Jackson County

O.S. American Legion: Don’t tear it down, we need a home

City officials say this boarded gas station in Ocean Springs is slated to be torn down. The American Legion wants it for a new home.
City officials say this boarded gas station in Ocean Springs is slated to be torn down. The American Legion wants it for a new home. klnelson@sunherald.com

Veterans in Ocean Springs need a place to settle, and when they heard the old gas station in the Springs Plaza parking lot was being torn down as part of renovation plans, they contacted the Sun Herald.

American Legion Post 42 has been meeting at the Senior Citizens Center on Washington Avenue for years now, but because of a resurgence in popularity and growth in its numbers, it needs a real home.

“Why tear it down?” said Post 42’s Richard Eckert. “The American Legion is looking for a location.”

He wondered if it was just wishful thinking, but said he believed it would enhance the city to have an American Legion post on U.S. 90.

Mayor Connie Moran announced recently the building was coming down as part of Springs Plaza’s renovations. The plaza on U.S. 90 is owned, at least in part, by Joseph C. Canizaro, a Biloxi native and New Orleans developer and bank owner who made his fortune investing in “traditional American businesses” and retirement communities, according to his profile with The First Bank.

Canizaro is a local boy, of sorts, so post members wondered if he’d give it some consideration.

Post 42 is looking for a place to call home. Parking is a problem at the Senior Center.

Other Legion posts along the Coast have their own buildings, Post 42 members said, but Ocean Springs has continued its search for a home since it lost its building on Iberville Drive several years ago.

If not the old gas station, maybe the community would help Post 42 in its “quest for an existing building.”

The post can’t afford to buy a building, but it does have the money for upkeep and utilities, building committee chairman Carl King said.

Grants and loans are also possible, he said, if anyone knows of undeveloped property available in the city.

“We’re kind of at our wits’ end,” he said, “and we have some great gals and guys in the post.”

He said they need a place to go and talk about old times and play pool and ping-pong, or have potluck.

He said the post has veterans in their mid-20s and veterans of World War II.

“There’s just a wealth of information that comes out of them,” King said. “Most of them own their own homes and help in the community.”

Post in Ocean Springs since 1919

Post 42 meets each third Monday at the Senior Citizens Center and helps the town by assisting veterans.

▪ It was chartered in 1919 by 15 veterans of World War I.

▪ After losing its home on Iberville Drive, membership began to decline.

▪ Fred Lemon and Robert Endt revitalized it in 2002 and membership has grown to more than 150.

Post 42 helps with Boys State and Girls State, ROTC units and Boy Scouts. It gives patriotic talks about the American flag to first-graders in Jackson County and puts in thousands of community service hours a year.

This past year, it elected its first woman commander, Sandra Reid, and two members — Anita McAllister and Robert Endt — were elected to some of the highest offices in the American Legion.

Recent accomplishments:

▪ Chartered Sons of the American Legion post in 2015.

▪ Joined the city in building the Pershing Square memorial at the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center of Arts and Education.

▪ Has undertaken a veterans parade in October.

As far as getting the old BP gas station, the good news is the city Building Department hasn’t received a demolition permit yet from the developer or owner of the property.

“But there’s a lot we don’t know about what’s going on with that property,” said Hilliard Fountain, city building official.

He said it can be a difficult process repurposing a gas station for other uses. There are environmental considerations because of the underground gas tanks and other things.