History of American Legion Post No. 54
Primarily taken from the Post 54 75th anniversary booklet, published in 1975
The American Legion was founded in 1919, shortly after World War I, as an organization of wartime veterans, dedicated to continuing service to God and country. Monmouth Post 54 of the American Legion, in Freehold, New Jersey, was formed in February of 1920 under the then Post Commander Dr. John C. Clayton. The Post Charter having been signed by the fifty veterans constituting the total membership, at that time, thereby dedicating themselves to carry forth the basic concepts of this great organization. The following September, Unit No. 54 of the Ladies Auxiliary, was formed under the leadership of first president, Emma Florence Beach.
The Post, as seen today, is a far cry from the humble beginnings of 1920. Meetings were held at various members homes until a permanent building could be purchased. In addition to raising funds for a new home, American Legion programs had to be initiated, committees were formed to handle the service and counseling of all veterans and veteran's widows, Americanism programs and Flag Display Education, memorial and burial services, support of community charity programs, parade and dedication ceremonies, and decoration of Veteran's graves. No small task was this, but these people were up to it.
The following years saw membership increase and Legion programs began to take form and grow. Among some of the fund raising events of the time were Post sponsored boxing matches, held in local area barns, baseball games, picnics, and the Ladies Auxiliary Bazaar, which featured hand made quilts and flowers. It would be a long time coming, but finally in 1928, enough money had been raised for a small down payment, and a large mortgage at a residence located at the site of our present building.
The great depression was just around the corner, and certainly not the best time to go into debt, but the 20 members who signed the note with Freehold Trust, thereby making themselves liable for repayment, had the courage and determination to make good on that promise. It would take 20 years to pay that mortgage, but pay it they did, and a mortgage burning ceremony was held at the Post in 1947.
All through World War II, the Post remained active and did its best to help the war effort by conducting scrap metal drives, blood donor programs and letter writing campaigns to our people in the service. There was counseling for those who had lost loved ones, a difficult task, but Post 54 did it with understanding and compassion.
Wars end saw a surge in membership; the young Veterans had some good ideas of their own; Junior baseball, Little League, Babe Ruth and Ed Carlton Leagues, Boy Scouts, Boys State, safety essay contests, child welfare and adult recreation. They also wanted a larger post home, so a building committee was appointed and plans drawn to double the size of the existing structure. Again, it would be some years before this dream would be realized, but in 1962 construction was finally started and the dream became a reality. The addition was completed in 1963 and dedicated on New Years Eve. Post 54 had indeed, come a long way.
As we now pass the 85th anniversary of our founding, in 2005 we must reflect on those who helped reach this mile- stone. It would not be possible to list them all, but we would like to pay homage to all the past Commanders, past Presidents, and past Squadron Commanders in the history of Post 54.
Missing information concerning the formation of the Post 54 Squadron of the Son's of the American Legion will be provided in the very near future.