Editor’s note: Please note we are re-running Joan Baxter’s historical column from Friday, June 16 as an error occured and an incorrect version of the column was printed – this was the paper’s error not Joan’s. We regret the error.
In March 1919, some US World War I veterans met in Paris to establish a new organization which was to provide companionship and support for the men who had served in the war. The new organization was known as the American Legion.
Previous to this, the Grand Army of the Republic was well-known as an organization for veterans of the Civil War.
In May 1919, a caucus was held in St. Louis for a national organization and then on September 25, the Foody Post #95 of the American Legion was established in Xenia; named for the only Xenia native who was killed in combat, Joseph P. Foody. Charles Darlington, a Xenia attorney was one of those men who attended the caucus in Paris and was (not surprisingly) elected to be the first post commander. He later became the third man to hold the office of Ohio department commander.
When the Charter was filed, there were 168 members on the role. Early meetings were held in the Chamber of Commerce rooms until January 1, 1926 when the organization acquired the J. W. King mansion, usually referred to as The Kingdom. This was the Post home until April 1974 when the building was destroyed. A new building was constructed on Home Avenue and some years ago that building was sold. Today the Legion shares a meeting place with the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The wives, daughters, mothers and sisters of these former soldiers wanted to help as well and so the Foody American Legion Auxiliary #95 was formed in 1920.
Both the men’s and women’s organizations grew quickly. In 1921 400,000 men had become members nationally, 35,000 of which were from Ohio and there was a total of 8,000 members in Ohio auxiliaries.
The members of Foody Auxiliary were proud to announce that theirs was the first auxiliary formed in Ohio. When other Legions began to form auxiliaries, Foody was an excellent example to emulate.
The ladies set about quickly to help the “boys” in the Dayton Veteran’s Hospital. One of their projects was to save rags which were made into rugs by the residents of the V.A. Home. Each month, several pounds of rags were delivered to the hospital by the ladies.
Being a patriotic organization, women were encouraged to vote. Women had not had voting privileges very long, and so they were encouraged to exercise their right to express their opinions at the polls.
The Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Home was accepting children of veterans and the auxiliary ladies helped to submit the paperwork for these children. In 1928 there were 317 children whose fathers had served in the Spanish-American War, twenty-five Civil War orphans, 213 World War One orphans and seven whose fathers had served in the Mexican Border war.
Perhaps the auxiliary was best known for the annual poppy sale. The poppies were hand made by veterans in various V.A. hospitals. The auxiliary bought them and then sold them on poppy day. When a poppy was placed in Geyer’s Book Store, residents were encouraged to bid on the poppy which would be the first one sold in the county. The winning bid was $12.50. Children of members and children from the OSSO Home were asked to sell poppies downtown and door to door. A prize was given to the child who sold the most.
Each member was expected to pay dues of $1 per year. During the 1930s a Christmas exchange was enjoyed with the prick of the gift not to exceed 10 cents.
A number of committees were established including the Child Welfare Committee whose responsibility it was to see that Veteran’s children had needed clothing and shoes. In some instances, the auxiliary paid for milk to be delivered to the homes and sometimes the donations included bedding and coal for heating. Each committee was separately funded by the Auxiliary from the proceeds of poppy sales and other projects.
The Auxiliary worked closely with the men’s organization during the 1928 Homecoming celebration. Together they served a cafeteria-style dinner at Shawnee Park one evening. The ladies helped by selling tickets to the Minstrel Shows sponsored by the Legion. Many events were held jointly. Mother and Daughter dinners were given at which time the Gold Star Mothers of the area were recognized.
The requests for aid to the veteran’s hospitals were frequent and varied. They were asked to make pajamas for the men, along with slippers, robes and socks. Patterns were provided, but the material was purchased or donated by the group. A cotton blanket could be used to make a satisfactory bathrobe.
Since the girls who lived at the OSSO Home were related to veterans, a Junior Auxiliary was formed at the Home. The girls made posters for poppy day and helped wrap presents provided by the Auxiliary for the younger students at Christmas.
Playing cards, oranges, homemade cookies, magazines and especially cigarettes were welcomed by the boys in the hospital. Tray favors were made by the Junior Auxiliary. The items sent for Easter 1938 showed four cartons of cigarettes, 50 chocolate eggs, and 50 small chickens along with napkins were sent to the hospital.
After World War Two, the Post and the Auxiliary names were changed to honor Captain Lee Cornwell, one of several Xenians who lost their lives fighting for our freedom during that war. Today it is known as Foody-Cornwell Post #95.
Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.