Post 800 History
The American Legion is the largest veterans organization in the world. The history of the Legion goes back to post World War I.
A group of officers from the American Expeditionary Forces met to formulate ideas to improve the morale of the troops. Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt suggested forming an organization for that purpose. The first organizational caucus was held in Paris France in March 1919.
This caucus was attended by 1,000 officers and enlisted men. At this caucus the official name “The American Legion” was adopted. In September of that year Congress granted The American Legion it’s charter. The rules of the charter set eligibility requirements for membership.
Basically, one must have served in uniform during times
of armed conflict; not necessarily in a war zone. For details of eligibility, contact the current commander.
The local Post here in Southampton was formed in March of 1946. At that time
it was known as Lower Moreland Post 800. On May 6, 1946 a meeting was held
in Bryn Athyn Fire Hall.
At this meeting, two important pieces of business were
discussed, voted on and approved. One was the election of the first Commander,
Mr. Russell Lyman, an army veteran of World War ll. The other was a name change. It
was felt that Lower Moreland Post was too restrictive and did not encompass veterans
from surrounding communities.
After much discussion, it was voted upon to change the
name to “The Pennypack Post 800”. This was to include all communities along the Pennypack Creek. Subsequent meetings were held alternately between Huntingdon Valley and Southampton Fire Halls.
Some crazy things were done in those days to raise money to support our programs. An annual Minstrel Show held in Lower Moreland School auditorium. (Lower Moreland Township Library currently occupies this building.) These were very successful in the late 40’s and early 50’s. Horse Shows were sponsored at Sharpless Stables and Huntingdon Valley Riders and Drivers. Charles White Sr. (Whites General Store, Sorrel Horse) was the Caller and Master of Ceremonies. A Bowling League was formed and met at Somerton Springs complete with “Pin Boys”.
The first piece of real estate owned by the post was a house on Second Street Pike where Redwood Village is now. The property was purchased when the overpass was built over the Turnpike. The Post and Auxiliary worked hard in
that house, but also had fun. Clam bakes were catered by “Cashes Clam Bakes”.
Many can still taste those clam fritters; nobody can make them like Cashes!!
“Chicken in the Rough” dinners, which is chicken Barbeque over open pit
charcoal fires were also popular. It was a lot of work, but it was fun and we had a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
This property had a five car carriage house that was turned over to the Boy Scout troop that was sponsored. (Troop 208 Huntingdon Valley) The boys and leaders did a fabulous job turning that dirty garage into a beautiful warm “Scout Cabin”.
In 1969, the legion moved into a large new building behind Redwood Village. This building had a large hall, meeting room and commercial kitchen. We rented the hall to the public and the ladies catered the events. Southampton Days Committee used it for their pancake breakfasts to support their activities. The legion held our own Shrimp Nights and Roast Beef Nights there also.
With the passing of time, it became no longer physically feasible to maintain the property or to work the events to raise needed moneys to support the Legion programs. In 1994, the building was sold and the proceeds placed in trust. The interest from the trust is used to support our programs.
Right from the start in 1946, it was and still is the purpose of the Legion to
honor those who have made the supreme sacrifice. An Honor Roll was placed in front of what is now the Wells Fargo Bank on Hunting Pike in Huntingdon Valley.
Then a permanent monument complete with bronze plaques was erected at Elkins Field. We planted the Memorial Trees around Shelmire Field and helped with the monument at Second Street Pike and Street Road. We sponsored and organized the Solemn March on Memorial Day and the Parades on the fourth of July both in Southampton and Huntingdon Valley.
For Memorial Day, we decorate the veteran’s graves at Sunset Memorial Park,
Davisville Baptist Church and The Old School Baptist Church with flags. We also
decorate monuments in Huntingdon Valley, Bryn Athyn and Southampton with
wreaths and flags. On Memorial Day itself, we hold a brief wreath laying
ceremony at Old School Baptist Church and Sunset Memorial Park.
The Memorial Trees at Veteran Field (Shelmire Field). The monuments are again decorated and refreshed for Veterans Day. Today, Lower Moreland Township has a new monument adjacent to their library. You can believe The American Legion was very active in this project.
We support programs for the youth. Legion Baseball is for young people age
14 through 18. Also Keystone Boys/Girls State for students going into their senior year of high school . In this program, a model state is created, complete with all governing bodies. State Police Youth Week is another. Young people are given a week of State Police Basic Training.
The Post works with the County Veterans Affairs Office in outreach clinics in
Levittown and Doylestown. We support the veterans in Coatesville Veterans
Hospital and Delaware Valley Veterans Home We give monetary support to a number of municipal services, scholarship funds and charities. We have sent funds through the National organization to areas of natural disasters like Texas and Florida.
We currently meet in the Huntingdon Valley Library. Our Commander is
Marc G. Willard, a Navy veteran of the Viet Nam era, and a resident of
Southampton. He looks forward to speaking to anyone who is interested at .
AMERICAN LEGION AUXILIARY UNIT 800
A meeting was held on May 22, 1947 at Huntingdon Valley Fire House and an
application was made for a Charter of the Ladies auxiliary of the American legion Unit #800. Temporary officers were elected and in June of the same year permanent officers were installed. At its inception, the Unit had thirty-one senior members and two junior members.
In the early days, we held many activities to raise money to meet our obligations to the Department of Pennsylvania such as cake sales, rummage sales, and minstrel shows. For eight years we sponsored horse shows in conjunction with Post #800.
During the later part of that year a girl from Scotland School, a school for orphaned veterans children, was “adopted” by the Unit. For over ten years the Unit sent spending money, birthday and holiday gifts to her. Since that time, we have had many children from Scotland School. Presently, we sponsor two young men from the school in the same manner in which we began.
In 1953, the Unit moved its meetings to Southampton Fire House, where they stayed for the next two years. In 1955, a house was purchased on Second Street Pike. All Post and Unit meetings were then held there. Many enjoyable fund raising activities took place in that building. Now, the Unit meets in the Huntingdon Valley Fire House.
The Unit continues its support of charitable organizations in the area. They sponsor essay contests in area schools, send girls to Keystone State in June, and distribute awards to deserving students in the eight grade class. Libraries in both Southampton and Huntingdon Valley are supported, as well as Bethanna Home, Coatesville and Valley Forge Hospitals. All of the veterans receive holiday greetings from the Unit on a regular basis. The Unit and Post still hold bingo at Ridgecrest Nursing home once a month and
hold a Christmas Party there.
Knowing there are many in the area in need, the Unit donates food and money at Thanksgiving and Christmas to families. Red Cross donations are made as well as donations to the USO and other crises states.
With the Post members we place flags on all Veterans graves at the Old Baptist Church, Shelmire School, Sunset Memorial Park, and at the memorial in the center of Southampton. All this is in preparation for our annual Memorial Day remembrance of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to their country.
Our Unit is still an active one. We meet monthly at the Huntingdon Valley Fire House on the third Tuesday of the month.