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The End of World War I and the American Legion

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By Jolene Hawkins

One hundred years ago, in 1918 — what was going on? 

You could buy Shredded Wheat for 11 cents a box, watch Dustin Farnum play Davy Crocket, go to a barn dance and hear a five-piece orchestra from Buffalo play or Archie Warner and his group with fiddle and banjo play. A boxed lunch and dance was only $1.

The newspapers had ads in them saying “men wanted” for the Army, Navy and Marines. The papers also featured tractors and equipment for plowing or harvesting, school events, dances, plays, football and other sports and World War I was coming to an end.

When you read the newspaper, you were able to follow what was going on, and one thing that the newspapers stated, over and over again, was that American patriotism will help us win the war.  Through the Red Cross, where a lot of the groups would meet once a week, local families were making and donating items for the soldiers — mufflers, socks, sweaters, quilts, dried fruit, even canning meat sometimes —whatever they could do here and send to the boys. And they were helping on the home front as well for the families left behind, assisting them with wood to warm their houses and food. But what happened when the men came home? Was there any help then?

The American Legion was organized by service men for service men. Here in the Village of Springville, Town of Concord, the American Legion had 35 members by 1919 and they met in several locations — a room in the Red Cross, as well as some rooms above businesses —before they got a more permanent location in the log cabin that had been made for the GAR.

As their membership grew, they needed more room and, in 1991, they broke ground on the location where they are now. With many volunteers from Concord Post No. 431, the first meeting at the new location was in the summer of 1993.

For six weeks in 1919, our post was called the L. A. Thurber post after Lynn Thurber, in honor of one of our boys who made the supreme sacrifice in France. By a majority of the votes in the same year, the Post name was changed to the Concord American Legion Post 431 and has remained so since.

At the Heritage Building, located behind the Concord Mercantile, there is a display set up for the 100th anniversary of the American Legion. It will remain there for two months, February and March. In the display, you will see several posters from World War I, uniforms, a gas mask and other information.

The Heritage Building and Concord Mercantile are open Tuesday nights from 7 to 9 p.m., which is also when the Mercantile Musicians play, and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and by appointment by calling (716) 592-0094.

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