities. Since its charter, the Legion has done just that, and much more.
The Delano American Legion Post 377 was organized in the spring of 1920, starting with 41 members. Later in the year, after a membership drive and word got out, 20 additional veterans became members, bringing the membership to 61. Presently, membership is at 310.
“Any veteran who wants to join is more than welcome to,” Delano Post Commander Jon Hanson said.
The first meetings for the local post took place in 1920 at the old First National Bank Building.
During that year, they conducted their first meetings, a Memorial Day Service, and started traditions that still go on today.
The post sponsored the planting of evergreen trees in the city park as a living memorial to the fallen soldiers of WW1. The trees were planted by the surviving veterans of the Civil War, and now, the living memorial is dedicated to all those from Delano who have died in all of America’s wars, “to remember our fallen dead,” Amundson said.
Also taking place in 1920 was the first sounding of Taps for fallen soldier Clarence McEachern. McEachern was wounded in the Battle of Cantigny, July 7, 1917, and later succumbed to his wounds, June 15, 1920.
On April 9, 1924, the post became chartered, making it an official member of The American Legion.
The details and history of the post over the next few years are sketchy, because the records were destroyed by fire. The post conducted its meetings in the upstairs of the city hall, and a fire destroyed their files and their meeting hall.
“A lot of our records for the Legion were burnt,” Delano Legionnaire Pete Theis said.
Because of the fire, the post moved its meetings to a small room in the back of the Round Up, which was located where the present American Legion building now stands.
“It was just a small, little room,” Delano Legionnaire Claude Teas said.
The post’s time at the Round Up was also cut short, when in 1965, another fire destroyed the Round Up and their meeting place.
“The Legion burned down in ‘65, during the flood,” local historian Bill Eppel said.
The flood of ‘65 caused the fire; while the water was rising, it hit the electrical wiring in the building, which, in turn, started the fire. The fire department was unable to reach the Round Up because of the high water levels, and it burned to the ground.
“The firefighters couldn’t get to it because it was surrounded by water,” Rieland said.
After the flood and proceeding fire, the post bought the land, and built the Legion building in 1966, Rieland said.
To meet the needs of the members, as well as the public, additions were made to the building on the east and west ends, adding a kitchen to the back of the building, while at the same time, providing more room for gatherings.
“We wanted a dance hall,” Teas said.
The post continued to improve the Legion over the years. Ten years ago, they added a new front entrance to the building, and the entire building was remodeled just over five years ago.
The remodeling project gave the Legion a new look by replacing the old bathrooms and kitchen with new furnishings and equipment, as well as increasing the barroom side.
The Legion now hosts a variety of events every week, such as bands, benefits, bingo, cards, karaoke, meetings, and raffles.
Meetings of all kinds take place at the Legion daily. The groups going to the Legion for their meetings range from Operation Minnesota Nice, to the Fourth of July committee, to even town team baseball.
The range of committees and groups that meet at the Legion proves the quality of the building and service that is offered at the Legion.
“We have a great staff of employees,” Manager Barb Staskivigi said.
The Legion building is also available for rent, and is often rented for such events as benefits and weddings.
Besides offering the community a place to go and congregate, the post does a lot of charity work for the community, especially Delano’s youth.
The post donates to many high school organizations such as the athletic programs and Dollars for Scholars. They also sponsor the Delano Legion Baseball team, as well as many other organizations.
“We are very community-oriented,” Hanson said.
In order for the post to sponsor and donate money to the different organizations, they need money. To get the money, the post conducts fundraisers and works with the Knights of Columbus with gaming.
A fundraiser that is popular in Delano is the omelet breakfast, which takes place the second Sunday of each month. The majority of the proceeds go directly to the organization that is being sponsored.
The post works closely with the Knights of Columbus in gaming. Gaming includes all the bingo events, pull tabs, and meat raffles.
“The Knights of Columbus are very active and helpful,” Staskivigi said.
The post does a lot for the community through donations, but that is not all they do. The post is currently one of the organizations on the Fourth of July Committee, helping plan the festival. Members also work in the hamburger stand, and the Honor Guard marches in the parade.
The post’s Honor Guard marches in all the parades in Delano, as well as attending funerals of veterans they are asked to attend.
“We go to funerals of all the veterans; they didn’t have to be a member,” Hanson said.
For Veteran’s Day, members of the Legion go into the schools and participate in various activities with the students. Some members give talks to the students, and others go to programs to represent the colors and answer questions.
Over the past few years, members have been doing this at Delano Public Schools, and have participated in a program run by Delano Schools Superintendent Dr. John Sweet on Veteran’s Day.
“Sweet puts together a nice program,” Hanson said.
On Memorial Day, the post honors its fallen heroes with a memorial service.
They start at the Legion and march to the river where, they honor the dead by firing a salute and playing Taps. From there, they go to the park by the evergreen memorial and listen to a speech by a guest speaker.This year’s guest is Sweet, who is a Vietnam veteran.
After the speech, they go back to the Legion for food and beverages, followed by a post meeting.
“It is a free meal for everyone,” Teas said.
The Legion has a very strong presence in Delano, but it is not the only entity in town. The Legion works closely with its family members, the American Legion Auxiliary, and the Sons of the American Legion.
The American Legion Auxiliary was established in Delano in 1920, and is comprised of women who are immediate family members of an American Legion member, or a deceased veteran. Currently there are 35 chartered members in Delano.
The Sons of the American Legion was established in Delano in 1997 with 62 chartered members, and membership has grown over the past few years to 110.
The groups do work closely with one another in fundraising activities and various other activities.
“It’s a family,” Rieland said.
Members of the American Legion always have been and still are dedicated to this country and their communities.
Whether it is being on active duty, or actively helping the community, the American Legion will be doing its part to make a better world.
“It will always continue,” Rieland said.
Delano American Legion Post 377
Jon Hanson Post Commander
Robert Putman Adjutant
Mike Brandenberg Adjutant membership
Amy O’bryn Chaplin
Dick Amundson Historian
Jack Lynch Treasurer
Bingo every Thursday
Burger/Taco specials every Wed.
Daily Pull tabs
Everett Smithson Band June 5
Karaoke every Thursday and Saturday
Monthly Food Specials
Omelet Breakfast every second Sunday of the month
Operation MN Nice every second Tuesday of the month
Weekly Meat Raffles Friday and Saturday
Euchre Card games every Tuesday
For additional information on Legion events call (763) 972-2969