CEYLON– The news that the Ceylon Legion and Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion groups surrendered their charter and disbanded spurred some research about the 76 year old (Aux. 75 years) group that was such an integral part of the Ceylon Community.
A two volume “History and Minutes of the Nassen-Detert American Legion Post 529- Ceylon” proved very interesting and sometimes humorous and very helpful. It was written by Major O. Palmer and other Ceylon Legion members about 1945 to 1955 Ceylon Legion history.
Conversations with Lyle Anderson, who has been a Legion Member for 70 years, Marlen and June Bents, Laura Nagel and other legion members from Ceylon were very helpful. There was a Ceylon Legion group formed after World War One (approx. 1920) but it did not survive more than a few years. That group helped build the “Pavilion” building also called the “Community Hall”, located where the Fire Hall is today, and where the World War Two veterans first met to organize a Legion Post in Ceylon.
They met in December of 1945 and in January of 1946. They were chartered with the number 529 and the name Nassen-Detert. The name came from the names of two community members who were the first to give their lives in the defense of their country in World War One and World War Two.
The beginning had 25 dues-paying members ($4 a year) and all went out into the area to urge “every returned Serviceman to join his buddies in this organization and give active support to the programs being instituted by the Legion. Put Your Best Foot Forward and Give Loyal Support. Heads Up, Eyes Front, Forward March” the minutes say. The Charter Members listed on the framed Charter of the Ceylon Legion were: Elmer Champine, Lewis Johnson, Ernest Thompson, Harry Maday, Harlan Schmidt, John Schley, Ewald Schley, Gerhard Steege, Harry Howard, Clarence Howard, Harold Kreuger, Clarence Nelson, Asa Gardner (first Commander), Marvin Odegaard and Melvin Prust. Some of them were elected Commanders during the years following the charter.
From 1946 to 1948 the membership went from 25 to 100. This was attributed to the many World War Two Servicemen and women coming home from the war. They met once a month and each meeting was begun with prayer from the Chaplain. Besides the Community Hall, which proved too “cold with people opening the door to see what was going on in there” they met at businesses of the members, the basement of the Hotel Ceylon, which had “no place to sit except packing crates and was noisy from the gamblers reveling upstairs” and for 6 years in the back of the post office. The group rented that from Henry Saggau and spent a “considerable amount “ repairing and maintaining the building and adding a separate Club portion in 1947 to sell liquor after they were incorporated so it was legal.
In 1951 the Ceylon Legion bought the “Gamble’s Building” which previously had a fire. For six months they volunteered labor with contractors and bought repairs. This is what the latest Legion Building (old part) would be remembered by most Ceylon residents. They added a 16′ x 16′ addition in 1953 which housed bathrooms and a bar and furnace room in the lower level and a kitchen on the upper level. In 1981 they added a bar on ground level toward the front, instead of in the basement, and a large banquet room and kitchen. There were stairs from the banquet room up to the “old part” of the Legion building.
In August of 2000 there was a fire in the roof and siding and they had many volunteer laborers to help contractors fix and remodel the Legion building. They lowered the “old part” or original Legion hall, filling in the basement and removed the stairs from the banquet hall to the upper part. This made the legion building handicap accessible too.
There were memorable events recorded in the “minutes books” during the 76 years of the Ceylon Legion organization. One of the very memorable events was the Minnesota Territory Centennial Float which was taken to area parades and finally to the Minnesota Capitol for the State Legion Convention in 1949. The float featured legionnaires depicting the raising of the Flag at Iwo Jima and won awards. A large framed picture of the float at the Capitol held a special place at the legion and is now at the Ceylon Area Historical Society Museum. The museum will hold other legion memorabilia, such as the two volumes of the history and minutes by Major Palmer, and the Martin County Museum also gathered some items from the legion to display.
Several community members and legion members also collected some memorabilia (pictures and sports trophies, etc.). Some other memorable events during the 76 years were connected to sports sponsored by the Ceylon Legion. Junior Legion Baseball, Basketball and Bowling teams won many trophies and the scores were often written in the minutes. The baseball team went to the state tournament and some of those participants were put in the Minnesota Baseball Hall of Fame. The games were played to crowds in the bleachers of the grandstand at the high school field, which was later demolished and the field now houses the Machinery Hill on Community Day Auctions.
One year Cedric Adams from WCCO fame came to dedicate the lights at the field. The Ceylon Legion had Memorial Day parades with floats and bands. They put flags on veteran’s graves at area cemeteries and still did that to this day. Volunteers will continue to place flags on the veteran’s graves now. They have participated in veteran’s funerals especially for the “War Dead” after the World Wars, Korean War, and Vietnam Wars. They had an official flag burning program in conjunction with the Boys Scouts. They had many bingo and feather parties at least monthly and some times more often. The feather parties were bingo with prizes of turkeys and ducks and boxes of groceries. Sometimes over 100 poultry prizes were offered and won for a price of $3 per game in the early days.
The Ceylon Legion has always been generous even from the beginning when they had limited funds. They began a Boys State and Girls State (Aux) in 1950 and continued many years. They helped the American Red Cross with blood drives in the early years and continued for many years. In the beginning Lyle Anderson remembers that members were asked to go to people’s house/farm to ask that they give blood. Some of the organizations to which the Ceylon Legion and Auxiliary donated money and time were: March of Dimes, Heart Assoc., Red Cross, Unity Club (similar to chamber of commerce), Pheasants for Vets, Red Wing School and Training Center, local high school (example band uniforms and fundraisers for classes), Community Chest, Christmas Seals, Polio, Boys and Girls State, Ceylon sports teams, fire department, VFW, vet hospitals and homes, Ceylon Area Historical Society Museum, Fisher House, Eagle Healing Nest, Armed Forces Center (at MSP Airport), other area legion groups and uniforms for firing squad and color guard.
In the more recent years the Ceylon Legion held fish frys and Rocky Mountain Oyster Feeds.
The Veterans Day Banquets included the Auxiliary members later so the local churches and
band parents would make and serve the meal.
The Ceylon Legion would hold many kinds of fundraisers to provide money for the organizations they donated to monthly. Most of the events to raise money were dances at the Pavilion and later in the Banquet Hall. They held weekly bingo and monthly feather parties with bingo, they held a fox hunt, pheasant hunts, old guys versus young guys ball games, donkey ball, stag parties for community men, ice skating rinks and rollerskating at the pavilion and whatever people would buy a ticket to see.
The Auxiliary began in 1947 and was 75 years old when they surrendered their charter this year. They were called on many times for help with fundraisers and legion work.
Ceylon Sons of the American Legion began in 2003 for children and grandchildren of Veterans.
Their charter members were: Doug Leiding, Roger Manwarren, Jon Eversman, Robert Nelson, Jim Plumhoff, Tom Plumhoff, Larry Kling, Jeremy Buchan, Dean Koehler, Steve Schultze, Kieth Franck and Steve Meyer. There were about 30 members when they began.
The current Legion Commander, Allen Kahler, the president of the Sons of the Legion, Jon Eversman, and the president of the Auxiliary, Laura Nagel, all remarked that the low attendance at the meetings and events led to the dissolution of the groups. The Legion members appreciate the support the Legends and Legends II and the Lake Belt Bar and Grill gave the group after the building was sold.
There are many memories and evidence of the many things the Ceylon Legion supported and initiated in the community that benefited the community and area residents.