Tim and I recently sat down with Old Mission residents Dan and Cindy (Mikesell) Dyer to chat about the history of the Old Mission Legion Hall, the fire that destroyed it in the 1990s, and how the Old Mission community can help keep the Legion Hall and local Legion chapter humming along. Legion secretary Mary Shultz was also on hand with historical photos and info.
But we also talked about Tim’s friendship with Cindy, which goes back to the 1950s. Tim writes…
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Back in 1955, I was three years old and living with my family in a little farmhouse down by the beach in the village of Old Mission. It was at the end of the dirt road – now known as Mission School Road – that ran between the Old Mission Standard School house and the little Old Mission log church.
That summer, a family named Mikesell moved into the cottage across the road. One of the kids was a little girl named Cindy. She was probably five years old, and she was my very first friend. Later that year, the Mikesells moved to a farm three miles away and then downstate to Bay City.
Years passed, and 60 of them later, I walked into the Peninsula Market, and there she was, working behind the counter! Turns out that she and her husband, Dan Dyer, had moved back here and built a house on property still owned by her family in Old Mission.
Dan is a Vietnam combat veteran; he was drafted in 1966 and served in Vietnam from February 1967 to 1968 (“thirteen months and one day,” he says). After marrying Cindy in 1972 and moving to Old Mission full-time in 2002, he soon joined the Old Mission American Legion Post 399, based in the Legion Hall around the corner from his house.
In fact, Dan is now the commander of the post, taking over from previous commander, Cal Jamieson, in 2017. Prior to that, Dan served as vice commander for about ten years.
Read on for more about the history of the Legion Hall, the fire that destroyed it in the 1990s, the twice-monthly community dinners that are open to everyone, and other ways we can help this longstanding nonprofit organization.
A Brief History of the Legion Hall
Located at 4001 Swaney Road – on the left before you round the corner to get to Haserot Beach – the Legion Hall was built in 1898 as a clubhouse for the Knights of the Maccabees. In 1926, the building was deeded to the Peninsula Township School District and used as a community building. It served this function for nearly 40 years.
In 1962, the building passed into the hands of the American Legion, and members of the Old Mission chapter have used the building as a meeting hall since that time.
Most people know this chapter as the Old Mission American Legion Post 399, but its official name is the Garland-Tompkins American Legion Post 399.
In 1986, Legion members decided to do a thorough upgrade of the building and restore it to its original grandeur, not only for their own use, but also as a meeting hall for the Old Mission community.
In 1990, Mrs. W.W. Edwards donated a substantial amount of money in memory of her husband to refurbish the second floor of the hall. This housed a basketball court, which doubled as a dance floor, and a stage, previously used for school plays and community functions.
Just before the work was completed, however, the hall was completely destroyed by fire.
It was then rebuilt into the hall that stands today.
Could the Building Return to the Township?
But the Old Mission Legion chapter is struggling to sustain the building – and the group, for that matter. As veterans get older, the number of new members who join are less and less. Dan noted that while there are currently 28 Legion members, only a half-dozen or so attend the meetings regularly.
When the membership drops to 15, the chapter loses its designation as a post, and the building is returned to Peninsula Township for one dollar.
Although the chapter hosts community dinners twice a month – on the first and third Tuesday of every month – the rising cost of food and declining attendance by OMP community members has resulted in a loss for at least the past year. Along with funds needed for necessary building repairs and updates, the chapter is losing approximately $200 per month.
“We don’t feel we need to be making a large profit on these community dinners,” says Dan, “but we’d like to try and cut losses as much as possible.”
How the OMP Community Can Help
So how can we, as a community, help? One easy way is to attend the community dinners. As mentioned, these take place on the first and third Tuesday of every month at the Legion Hall, 4001 Swaney Road.
Chef Raj Asava cooks up an amazing spread of food for each dinner – things like lasagna, beef stroganoff, pork loin and chicken cacciatore, along with veggies, salads, desserts, appetizers and non-alcoholic beverages.
Socializing and appetizers take place at 6 p.m., with the dinners served at 6:30 p.m. (Mary says get there early!) The current cost of the dinners is $10/each; however, the Legion is considering raising the price a buck or two to help cover the costs, and packaging up any leftovers for $5/each.
You do not need to be a veteran or Legion member to attend! While they are hosted by the Old Mission Legion Post, these are truly community dinners, and they’re a great way to get out of the house, gather with your friends and neighbors, and eat delicious meals at a fraction of the cost that you’d spend in a restaurant for the same food.
Half of the funds earned from the first Tuesday dinner go to the Patriot Fund, which benefits Michigan soldiers and their families.
Rent the Legion Hall
Also, if you have an event coming up, consider renting the Legion Hall. Mary says the hall is available for pretty much any event or meeting, including graduation open houses, homeowners association meetings, baby and bridal showers, wedding receptions and more. Call (231) 223-4433 to reserve the building for your event.
The Legion also hosts an annual Pig/Turkey roast every August. This year’s just took place last week, but watch Old Mission Gazette for details about next year’s dinner, which will likely take place on the third Saturday of August in 2020.
If you’re a veteran, consider joining the Old Mission Legion Post 399. Also, follow the group on Facebook here, where they post updates on both local happenings, as well as topics of interest to veterans.
For more information about the Legion Hall or Old Mission Legion chapter, call (231) 223-4433.
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb