The city’s American Legion Post 42 finally has a home.
It had essentially been homeless since the 1980s, when city leaders agreed to tear down the Legion Hut on Iberville Drive.
In recent years, the veterans post has been meeting once a month at the Senior Citizens Center on Washington Avenue, but there was no room for the auxiliary so the ladies met down the street at the Methodist Church. Members carried post paperwork, flags and plaques in their trunks or stored them in their homes.
That was no way to function for a post that has been steadily growing and working hard through the years on community projects.
Last year, their plight came to light when they begged a developer not to tear down the old gas station at the Winn-Dixie shopping center, hoping they might have it for a post.
On Tuesday night, the city signed a lease giving Post 42 two rooms at the former Taconi Elementary, behind the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center. Mayor Connie Moran pledged to pay the first two years’ rent (at $50 a month); Alderman Chic Cody pledged to pick up the third year; and he and Alderman at-large Bobby Cox spent time clearing the two rooms, getting them ready for the post.
The veterans already have a little American flag flying on the fence at the door.
They are proud to have a place to call home. And better yet that it’s so close to Pershing Square, one of their projects commemorating veterans on the front lawn of the Mary C.
“Years ago, when they tore down the American Legion Hut on Iberville Drive, the city promised us a place to move. It never happened,” post member Carl King said. “I call this a promise fulfilled.”
In recent years, the post has worked hard with the city to find a suitable place.
The two rooms are adjoining and the city has cut a door for the group to have access to restrooms. There’s no sink or cooking area, but there may be room for a ping-pong table. They will have to rent a larger space for the Christmas party and banquets, but for now, it will suffice, King said.
“They asked us what night we’ll be meeting in the room,” King said. “I said every night.”
It’s a place for members to come and play cards, eat donuts, fly the flag, put plaques on the walls.
“It’s our place,” he said. “It has taken perseverance.”
They have to have insurance on it, but that’s a minimal cost for the organization that helps throughout the community. They are accepting donations of conference tables and folding chairs.
Group spokesman Richard Eckert thanked the mayor and aldermen in writing, saying this move “rectifies a controversial decision in 1980 to restore Marble Springs located on Iberville Drive and tear down the American Legion–Jaycee hut, rescinding a lease in existence. However, Hurricane Elena in 1985 caused the Hut to be destroyed beyond repair.”
Eckert said the two rooms are a temporary home until they can raise money to build a freestanding post.
About the two rooms, King said they plan to put up a proper flag outside the doors soon.
“By next week, you’ll know we’re here.”