Bob Mitchell: Post’s plan is sad news for this writer

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

There is sad news for me on the horizon with the announced intentions of Irwin-Easley American Legion Post 118 to sell portions of their property on Highway 112.

Located at the southeast city limits, officials said recently that no papers had been signed closing the deal.

However, the existing membership has a proposal before them that they are apparently in the process of accepting.

While I have been a lifetime member of the post, my activity has been scarce for a number of years. This having been said, my agreement on what is understood of the proposal is absent for a number of reasons.

First being

Reduction of the Post’s presence in our community hinges on a serious setback brought on by a lack of support from today’s veterans, who have not chosen to be a part of any such organization. Whether that is the fault of those who have been in charge or a pure sign of changing times, can be debated with one thing for sure American Legion in Cassville just “ain’t what it once was.”

Here again, perhaps it’s the changing times people no longer want the community to have events that once brought crowds to the Legion Building for private events or to the sprawling grounds for such activities as the century-aged event, the Old Soldiers’ and Settlers’ Reunion and at one time, the Rotary Rodeo.

The memory of Cassville’s junior-senior banquet, which was held in the Legion auditorium, and of carrying trays of plates up out of the basement, is well engraved in my memory. The building hosted the catering of events like the Soils and Crops Conference, and free meals often highlighted uses of the building over scores of years.

Provided Memorial Park

Because of the community interest, the Post provided land for Memorial Park, which resulted in a now defunct Lions Club building a pavilion that has served the community in a number of ways. Apparently, this space will remain intact with the pending transaction being developed.

Post stays intact

Apparently, the Post will remain intact on part of the property as it moves to get out from under costly building maintenance and low income within the post.

Again, for some reasons unknown there are not reunion or bingo events that once provided revenue for the post. The availability of the auditorium for public events has apparently been taken over by other locations.

Irwin-Easley plans apparently center around continued operation in a smaller facility on the property hopefully to continue some service to veterans and the community.

World War II spawned

The Post’s prominence came after World War II when veterans began returning home and wanted a place to socialize with their kind and provide a service to the community.

Facilities didn’t appear overnight after the parcel was purchased from the William Holman family, whose home was across the highway from the parcel. In that transaction the family reserved a garden spot on the property at the midway entrance for the remainder of the Holmans’ lives.

The first home for the Post consisted of the basement portion only, but as the post became more solvent, the upper portion was constructed. Financing through Barry County Bank fell on hard times, which quickly resulted in a bail out by J. A. (Pop) Blalack, the local Chevrolet dealer. Pop went to the bank and co-sighed their note for the financing.

Pop was a WW I veteran who is remembered as one of the early patriots of Irwin-Easley.

Until recent years, there was only one financial difficulty in memory, the year a carnival didn’t honor their contract. In that emergency the Ladies’ Auxiliary came to the Post’s rescue paying necessary expenses for the year.

Acknowledgements

To acknowledge all those of the past who established the post and made it work over all these years would be impossible. A photo gallery of commanders since inception appears in the basement of the Post home. But, the staunch leaders, who made personal sacrifices during their tenure are for the most part no longer with us. Without the dedication of these former members of the Armed Forces, there never would have been a successful American Legion in Cassville.

Many business firms of those early days, most are non-existent in these days, contributed to the American Legion successes in the beginning. There again, to attempt crediting them would be impossible.

Autumn on the way

Had enough hot weather?

Have faith; Autumn is just around the corner. In fact, the arrival of fall is next Monday. We can hopefully get out of this “stay inside under the A.C. or fan” for any comfort. That’s for those of us who no longer are required to hit the trail of employment.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.