American Legion Post 81 to Celebrate 100th Anniversary Sept. 26 With Community Picnic
By Space Coast Daily // August 16, 2021
Post 81 has remained active through the years in support of veterans programs
STORIES OF SERVICE
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – American Legion Post 81 in Melbourne has been bringing people together for 100 years and Legion members will celebrate their 100th-anniversary on Sunday, September 26 with a community picnic.
The centennial celebration will include food, band, corn hole tournament and dunk tank as well as other activities.
The public is welcome and encouraged to attend. Call 321-723-2939 for more information.
American Legion Post 81 is a large organization with several sub-groups, including the American Legion Auxiliary, the Sons of American Legion and the American Legion Riders.
“Twenty-nine veterans, mostly from World War I, met in Melbourne to form Post 81 in 1921,” said Post historian Mike Donath.
“Dues were set at $3 a year and the post was named in honor of Frank B. Huddleston, one of two Melbourne residents killed in World War I.”
Huddleston was killed in the Argonne Forest in France on June 18, 1918, and his remains were returned to Melbourne in 1922 and buried in Melbourne Cemetery with full military honors. The newly formed Frank B. Huddleston Post 81 American Legion was in complete charge of the funeral.
For the first five years of its existence, the members of Post 81 met at various locations in Melbourne, including the Mathers Building on New Haven Avenue, the Carpenter’s Building on New Haven Avenue, the E.W. Abbott Real Estate office in the Melbourne Hotel, and in the Magnolia Park office.
In 1926 the post erected a “mammoth” building between Strawbridge and Palmetto Avenue that even included a boxing arena that was used by many fine boxers in the area.
A short time later they built an additional building on the site due to crowds attending social amusements and exhibitions. Unfortunately, the legion lost that location during the dreary days of the depression.
The location of those buildings is believed to have been near the current site of Trinity Towers West on Strawbridge Avenue.
A bright spot during that same time was the founding of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 81 in September of 1930.
“I cannot express how important the Auxiliary is to the American Legion family,” said Commander Tracy “Stretch” Spence, adding that the group raises much-needed charitable funds for veteran programs and the community.
Shortly after the loss of the building on Palmetto Avenue, the Legion purchased a building at the corner of U.S. Highway 1 and Prospect Avenue known as the Richards Building, and remained there until 1946.
During these years the post continued to be very active in the community, attending military funerals as well as their Colors always leading the way at every holiday parade on Melbourne streets. In 1940, they erected a flag pole in Campbell Park in downtown Melbourne.
It stood there until 2012 when it was replaced with the current sculpture.
In October of 1941, the Sons of American Legion Squadron 81 was founded, further increasing the membership of this very active Post. In 1946, the Post moved to the Civic Center on Front Street as a temporary location.
While there, they erected a flag pole as a memorial to all South Brevard veterans that served in wars. The flag pole still stands today, with the inscription, “Dedicated To Those Whose Names Are Inscribed On History’s Roll.”
In 1948, the property at the Post’s present location at 2909 South Harbor City Boulevard was donated by Chester McNulty.
The original buildings on the site were two Quonset huts from the Banana River Air Station. A roof was added between the two huts as well as a porch that was later glassed in and there was a block building on the property that was also incorporated into the structure.
The Post continued to be very active in the community during this time by supporting the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, and ROTC programs, as well as promoting national American Legion programs such as Boys State, Girls State, the Oratorical High School Contest, and the American Legion Youth Baseball program.
In fact, one of the Post 81’s notable baseball team participants was Bill Nelson, who later became our U.S. Senator, an astronaut, and is currently the newest administrator of NASA.
Additionally, the members supported the community by manning kettles for the Salvation Army, supporting the Veterans Hospital, the Melbourne Fire Department, the Harbor City Ambulance Service and also sponsoring community children’s parties, and even purchasing uniforms for the high school band.
Other organizations utilized the new facility for meetings, including the VFW and the fire department, which used the facility to hold bingo games to raise funds.
American Legion Post 81 has remained active throughout the years in support of veterans programs and community activities. In 2006, the American Legion Riders, another sub-group of the Post, was formed to further advance the mission.
The last 18 months have been a challenging period for American Legion Post 81, which was shuttered for a period of time due to COVID-19.
During that time, the Post took advantage of the downtime and completed a total interior renovation of the building, the vast majority of which was completed by members volunteering their time and services, along with generous donations made by members of the local business community.
“We are now back to raising funds that benefit veteran programs, local organizations and charitable causes,” said Commander Spence.
The centennial celebration on Sunday, September 26, at 2909 S. Harbor City Boulevard will include food, a band, a corn hole tournament, and a dunk tank and other activities.
The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.
“It’s important that we revitalize and bring new members in and to stay active so we can continue the mission the founders focused on 100 years ago,” said Cmdr. Spence. “And to keep alive the memory of those who went before us,” Donath added.
The public is welcome and encouraged to attend the 100th-anniversary community picnic on Sunday, September 26. Call 321-723-2939 for more information.
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