American Legion Post 137 requires significant upgrades

Progress Staff WriterJuly 11, 2014 

O’Fallon’s American Legion Post 137 is in dire need of TLC and building improvements are a necessary element to the organization’s vitality and morale, said Cheryl Hill, junior vice commander elect.

“The laundry list of appliance updates and improvements is snowballing and we are struggling to manage whatever is economically feasible,” Hill said.

“We’ve been reaching out to the community and have gotten some good feedback and donations from businesses and private donors, (but our battle) to bring the building to an aesthetic and functioning standing is still an ongoing obstacle.”

“Last year, we managed to get some paint donated and Legion members volunteered their Labor Day weekend to doing some fix ups and paint the hall room that we use for events and rent out to those who are in need of a venue with a holding capacity of 210 or less,” Hill said.

Making the building handicap accessible, new ceilings, electrical updates, appliance updates, plumbing, outside picnic tables and signage, as well as new air conditioner units are just the beginning, according to Hill.

“I have been working as canteen manager, plus I work full time at Scott Air Force Base, so my daughter has been helping me get the word out there that we need help and donations—really whatever we can to make this place better for our local and visiting veterans,” Hill said.

“She’s even helped me go on Craigslist online to see about arranging pickups for donated materials and odds and ends.”

Veteran David Schrameck and member of Post 137 said he will continue to come and frequent the Legion with pride.

"I’ve been coming here most of my life and really as long as this building has been here (since about 1975),” Schrameck said. “Our veterans are so crucial to our country and I just wish we could honor them better with a warm, inviting place to share memories and make new ones with generations to come.”

Al Depping is a veteran and member of 16 years to Post 137, who would like to see not only a good layer of paint across the board, a new ceiling on the lower level where the bar and recreation room is, but also better signage outside.

“It would be a great way to advertise our organization is still here,” Depping said.

“Honestly, there have been so many who have said to us ‘oh, we didn’t even know O’Fallon had a Legion post.’” Hill went on to explain the building’s sign just near the road is no longer hanging a sign due to restrictive city ordinances prohibiting signs be near the road.

Director of Community Development Ted Shekell said he, nor his staff have been contacted regarding signage requests. The only restrictions based on city ordinance pertains to size and location—as long as the sign’s not in the city’s right of way or too large to block view of the street.

“If there’s anything we can do to help the American Legion in town make headway on their efforts, especially with figuring out signage requirements, then we are just a phone call away and willing to sit down and work on concerns,” Shekell explained.

“Our pole is just hanging out there with no purpose but to continue getting rusty, and when the alcohol sign blows out and no longer lights up, we’ve been informed that city ordinance will not permit our organization to replace it because it also is close to road, but neither say American Legion (to show people) we’re here,” Hill explained.

“Our only sign is painted on the awning over the door which doesn’t face the street that oncoming traffic from the main drag comes from most.”

“This building is still functioning, but just needs so many updates to bring it to a more energy efficient (level), plus we want it to look attractive to possible customers who want to support our veterans and (non-profit) organization,” Hill said. “We just can’t afford it, and it’s a shame.”

The national organization was formed after World War I to act as a support group of servicemen.

According to the O’Fallon Centennial History book published in 1954, the original post was named after H. Edward Fischer, who was the first casualty of O’Fallon in WWI and after WWII, the name of Fischer was combined with Sollis, to form the name of Fischer-Sollis Post No. 137.

Vernell Sollis was the first casualty of O’Fallon in WWII.

At that time, in 1954, there were 234 members, which has grown more since.

“Current post membership is over 250, and may even be near 290 now with transfers coming in,” Hill said. “We just want to make this a nice place for veterans.”

The first post members first met in 1919 at O’Fallon City Hall, and later meetings were at the Masonic Hall and McClanahan’s Garage—which was at the time Katy Cavins’ bus line route station, but currently is Gia’s Pizza. Other meeting locations included Shamrock Hotel and in members’ homes until 1935.

The Legion Home was then built on the northwest corner of Washington and Vine Streets out of telephone poles.

Legion members and citizens of O’Fallon performed the labor, according to O’Fallon Centennial Historical records.

The small hut that looks similar to a log cabin is showcased in the O’Fallon Community Park.

For more information call 632-8879 or visit www.legion.org.

rkirsch@bnd.com

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