WAYLAND — Many came out to honor the 100 Years of Post 402 with a fashion show put on by the Wayland Legion Ladies Auxiliary.
On Feb. 17 the Wayland American Legion and Wayland Legion Ladies Auxiliary presented 100 Years of Post 402: Proud to be an American Fashion Show. The models were the Wayland-Cohocton High School girls and boys basketball, Junior Auxiliary, Bridal and Soldiers.
This year’s fashion show was the biggest one yet with old photos and an historic timeline on display. Not to mention the students wore old war uniforms from local soldiers.
Jeff Horton said that he was at the show for the first time to see his son, Justin.
“My son is wearing my uncle’s US Navy uniform from the Gulf War. He is really excited to be wearing the uniform for the fashion show,” he said. “I like to support my son in everything that he does. I try not to miss anything. He plays in all the sports like soccer, track, and basketball.”
Horton said that all the students on the list with his son are honor roll students.
“All of these kids are getting high honors in school. All of the basketball players are on the honor roll,” he said. “I am very proud of my son.”
Karen Barone is a lifelong friend of the Mark Family. Post Commander Kevin Mark said that it was nice having an old friend at the fashion show this year.
“They are a strong military family that have been very good to us over the years,” he said. “I have known the Barone Family for most of my life. She is one of the nicest people I know, and she respects what we do here.”
Barone said that she has always enjoyed the fashion show, and what the Legion does in the community.
Rochelle Hoffmeister, Wayland Legion Ladies Auxiliary former president, introduced each war era from the Great War to present day in a timeline provided by Legion Historian Mike McCauley. As Hoffmeister talked on the 100 Years of Post 402, the students depicting each era came on stage.
“This show almost did not happen. We had several snow days and other obstacles that kept students from getting fitted. However, despite all of that this is our best show yet,” she said. “I want to thank David’s Bridal and Dogwood Floral Co. for helping us with the show every year. Julie Belanger did an amazing job with the flowers for the girls this year. We are thankful to DJ Dave Weaver for doing a great show for us.”
WWII Veteran Peter “Harmonica Pete” DuPre was a special guest at the Legion who performed “God Bless America” and “The National Anthem” for the show.
Hoffmeister told the story of Harmonica Pete being five years old when his father bought him a 50 cent harmonica to play at school. He went on to join the US Army with his brothers. It was there he met his pretty polish wife Jane. They were married for 70 years. Harmonica Pete took to the battlefields and played his harmonica for his fellow soldiers. He has now traveled all over the world playing his harmonica.
DuPre mentioned how this show meant a lot more to him than anyone else could imagine.
“To be invited to be here is just marvelous. None of you have any idea how closely this show has hit me. We are talking about the 100 years up there. My dad and mother both were part of World War I. Last November on Veteran’s Day I was in Paris. The celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day,” he said. “I was in the railroad car where they signed the peace document. A hundred years ago is a long time. My father was in Paris at the end of World War I with a group of guys that would eventually form a group called The American Legion.”
“I am the only guy in this neck of the woods, or one of them anyway whose father was in that first American Legion Post,” DuPre continued. “The songs from that era are the songs I learned when I was a child. You have no idea how important this show has been to me For those of you who may or may not have seen it on that 100 Years Anniversary I was lucky enough to be at the cemetery in Paris where they celebrated the end of World War I. Remember all of you what these military kids are starting on. Thank you all for having me here. God Bless You all.”
Hoffmeister went down the timeline with some highlights of the legion over the past 10 decades. In 1919, 15 veterans who came home from The Great War wanted to form a local legion in their hometown. They chose to name this post after their fallen soldier PVT Theodore Roosevelt Van Tassell of the U.S. Marine Brigade of the American Expeditionary Force. “Teddy” fell during the fighting at Bellau Wood on June 13 1918, and is buried nearby in the Aisne-Marne Cemetery.
And so, on Sept. 9, 1919 the Charter was signed by the newly formed Department of New York of the American Legion Awarding the Formation of Theodore R. Van Tassell Post 402 of the American Legion in Wayland.
In the 1920s the Legion began to take on its own form as a building was constructed in May 1922. Before that the Legion members met at the Masonic Lodge & at the Palace Roller Rink for a couple years, finally deciding that a permanent home was needed.
In May of 1920 a drive was held to sell shares of stock to raise money in the amount of $50,000 to buy land and build a multi-use community building. Between then and 1922 when the cornerstone was laid there were several more fundraising Drives, Dances, Dinners, Plays, et.
By May of 1922 all roadblocks had been solved, construction had begun and it was time to celebrate the laying of the Corner Stone. A Parade and Grand Review was held in honor of the event. This was attended by some 4,000 people and officials from surrounding towns, villages, and state governments.
The Post home was fully completed by October of 1922; the Legion Theater opened for business with two showings a day with many big name actors and actresses on the Marquee. The Wayland Free Library was moved in on the ground floor, while the Legion Rooms on the second floor was now utilized for the conduct of Legion Business.
Although the 1930s showed little change, the 1940’s saw a rude awakening for all Americans, most of whom had an attitude of Isolationism; they didn’t want to get involved in another war in Europe.
But then on Dec. 7, 1941 Japan attacked our fleet in Pearl Harbor.
Here in the small town of Wayland the shock and outrage was no less than in any other town across America, and patriotism and calls for vengeance were loud and strong. And again this small town looked to her Veterans and the American Legion Post 402 to lead the way, from raising money for the war loans to the Scrap Metal and Rubber drives to feed the war effort, right down to drives for items and calls for addresses of men already overseas to ship letters and care packages.
With the end of World War II the post received an influx of new members due to the 267 local residents who served.
In 1947 the Wayland Free Library moved out of the small front room in the Legion building to its new home at 10 Scott Street in town, left to the Library in the estate of Stella Whipple.
It was in the 1960s that tragedy would strike the local Legion. In 1963 the Legion theater closed up shop, and the building began to fall into decay. In 1968 there were serious plans on demolishing the building to make a parking lot. While there were some of the returning Vietnam veterans who came home and would join the American Legion, many did not.
In the 1970s the Legion post somehow survived being demolished and work was done on repairing the damage.
Due to several years without regular maintenance and several roof leaks the plaster ceiling had collapsed, and so the old theater would never again show a movie, a dropped ceiling was installed instead, closing off the balcony’s and top of the stage. The floor was jacked up to its level position and wedged in place, never to slant downward to the stage forevermore.
Additions to the Legion came in the 1980s with a kitchen, bar, offices, and fixing the roof.
In the 1990s the Legion began doing a lot of events for local charities and veterans.
More work to the building came in the early 2000s, and now the building stands prouder than ever.
Hoffmeister said that the community has always looked to the Legion to lead the way in caring for the veterans, and she is glad they continue it today.
The fashion models included Arianna Celetano, Allie Chapman, Michelle Conit, Makaylah Drum, Alexandrea Duclos, Chloe Fox, Cora Fraim, Sophia Holmes, Charlotte Kennedy, Tabea Nothnagle, Leeann Perkowski, Sam Smalt, Genny Wilkinson, Grace Willis, Cody Baltz, Jamie Carman, Connor Englert, DeAndre Green. Justin Horton, Cameron Huber, Keeghan Savior, Owen Snyder, Ethan Trishler, Blake Zastawrny, Grace Bondgren, Hailee Harrison, Brody Gullo, Brittany Button, Katrina Lewis, Brandie Mark, Brittany Needham, Jenna Sick, Staff Sgt. Michael Fairbrother, Sgt. Christopher Flickinger, Cpo. Derek Hoffmeister, Retired Navy John Schuyler, and Cpo. Ryan Schuyler.
There are three students going to serve in the military this summer: Derek Cheasman, Owen Snyder, and Keeghan Savior.