Tom Lanagan found this report for 1961 - 1962 which was written by then Commander Louis Wrenn. I will write this word for word from the pen of Louis W. Wrenn.
Commander's Final Report for 1961 - 1962 Prepared by Louis W. Wrenn
The following pages are intended as a final report of the Post 80 activities for 1962. They are intended also as a critical resume of our successes and failures, as well as a possible guide for the future.It is important that no one assumes that any of my remarks are set down in bitterness, or that I am critical of any person or group of individuals within the Post. I am merely reporting in the most objective way possible, the events of a very action packed, and often times explosive year as Commander of Post 80.
I was formally elected to the office of Post Commander at the June business meeting in 1961. The Post had not yet moved into it's new headquarters, as the building was not completed. At that time no arrangements had been made for the orderly study of the needs for our new headquarters, nor were any made prior to my installation.
Installation night was finally arranged for September 23, 1961 in the new Post Home. The following people were directly involved as leaders of the Installation ceremonies. The Installing Officer was G.W.McCollum, the Master of Ceremonies was James Murry and the Chaplain was Thomas Lanagan.
A delicious dinner was served by the Frederick's Catering Service of Oak Park, Illinois. Our newly licensed bar went into operation for the first time. Following the lengthy ceremonies, The Rabich Dance Band Combo offered the participants dance music. A major part of the evenings festivities was taken up by the previously arranged ceremony for the Dedication of the building. This impressive service was personally written and prepared by Past Commander, Harvey Kenitz. Booklets explaining the chronology of events leading toward the construction of the new Post Home, were specially printed for the affair. A total of 147 dinners were served to members of the Post and Auxiliary Unit, their wives and husbands as well as guests. More than that number witnessed the Installation and Dedication Ceremonies.
In order to preserve in the official records a memorandum of the official dedication of the building. I have attached a copy of the booklet. (See photos of September 23, 1961)
Following the Installation, the Post plunged into the regular course of activities. It was my duty to appoint Chairman of the various committees and the following is a list of these appointments:
Americanism James Newell Counter Subversion Gil Gieslar
Service Officer John T. Morris Gifts for Yanks Stanley Smallis
Boy Scouts James Hodous Boys State Raymond Fiene
American Legion Baseball T. McCollum Employment James Murray
Graves Registration Andrew Blaida July 4th Parade Andrew Blaida
Sick Visitation Merrill Banta Refreshments Harold Siemer
Public Relations Minor McEuen Uniforms Joseph Pechinski
Santa Claus Earl Will Color Guard Earl Will
In most cases these chairman performed their assigned duties adequately and in certain instances some of the jobs were outstanding.
Unlike most other committee work, which is performed usually on one occasion each year, Sick Visitation continues constantly. Therefore, I have begun my report with this category. Merrill Banta performed this job with honor and zeal, never complaining of the many hours spent traveling around to visit sick and disabled members. he made over fifty separate visits to disabled members in hospitals and at home. He also saw to it that both get-well and sympathy cards were dispatched to families of members. I offer my sincere gratitude to Merrill Banta for a difficult job well done.
Veteran's Day was a beautiful and sunny Saturday. Since the celebration fell on a weekend, the Post had an unexpectedly fine turn out of members and Auxiliary. Jim Hodous organized a color guard and rifle squad, and even held a practice session the evening before. Jim is to be congratulated on a fine performance as well as the turn out of the towns people as an audience. I am especially proud and happy for this Veteran's Day Celebration, because out of this program came one of the Post's activities for the year, our newly equipped and excellently administered Color Guard and Firing Squad. However, more on this later. Our annual Veteran's Day Pot Luck Dinner, attended by Post and Auxiliary members, their wives and husbands, guests and friends was a hearty success. The food served as always by members buffet style, was delicious.
SANTA CLAUSE VISITATION
This was the third year of this program. I managed to persuade Earl Will to guide this fine public relations activity of the Post. He did an excellent job and is to be given my own thanks for taking on this difficult task. It was the most successful job done in the three year history. This program is carried out by a few other Posts and deserves every effort to make Post 80's name felt in the community. Earl mapped out the program, literally, and used four Santas driven in cars by their reindeer. This year's Santas' were Merrill Banta, Gil Gieslar, Joe Pechinski and Ted Wrenn. The visited over seventy families. This program should be carried on and expanded. This is the very best sort of publicity for our Post.
SALE OF POST PROPERTY
On December 20, 1961 the Post received a cashiers check in the amount of $148,960.00 for the sale of the remaining property fronting on Ogden Avenue. This was a fitting Christmas present to the Post after eight months of negotiations with the buyer, Jewel Tea Co. The total amount of land involved in the sale was 11.8 acres extending back to the proposed 41st Street extension. Most of the negotiations in the initial stages were conducted by Bernie Blaida and concluded by Ted Wrenn.
With the sale of the Ogden property, we paid the final amount owed to the contractor for the new Post Home. However, this left the Post with a large balance in the general fund. On the instructions of the Board of Directors, I appointed Paul Blaida chairman of the investment committee to study a plan of investing the Post funds in securities. Appointed to the committee were Finance Officer Harvey Kenitz, Harry Borman and J. Delay. Later the committee was expanded by the addition of other members and a consulting stock broker. A portfolio of a four part investment program was prepared and presented to the Post at the January Business Meeting. This portfolio included investments in savings accounts in the three Downers Grove Banks in Government Bonds, Mutual Bonds and Blue Chip Securities. The investment plan was accepted by the Post at the February 1962 Business Meeting, except for the proposed Mutual Funds program. The committee was instructed not to invest Post funds in that type of security. Later the funds allocated for Government Bonds were diverted into saving accounts in six separate banks. This was done because the interest from the bonds was not high enough to reap the necessary profits to help operate the Post. The committee has continued to function and hopes are high that it will be continued indefinitely. Their work was performed well. A list of Blue Chip Securities purchased by the Post and a copy of the investment portfolio are attached to this report. (in the history files at the Post).
Gil Gieslar has been chairman of this activity for many years and his work was enhanced this year by his position with community organized "Committee for Action Against Communism." This was a lecture series of six speakers well known throughout the world for their work against the Communist menace. Of course Gil's timely reports throughout the year regarding his counter-subversives work with the County, District and Department. For two years he has been a member of the Department Committee, and through his efforts with this group he was able to guide a resolution through the American Legion Convention in Las Vegs. In view of the Post's Counter Subversive program is one of the few that is actively operational in the American Legion.
Although I had originally selected another person for the job, I eventually released the selectee from the job, at his own request for needed and valuable work elsewhere in the Post. Therefore I called on Jim Newell to take on the job again, as he has for many years. His first activity was the selection of a candidate for the annual County Oratorical Contest. This year to be held at the Northwest Du Page Post at the February meeting. Our first choice, Jeffery Mehl was not chosen until January and was washed out just a few days prior to the contest forcing us to choose someone else. Our last minute choice was Russ Stone, a high school junior. He placed third in a field of three at the contest. The only other activity of our Post Americanism program is the High School Awards. Added to this task, for the second year, Center Cass School. Jim presented the High School Awards and I presented the awards at Center Cass School. The Post went over the budgeted amount, however this program is well worth far more than the Post budgets. Frankly, I feel that the Post Americanism Program needs definite revitalizing. It has, in my opinion been a failure up until now.
Although the Post got started a little late in selecting boys to represent the organization at Premier Boys State, chairman Ray Fiene came through with flying colors. It was not until April that pressure was placed on him to find anyone. In May it was learned that only 800 boys would be accepted on a first come first serverd basis. This year two boys more than our budget allowed were selected. William Kraft, son of Unit 80 President Margret Edwards, accepted. Also Martin White, son of Gwen Webster Unit 80 member. Boys State operated from June 24th through June 30th, a good time was had by all. At the September meeting one of the boys spoke to the membership, reporting on his experience at Boys State. This is one of the American Legion's finest programs. Post 80 could find a wealth of fine publicity if we would make an all out effort to promote this area of child welfare and Americanism. I should add that the Post has a fine chairman of the Boys State Program in Ray Fiene.
Jim Hodous for the third year acted as the Post's Boy Scout representative to Troop 80 and Explorer Post 80. He continued to make his excellent monthly reports of the progress of these two programs. During the entire year I continued behind the scenes to get the Scouts to change their meeting site to our new Hall. Jim worked tediously along these lines also. The Post has been rewarded with partial success when the Troop agreed to move their operation into the Hall for the year 1962-1963. Our Post Boy Scout Troop was awarded it's 25th continuous charter, the oldest in Du Page County.
VETERANS SERVICE OFFICER
For the first time in several years the Post was fortunate to acquire the services of a full time man for the job of Service Officer. Soon after the start of the year I learned that my original selection for this job could not continue. Previously I made aware that a potential transferee named John Morris would like to become a member of our Post if he could be the Service Officer. I then contacted him and offered him the job. He agreed and after some difficulty with his transfer he became our Service Officer. This is a difficult job since he is on call at all times. John performed this work with distinction and zest. He was always available for information, consultation and behind the scenes veteran's service. Several members wives and families will attest to his fine work.
AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL
Ted McCollum again agreed to take on this behind the scenes job of running the Post Junior American Legion Baseball Program. Dick Kucera stepped down as coach so Ted selected Larry Wyellie as coach this year. The team failed to jell as in past years and we failed at our bid in the elimination tournaments. The team finally placed fourth in the County Round Robin Tournament. We expect great things of Larry in the future. Incidentally the medals for our 1960 Championship team were finally awarded to the Post this year.
GIFTS FOR HOSPITALIZED VETERANS
This American Legion Program was one of the highest spots during a year that was marked with much dissention. To lead this program I picked Stanley Smailis. His foresight and dogged determination marked this affair a major success. Although he was not in good health and finally too sick to stand on the street with the other workers, he formed a crew that gave the Post at least six workers on the street at all times. The Post collected from the town's people a total of $309.11.This is the largest amount collected for this program in the last six years. Stan deserves a fine vote of confidence for his excellent planning and organization toward making the 1961 program a success.
COLOR GUARD & FIRING SQUAD
I stated earlier in my report that the fine Veteran's Day ceremony was derived one of the finest successes of my year as Commander. Following the celebration on November 11th Earl Will came to me and expressed himself as having felt embarrassment at the marching formation of Legionires as they paraded on Main Street. He asked for the opportunity to start a Post Color Guard & Rifle Squad. I agreed to give him as much help as I could. Shortly thereafter the effort was launched and has become a resounding success. The Color Guard has performed at every major Post ceremony and parade since January 1962. They are building a fine record of performance. They even participated in the 1962 Department of Illinois Convention Parade in August. This success has been entirely due to the leadership of one person, Earl Will. I predict a fine future for the Color Guard and Firing Squad.
For several years James Murray has directed this service to the Post because of his own situation with the Civil Service. He has been able to locate jobs for many of our members. He has always let us knkow in advance of job openings and supplied us with valuable information. During 1962 he performed his usual fine job until his transfer out of state. We will miss him.
For this task I was able after three months delay to secure the services of Miner McEuen. He began writing the "Old Legion Log" column in the Downers Grove Reporter. The Post had some degree of success in fact more than in several years past. Sometime later Miner moved away and I personally took over this task. I used the tactic of "open letters to the editor" with even more success. The Post managed to get the newspaper to print several pictures, although not nearly as many as should have been submitted. I personally wrote the Post 80 Newsletter during all of the past year. This letter was a printed news item in column form. I sent ten different news letters during the year. A copy of each is on file at the Post.
Early in my year I let it be known that proper uniforms were going to be a watchword of many of my efforts. I secured the services of Joe Pechinski who performed his job well until his recent serious illness. My motto during the entire year has been "Buy a Legion Cap wear a Legion cap." I believe that great success was achieved by continually pressing this point. This combined with the new Post Initiation fee for new members has brought more Legionaires with blue caps to meetings than any other single promotion. This program was successful'
Andy Blaida has for more than ten years assumed the job of Graves Registration Officer. He has always done a fine job in this capacity. He has kept an accurate list of veteran's graves in the six cemeteries within Post 80's jurisdiction. Memorial Day 1962 found all graves adequately decorated with Flags. A new and more accurate list of graves is being compiled for Oak Hill and Oak Crest cemeteries.
I selected two men for this job, Merrill Banta and Harold Siemer agreed to take on this task. It was decided to have refreshments only on Post Social Nights and specified other occasions. The end of year found this program well within the budget.
JULY 4th PARADE
For the past ten years Andy Blaida has been selected to take on this difficult but rewarding affair.During these years Andy has acquired a thorough knowledge of parades such as few people ever experience. He is acknowledged by many performers in parades as an expert. I have talked with band organizers who have dealt with Andy through the years who will state that he is one of the finest parade planners in the Chicago land area. For two years my brother, Ted and I have worked with Andy to put on the parades. The 1962 parade was the largest and best planned affair that Downers Grove has ever witnessed. Ten complete band, drum and bugle corps marched in the parade. Each of these units is paid from $50.00 to $200.00 by the Post. THis year a new system of selecting trophies to be given to non paid performers resulted in more awards than ever before. Yet the parade committee remained under the budgeted amount.
The Post publicly celebrated the following Patriotic Days. First on the list was Veteran's Day 1961 April 19,1962 found us with other Posts across the land celebrating Patriot's Day. Memorial Day and Flag Day were carried out in fine fashion. Independence Day was lead in the Village with the usual parade, carnival and fireworks, ALL FUNDED BY POST 80 SINCE 1922
This event led to one of the most bitter controversies in the past year. I believe that many members are finally waking up and have decided the Post should stop operating a carnival. A two hour argument ensued over this question in the January Business Meeting. An open proposal was made for the first time to stop the Post from operating a carnival. When the final votes were tabulated, the Post agreed to operate the annual affair, by only three votes. The vote left many unhealed bitter feelings. In 1961 the Post allegedly earned $2200.00 from the affair. If so it was the most hard earned that we have ever received. The final figures for the 1962 carnival were - Total net receipts $8772.92, total expenses $6506.31 for a net profit of $2266.63.
The one basic fallacy in the comparison of profits received from the carnival in the last two years is that in 1961 we received 20% of the gross receipts from the rides and in 1962 we received 25%. We made about the same each year but there was more effort in 1962 to earn the profit. The Post must decide shortly to step out of this affair, else the members will no longer support the effort. The old argument that we need the carnival to finance our programs is no longer effective. We do not need the carnival, in fact, I believe we can no longer afford it. The time is now to plan other sources of income for the Post.
FIREWORKS AND PARADE
Every year the Post tries to finance the annual July 4th Celebration by making collections from the town people. It is our hope that we can collect enough to finance the whole affair without dipping into the Fireworks Account in one of the local banks. This account was set up as a contingency fund for emergencies when we fail to collect enough from the citizens. It has not always in recent years been possible to collect enough and it has been necessary to use this fund. The total collections for the fireworks and parade was $2239.29 and the total expenses were $2752.36 causing us to use $513.07 from the Emergency Fund. This left the fund with $1472.77 for future use.
Without any previous experience in this type of business the Post bravely formed a committee to handle a rental program for the new hall. My brother Ted and I were selected o handle this aspect of the operation of the building. Following our selection we were subjected to continual criticism, vocal sniping as well as a job of physical and mental endurance beyond almost all measures. We succeeded only through persistence and fortitude with little help.
My report would not be complete without a reported statement of the Post's rental venture. This was the Post's first entry into the business world. Unfortunately many members seemed to regard and some still do, the rental of the hall as a play thing. The bar, to some non-active members, should charge no one for the beverages they dispense. The Hall, these uncooperative members feel should be used for Post functions only. Fortunately for the Post several economically minded members decided that we could not survive unless the Hall was operated as a business. When the rental program began in September of 1961, no one had any experience at operating such a system. Unfortunately for the Rental Committee no one else bothered to gain experience at running the business.
My brother and I inquired of many other Posts and organizations regarding their operations. We labored over rate schedules. We continually found ourselves defending our efforts against attack by the membership. We learned to set up and tear down equipment for rental dates. We did this with no help from other members except for Merrill Banta. Slowly an increasing number of tenants were attracted to the Hall. This was accomplished by diligence, long hours, loss of sleep and strained family relationships. In the first year the rental program had a gross income of $2288.00 and expenses of only $110.00. The net income was $2178.00. Total net income from the weekly rental to Ken-Roe Sales (Tupperware) was $655.00. The rent income does not reflect any bar receipts.
The total gross receipts were $6473.96 with expenses of $3929.44 which left a profit of $2544.52. Under the leadership of Andy Blaida and Tony Morello, the bar profits were more than expected by the Board. The membership must realize that rentals and bar sales will become a vital part of the future of this Post.
1962 CAR RAFFLE
Jim Hodous and Joe Pechinski were the Car Raffle Chairmen, however Joe's severe illiness prevented him from continuing. Jim carried on the job alone. The program had a net income of $1989.36. It should be noted that the State's Attorneys Office made definite attempts to close down our Car Raffle prior to the 4th of July. I feel that it is a worthy estimate that 1962 may have been the last year that the Post can operate this program.
For several years the Post has sponsored an active Initiation Team made up entirely of World War Two members. The Team performed two ceremonies this past year.
Sr. Vice Commander, John Weller reached 100% in February and the Post reached 415 members. His efforts matched that of 1947 when the Post had it's all time high.
An offer to buy the remaining four acres of the Banta property was made by the Downers Grove Seventh Day Adventist Church in February. A sale price of $16,500.00 was accepted by the Church and the final contract was completed. A word of thanks to Bill McCollum and Ted Wrenn for their efforts in completing the sale.
REVISION OF POST BY-LAWS
Although the revision of the Post By-Laws was one of my basic goals, the effort was a failure. At the outset, let it be understood that in my opinion this failure can be laid at the door step of the Board of Directors. Since I had been encouraged by the Board to take on this task, I assumed that the majority wanted the By-Laws rewritten. The reasons for the failure are obvious. Certain more outspoken members of the Board did not want the changes. I believe they feared a loss of control of the Post on their part
To the new officers of Post 80 I offer my support and loyalty. I shall be most happy to give of my thoughts on any problem when asked. My only request is that the new officers give their loyal support to the Post and the American Legion. I know they will.