Norman Anderson had a tough row to hoe as commander. Many of the members were angry at the manner in which various events had fallen thru the year before. Others had developed new interests. Everybody except a faithful few had a legitimate kick coming. At the time it looked as though everybody was wrong and no one was right. There was little done during the year and the active members complained of that. There were just two meetings held and in each case they were extremely brief and th barest routing of business was transacted. No one recognized the difficulty at the time but the men that composed the Post were changing. In the view from the distance of a dozen years the fact that the Post rested was the best thing that could have happened.
When the organization started in 1919 the members were still the "boys". They were young, full of life, reckless and in most cases unmarried. In the intervening years the majority had married. They were building homes. More and more frequently when the Memorial Day parade passed in certain spots a very young voice would shriek "There's Daddy". Churches and other organizations were claiming the attention of some who had been extremely active members. Club rooms were no longer necessary and in the eyes of many of the wives, not even desirable. The Post must change as it's members were changing.Had the Post been active the change would have involved much bickering and hard feelings. With a year's interval to let hard feelings die and the recognition of the fact to come out that the members were becoming different beings, the stage was set for the building up of a new and different organization under the old name.
The only important event that had to be taken care of was Memorial Day. We could not let the G.A.R. down. Those old gentlemen were the most understanding friends we had. It was our duty to see the few days they would be with us should be pleasant and happy. Memorial Day was sacred to them. We now recognize that in the days before 1917 we had often gone fishing or to a baseball game on Memorial Day with the remark, "Why should we go and listen to some old fellows tell of what happened long before we were born". Now we realize that there was something more to Memorial Day and the Post may be proud of the fact that during this year when all other activities were dead the members, both active and dormant, did their best. There was no cash in the treasury. There was no band to be had but solicitations in the town raised the required amount to hire a band. Commander Anderson with the assistance of past commander, Diener organized committees to take care of the required details. Grant Nash with the assistance of Ralph Dextar, the adjutant, routed out enough men for a firing squad and a color guard.It wasn't necessary to eye a man's waist line before asking him to appear in uniform. It was a case of personalities rather than physical build. The day came and sixteen of the G.A.R. were present. Everything went successfully and if anybody thought his efforts were wasted, a word with ex-cavalryman, Bond or Uncle Billy Biedelman, would put him right. Those two estimable old gentlemen as well as others whose names we cannot recollect made those of us who had not been out on other Memorial Days feel ashamed of ourselves.
In November came the annual banquet and election of officers. The banquet was served in the Masonic Hall by the Auxiliary. The group was small enough so that the Auxiliary could handle it. The members of the Auxiliary were almost all the mothers of the Downers Grove men. Those elderly ladies did themselves proud, Mrs Nash, Mrs. Allison, Mrs Dickie and numerous others fed the group of forty men and fed them well. We had no speaker for the evening and no plans for the evening beyond the election of officers. Due to the apathy of the past year we wondered who would take the office of commander.
When the tables were cleared the commander announced the election and stated that nominations were open for the office of commander. Man after man was nominated and declined. The proposal was made to turn in the charter. At the time it looked like rather a fiasco. Viewing the event from now it was a logical and necessary evolution. The crisis in the life of the Post was here. A man was needed to take the lead and go ahead with a new plan.
We had invited the Rev. Norwood of the Episcopal Church to be our guest. He rose and said that he should hate to see an organization like The American Legion dissolve. He deplored the fact that his service over seas had not entitled him to membership. He had served with the British Y.M.C.A. and served until his health failed long before we had entered the war. His talk was exactly what was needed. The members were more or less ashamed of themselves for considering giving up but they didn't know how to get out of the rut they were in.
H. Clark rose and offered the name Henry Swift as commander. Few of us knew Henry as he was a newcomer in town and a member for only a few months. We looked him over and the idea was; will he take it? HE DID. AS I said before we didn't know Henry. He rose and said that he would except but he expected help. He stated that he knew what was wrong with us. We hoped so and later events proved he was right. He announced that we would have to speak up as he was a little ard' of hearing. He was elected.
Now a word or two about Henry Swift. He had left England at the age of 18 or there abouts' to work on a railroad in Liberia. He had revisited England after a few years and found it dull. He had then started out on a career as an engineer. He worked or stopped in every country in Europe
,most of Africa, Australia, the Near East and South America. At one time he was lost in the jungles of the Amazon for six weeks, his partner dead of a snake bite. He reached Panama in his wanderings just as the canal was being built. He couldn't get work there as only American citizens were being hired. He went to Boston and got a job. There he started in to complete a course at Massachusetts Institute of Technology nights and Sundays while he was resting. He became a citizen and when we entered the war tried to enlist. His hearing kept him out of the combat divisions but he got into the ordinance department and was discharged a first lieutenant. He had bought a couple of lots south of Downers Grove and was building himself a home during his spare time. The house was about completed so Henry was ready for something else. The job of commander came just in time to fill the otherwise vacant hours he might waste sleeping.
In the next chapter we will strive to make you better acquainted with Henry. He said that he never knew that The United States had once been a colony of Great Britain until he studied up on the United States history to apply for citizenship. Thus he had never heard much of Benjamin Franklin. But if he had heard of Franklin's maxim," If you want a thing well done, do it yourself'. Henry would have changed it to " if you want a thing well done get someone to do it and keep on his trail until he does it right and the next time he will do it right the first time".
The rest of the meeting went off with a minimum of friction. With a man in as commander, Tom Shultz was easily prevailed upon to continue keeping the books. M.E. Stevenson took over the adjutant's job and Bob Dickson became vice-commander and the meeting was ready to adjourn.
An invitation was read from the Rev. Phelps inviting us to attend services at the Congregational Church on the Sunday preceding Armistice Day which would be the following Sunday. Henry rose and announced that as he was commander and the gavel had been turned over to him, the first thing was to find out if all those protestants of support meant anything. He said we would meet at the church fifteen minutes before the service and sit in a body. If we meant what we said we would be there and he would be looking for us. That passed the buck right back to the individual and quite a number of men began to wonder how it would be to go to church once more.