Arcata’s Legionnaires pledge to smash autocracy, announce burlesque show

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – On a warm, sunny Friday evening, only about one-10th of American Legion Post 274’s 111 members  turned out for the June 1 monthly meeting at the Arcata Veterans Memorial Building. So most member vets missed out on the grandeur and pageantry of the swearing-in of the post’s officers for the year.

A no-autocracy zone

Following the Pledge of Allegiance and the invocation by Chaplain Leonard Shumard, members read aloud the preamble to the American Legion Auxiliary Constitution.

The preamble restates basic principles upheld by the Legion and its members. It reads:

“To uphold and defend the constitution of the United States of America; to maintain law and order; to foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism; to preserve the memories and incidents of our associations during the Great Wars; to inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation; to combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses; to make right the master of might; to promote peace and goodwill on earth; to safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom, and democracy; to participate in and contribute to the accomplishment of the aims and purposes of The American Legion; to consecrate and sanctify our association by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.”

By way of combatting autocracy, an explanation at explains, “‘If America is to remain ‘the land of the free,’ the government must always be a government of all the people and for all the people. No classes are recognized in America. No masses of downtrodden people exist. Neither must be permitted to develop, but America must be kept the country of opportunity for all, where every citizen’s first allegiance is to the nation, not to some social or economic class or mass. Dominance must not be gained by any such grouping of Americans. This is another basic pledge of the Legion and Auxiliary.”

Busy business, even burlesque

With autocracy having been put on notice, Post Commander Jeff Sterling welcomed guests, they being renowned photographer, musical instrument maker and wood artist Tony Gonsalves and Legion District 1 Commander Mike Voight.

A report by Finance Officer Bill Kohse indicated a healthy cash flow. Recent successful events at the Vets Hall have made known the facility’s potential, as rentals are on the rise. The monthly swing dance is enduringly popular.

MAJOR MOOSTERY Sgt. Moose, as he is known, graces the wall in the Arcata Veterans Memorial Building office. He is but one of the many unique artifacts to be found at the Vets Hall, including military memorabilia, Boy Scout Troop 9 relics and volumes of newspaper clippings documenting the venerable hall’s storied history. Th trouble is, Sgt. Moose’s history is a mystery – no one knows why its formidable head adorns the Vets Hall’s wall. Anyone with an inkling into the mystery moose’s provenance is asked to call American Legion Post 274 Commander Jeff Sterling at (707) 822-1552. KLH | Union

“We’re getting a lot of nice comments about how the building looks now as opposed to five years ago,” Sterling said.

Several veteran-oriented events were mentioned, including an Ice Cream Social put on by the Eureka VA Clinic and Eureka Elk’s Lodge No. 652 on June 28 and Veterans Fishing Day at Freshwater Lagoon July 7.

A retro-style burlesque show called Pin-ups On Tour takes place at the hall on Sept. 8. Sterling said it will have the flavor of the renowned World War II-era Hollywood Canteen. “Get dressed up,” he advised.

The Marine Corps Ball will be held Nov. 10. (More events are posted at the Arcata Vets Hall Facebook page.)

An announcement was made that Arcata’s Northcoast Fabricators has job openings for construction of an out-of-the-area mill.

Local delegates were selected for the American Legion Department of California 100th Annual Convention taking place June 21 to 24 in Sacramento. They are Chris Killian, Jeremiah Cohen and Jeff Sterling.

Commander Voight, fresh from visiting 14 posts throughout his jurisdiction, offered a report on the state of the district. Participation is on the upswing, with District 1 placing no. 8 in the state in meeting membership requirements. 

Post 274 is an overachiever, having attained 100.19 percent of its 110-member goal. This earned Post 274 a signed portrait of Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan.

“You guys do a fantastic job, and we appreciate it,” Voight said.

The Vets Hall will be represented at the 28th Annual Arcata Bay Oyster Festival this Saturday, June 16 and the 4th of July Jubilee, and volunteers are sought to staff the booths.

Sterling objects to use of the term “4th of July,” noting that the holiday’s proper name is Independence Day.

He noted with dismay a citizen request aired at Arcata’s recent public scoping session for the next permanent chief of police, where someone asked that the new chief not have a military background.

Noting that service members risk their lives to protect democracy but aren’t considered fit to serve in public office, Sterling called the request “really troubling.”

“I think that’s sickening; I think that’s upsetting,” Sterling said. “It’s disheartening that they wouldn’t want somebody who was willing to sacrifice their life to continue serving and protecting this community. But these are the things we have to deal with in Arcata sometimes.”

Legion Auxiliary

As the Legion met, so, in another room, did the world’s largest patriotic service organization – the American Legion Auxiliary, local chapter.

President Alison Robbins said the newly founded chapter is up to 13 members. Officers have been elected, but more are needed in order to form an executive committee. Direct inquiries to [email protected] RE: MEMBERSHIP.

Robbins also plans to attend the state Legion convention in Sacramento June 21 through 24.

Alison Robbins' exquisite cuisine draws in veterans from all over for the monthly Warriors Lunch. KLH | Union

Last Wednesday’s monthly Warriors Lunch was also well attended, with vets lining up for meatball subs with all the trimmings, prepared by Robbins.

The Legion and Auxiliary next meet July 6.



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