The Beginnings

Reprinted from the Bergen Evening Record dated September 10, 1919;

"Bogota Veterans May Form Branch of American Legion"

There was good attendance, despite the heat at the meeting of the Bogota World War Veterans on Monday night at the Main street fire house to hear the addresses of Lieut. Col. Wm. M. Mead, of Hackensack and Capt. D. B. Mullikan, of Leonia, and all greatly enjoyed the tales of war experiences given by these overseas veterans.

The speakers dwelt in the main on advantages of establishing a branch of the American Legion in the borough among the Bogota veterans, and this met with instant favor.

Fifteen members signed an application for a charter, but a motion prevailed to postpone definite action until a special meeting to be held next Monday, September 15, 1919, at the fire house in order that the opinion of other veterans of the borough may be heard.

If the plan meets with approval at this meeting a permanent organization will be affected, a name selected and offices elected. It is hoped all veterans will attend and have a voice in the proceedings.

The permanent Charter was granted February 10, 1921 as Clifford Dunn Post No. 117, American Legion and the Post was incorporated in 1926.

The Post was named in honor of resident Clifford Dunn who was the only one killed in action of the four Bogota Gold Star veterans who gave their lives during World War I.

The first Post Commander elected was Reverend Stoddard L Lane, Minister of Bogart Memorial Church, who obtained a leave of absence from his pulpit to take an active part in the war.

The second Post Commander was Doctor P. Ralph McFeeley who was the school doctor for many years.

As noted the post’s first meeting was at the Main Street fire house followed by many years in the Borough Hall on Larch Avenue, and for a short period of time at the Bogota Boat Club on West Ft Lee Road @ the bend of the Hackensack River shore line.

In 1921 a Committee was formed to plan a women’s Auxiliary. This resulted in the establishment of Unit No. 117 American Legion Auxiliary.

This dedicated group of wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of post members assist the post in many ways including the annual poppy drive and bingo at the Veteran’s Home in Paramus, New Jersey. The Auxiliary used to make four visits each year, two to the Veterans Hospital at Castle Point, NY, and two to the Veteran’s home in East Orange, NJ. During these visits, Ward Parties would be held for the benefit of hospitalized Veterans and gifts distributed. In more recent years thru 2005, veterans from the home in Paramus were bused to the Post home for parties throughout the year.

In 1924, the Post took over the 4th of July Celebrations and cooperated with a Borough Committee to secure subscriptions for the erection of a World War I Memorial.

The erection of this Memorial was completed by the 4th of July, subsequently dedicated and a celebration was conducted by the Post which included a parade, fireworks display and a block dance. The monument still stands today in the park at the southwest corner of Ft Lee Road and River Road and is flag decorated each year on Memorial Day.

In 1927, a referendum asking that $1500 (This is equivalent to $20,400 today) be placed in the budget to finance an annual 4th of July Celebration was voted down by the citizenry. The Post, however, continued 4th of July Celebrations until 1938, the last of which consisted only of a flag raising ceremony at Borough Hall.

In 1930, the Post started to decorate the graves of departed Comrades in nearby cemeteries on the Sunday morning preceding Memorial Day and also with flags on the two bridges on Main Street as well as at Pagano Park. This park was named in honor of Frank Pagano, Bogota’s lone fatality in the Korean War.

In 1945, the post purchased the property at the south east corner of West Ft Lee Road and River Road and remodeled the historic Dutch Colonial home into a club house. This property was sold in 1960 and a second post home at #229 West Shore Avenue was purchased, remodeled and dedicated on 24 November 1962.

In 2009, with an aging membership and building maintenance costs rising, the post home was sold and members now meet on the 3rd Tuesday monthly at the Ridgefield Park Civic Center.

The Post and Auxiliary have been an active presence in Bogota for almost 100 years. The original post home was a “Dutch colonial” and occupied a large tract of land on River Road where Ft Lee Road crosses heading to Hackensack.

When this home was purchased in 1945, Ft Lee Road was a main access cross the Hackensack River into Hackensack. And a few feet west of this were the tracks of the active New York Susquehanna and Western Railroad which provided passenger service from Hudson County ferries thru to Hackensack and beyond.

Since the beginning the Post has furnished leadership for patriotic observances in Bogota.

Armistice Day Services were held at the Bogart Memorial Church and the High School Auditorium from 1919 to 1943. These services were not considered appropriate during WWII and were discontinued at that time.

The Post participates in the Memorial Day Morning Service and afternoon parade in conjunction with the Ralph H Hall VFW Post 5561.

The morning service at 1100 hours includes reading of all the names of Bogota residents who were killed or missing in action. The afternoon parade at 1400 hours starts at lower Palisade Avenue at Route 80 and travels north to Main Street; then west down the viaduct and turns north on Elm Avenue to West Grove Street; then west to Larch Avenue turning south and passes Borough Hall before disbanding south of Main Street.

In 2012, Bogota American Legion Post #117 became a participating community in the annual NYC Fleet Week and invited Navy and Marine personnel have been transported to the Borough to participate in the day’s activities.

This includes lunch at the Volunteer Fire House next to Borough Hall as well as a meal at the VFW after the parade. The Bogota Board of Education provides the high school bus and driver for the round-trip to NYC. The Bogota Mayor & Council provide the funding for the parade bands which has always included the Bogota High School Marching Band.

Since the beginning the Post has provided a flag, grave marker and floral wreath, if so desired, by the family of a deceased comrade. The same applies to an auxiliary member and non-member ex-service men or women when the Post is requested.

Post membership peaked at 110 with a resurgence after Desert Storm etc. Membership has dwindled to 48 with only 4 World War II service. Members have included town elected officials, judges and lawyers.

Boys State, Girls State, School Awards and the Coloring Contest are popular with the borough’s school children and youth.

Trips to the Veteran’s Home in Paramus is also popular with the members as well as the annual poppy drive by the Auxiliary.

One hundred percent Americanism for God and Country has been the motto of the Post and Auxiliary since inception and members will continue to serve as needed.

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