Gurnee American Legion Post 771
by Mr. Beverly D. Shaw
March 12, 1976
To start the life of our present Post, there was some trying years at the beginning. A few brave members who started the Post are responsible for what we have today. Navy and Marine Post #188 was chartered in 1919 in Chicago and was later moved to Great Lakes and carried the activities until about 1929. The membership was composed of mostly Navy and Marine flyers from World War I. This group got together again and reactivated the post with new blood added and a charter was granted May 23, 1935 under the name of Admiral William A. Moffett Aviation Post 77l having its home in the Sheridan Building in North Chicago. The name Aviation was dropped from the Post later.
At the invitation of a number of former legionnaires residing in the Village of Gurnee, George M. Illich, Commander of the Admiral William A. Noffett Post 771, held an open-house meeting on the evening of Tuesday, November 1, 1938 at Depke’s Garage, Grand Avenue, Gurnee, at 8:00 p.m.District Commander William Seymour and other prominent legionnaires were present -- they explained the purpose and the need of a Post in Gurnee. The feeling of some district members was that the Post would be formed in Gurnee only to fall by the wayside. That meeting proved to be successful and in February of 1939 the Post was moved to Gurnee. The first meeting was held in Depke’s Garage and the permanent meeting place became the Fire Station in the rear of McClure’s garage.
Some of the first members to be installed by Senior Vice Commander Elmer NcArthur and Sergeant at Arms, William Dowden of the Tenth District, were Joe Machak, Albert Simonson, Arthur Johnson, Chester Faulkner, Joseph Dada, Ted Carison, John Callanan, Fred Chase, Frank Mourek, and, possibly others joined later on -- as far as records show other members were Glen Ilaveran, Sid Brackett, Joe Podesta, William Barnes, William Doyle, Arthur Berndtson, Robert Kelton, Sr., Hugh Babcox, Elmer Wirth, John Barnard, Frank Barber, Lester Cookson, Mr.’s Scanlon, Penland, Thorme Donnelly and George Parker were believed to be on the roster in 1939.
In 1941 the women’s auxiliary was formed. Mrs. Albert Sitnonson held a meeting at her home at 2 O’clock in the afternoon going through the preliminary steps to form the new unit.The same evening Mrs. Noel White of Fox Lake, Tenth District President, installed Mrs. Albert Sitnonson, temporary president, Mrs. Fred Chase temporary secretary and Mrs. Joseph Dada temporary treasurer. Later they installed regular officers and signed more eligible members. Another event in 1941 was the Veterans register in the defense plan. Post Commander Joe Machak and Joe Dada gave out registration blanks to ex-service men in the area to enlist there support in national defense. However, they were not subject to enter the national defense service unless they wanted to.
The Post quarters were moved to the Woodmen Hall on Grand Avenue in Gurnee during the summer of 1942. The membership increased and, bingo plus other money-raising events helped build up funds to purchase the present grounds. World War II veterans joined to add to the forces of, the World War I veterans
On April 1, l96, the Post voted to purchase the site. Ground was broken for the new building in April of 1949. The first meeting in the new building was held April 19, 1950.
The building became a reality through the efforts of several World War I veterans who signed notes with the Grayslake Bank. Ten Thousand dollars was borrowed through a resolution passed on the floor. The grateful gesture of these men will be long remembered as a true memorial of those who gave their lives for their country.
The year 1949 and early part of 1950 many long hours were spent by the faithful men and women of this community. Men and women who were not eligible for membership in the Legion or Auxiliary helped construct the building. With the help of experienced carpenters and other tradesmen, members worked side by side laying wood floors, paneling, and other materials.
On May 10 and May 11, 1950, the Post held the first big event called “It’s a Date,” a local talent variety show.
The same year the Post set up a small bar in the southwest corner of the building. Beverages were served from washtubs of ice and the help was all donated. At the same time, the women were working -- trying to get the kitchen facilities set up in order to serve bingo and other events.
With members of both Legion and Auxiliary working side by side, came the realization of a big event in the near future.
On June 8 1952 came the big day of burning the mortgage. That Sunday morning, with rain in the air came the drenched floats proceeding down Grand Avenue headed for the American Legion Memorial Circle. The largest parade ever to participate in Gurnee -- Lull cooperation from the town’s people made this an eventful day.
Douglas D. Getchell, National Committeeman of the American Legion, gave the dedication address. Chester Faulkner, Finance Officer, burned the fifty thousand dollar mortgage papers. Arthur Klemm unveiled the memorial plaque. Commander 13ev Shaw was the Master of Ceremonies and President Alma Callanan introduced the Auxiliary guests.
In 1951 the fish fry, with over two hundred attending, was another one of the first events.
In 1952the Legion and Auxiliary officers’ pictures were placed on the walls.
Many programs were started in the Legion and the officers and members worked hard to follow their duties.
In February, 1954, the first publication of the Gurnee Legion was published.
November of 1954, the Post received the first state citation for child welfare.
The following year in February of 1955, plans were started for the new addition on the south side of the building.
Through these years, youth center, scouts, and other programs were followed through by faithful members. -
The first Junior Legion baseball team was formed in June, 1955.
January 18, 1956, Charles Dole, Chester Faulkner, Arthur Klemm, Albert Siinonson and Harry Keefe received life memberships for their outstanding work.
In 1956 the nursing program was started with $400.00 scholarship given. The oratorical contest was won by a Gurnee student with five schools entering.
In 1956 the Legion and Lions Club sponsored a St. Patrick’s Day dance.
Many events were put on with the community’s help. The first five year card was issued in June, 1956.
The youth center sponsored by the Legion was active during these years. Sons of the Legion were formed in August of 1957 and by September 1958 there were 45 members.
The new addition was voted on in September 1957. June 22, 1958, the recreation room and a 46 foot horseshoe bar were dedicated -- with an open house and dance.
Citations were received for child welfare, rehabilitation, Americanism, publicity and safety from the Lake County Tenth District Council.
In the ‘50’s regular visitation to Downey Veterans Hospital, donating cakes, playing cards and visiting veterans were carried out in a monthly basis by the Legion and Auxiliary.
The big essay contest was started in April 1959 sponsored by the Legion for local schools, topic, “What I would like to do when I finish my schooling.”
Poppy Day is scheduled every year for the Saturday before Memorial Day. This is an important day for the Legion and Auxiliary - working together. Flags have been put on Veterans’ graves every year on Memorial Day.
In former years Memorial Day Services were held at the Warren Cemetary. May of 1961, the first Memorial Day parade was planned by the Honor Guard, directed by Edward Jahneke and his committee. The parade formed on the east end of Gurnee and paraded down to the Memorial Circle on the Legion Grounds, and has continued to the present time.
The Scarlet Knights were sponsored by the Legion Post and marched for competition, parades and special events. They proudly carried the Legion Banner.
The burial fund organization known as the “Taps Club” was formed in October of 1961.
Activities such as fish fry, pancake breakfasts, trapshooting, bowling, holiday parties and other events make up the social end of the organization.
The Legion presented a resolution to the Tenth District Council and the State of Illinois for an all out campaign for “Jobs after 40.”
The first Gurnee Day sponsored by the Fire Department, Lions and Legion was held Saturday, May 30, 1964.
From Hay, 1963, until June 1, 1964, a total of $16,250.00 was spent for child welfare.
On Sunday, June 28, 1964, a memorial grave side service was held in honor of Harry Collins - Lake County’s only Independence War resident born March 10, 1763 in South Boro, Massachusetts, and died April 10, 1847 at the age of 84. A grave marker was placed through the efforts of Kenneth Leable Trustee of the Mount Rest Cemetery in Rosecrams.
On May 29, 1965, the second annual Gurnee Day was held.
The Legion has had national, state and local dignitaries at the different events. The athletic banquets have had big stars like, Jesse Owens, Kip Collins, Don Kissinger and others as guest speakers.
Past Commander Jack Alvis received a “life membership” in August of 1965.
Monies were donated for equipment for police department, fire department, and Christmas baskets for the needy.
In August, 1965, the Legion purchased some acreage south of the building. Filling and leveling of the land plus seeding were continued through November of that year.
Sunday,, May 1, 1966, at 2:00 p.m., a dedication of three ball diamonds known as Faulkner Field was dedicated as Mrs. Chester Faulkner unveiled the plaque in honor of her husband.
March 15, 1967, Joe Anderson and Bev Shaw received life memberships at the Legion Birthday Dinner. In May of that same year our organization served 678 celebrating the Annual Gurnee Day. June 19, 1967, the first “flag day” was founded. All the torn flags were disposed of with a prayer ceremony. The State Junior Legion Baseball Team Play-offs were held at Faulkner Field, August 10 - 13, 1967.
Through the years many events were held and still the programs were followed through.
Air-conditioning was installed, parking lot was black-topped arid a new bar installed.
Each Commander and his committees worked hard through the years adding new interests. Social night was on the regular agenda to create a social atmosphere within the organization.
In March of 1975, at the regular birthday dinner, Marty Zupan, Charles Florio, Ray Panzer, Edward Jahneke and Wilmer Krueger received life-time memberships for outstanding work.
Many of the faithful members have gone to “Post Everlasting” and some have moved away. The remaining ones carry on and newer members are a great credit to operating the Post’s activities.
The Commanders over the years are as follows: Harry Edwards 37-38; Joe Machak 39-40; Ad Siinonson 40-42; John Callanan 42-43; Chet Faulkner 43-44; Harry Keefe 44-45; Lester Cookson 45-46; Cole Ferry 46-47; Charles Dole 47-48; Arthur Kiemin 48-49; Arthur Johnson 49-50; Arthur Hart 50-51; Bev Shaw 51-52; Reno Giovanetto 52-53; Harvey Lossman 53-54; Al Marro 54-55; Joe Anderson 55-56; Frank McCann 56-57; Joe DeLuca 57-59; Dick Kuhn 59-60; Jack Alvis 60-61; Jack Stevens 61-62; Ray Diehi 62-63; Marty Zupan 63-64; George Redmond 64-65; Ecford Threadgill 65-66; Joe Gholson 66-67; Howard Bean 67-68; Carl Streed 68-69; Tony Bruscato 69-70; Bernideen Hrvoj 70-71; Joe Hrvoj 71-72; Ray Panzer 72-73; Bill Krueger 73-74; Delbert Brewer 74-75; Bill Richey 75-76,
A continuation will be added to this report beyond March 12, 1976
Historian & Past Commander
Beverely D. Shaw