The American Legion was started in 1919 after World War I by a group of war-weary veterans, and it didn’t take long for the patriotic fervor to hit Gainesville.
Paul E. Bolding Post 7, named after the second Hall Countian to die in World War I, officially organized Saturday, Aug. 16, 1919, at Hall County’s courthouse.
An Aug. 17 celebration is planned to recognize the landmark day.
“One hundred years is a big deal,” said Dave Dellinger, former commander of the post, who helps organize the post’s annual Memorial Day parade.
This feature is part of The Times' special section, Hall-American, publishing in the Sunday, June 30, edition.
Pictures deck the walls of the post at 2343 Riverside Drive. The building, which dates to the 1980s, overlooks Lake Lanier.
When Post 7 American Legion organized, it had 17 charter members, some of whom became prominent Hall County citizens: Edgar Dunlap, Leonard Cinciolo, Heyward Pearce, John Pearce, Thomas Pearce, William Longstreet and Claud Barrett.
Dunlap was its first commander, but served temporarily until W.P. Whelchel was officially elected.
Shortly after its founding, Post 7 opened a “community building” on East Spring Street in Gainesville and allowed other local organizations to use it for its activities.
In the mid-1950s, Post 7 bought its present property at the end of Riverside Drive for $13,000, plus another 4 acres on Lake Lanier for $7,000. It had purchased the post home from Riverside Military Academy in 1946.
That building, which had been the home of a country club overlooking a golf course, burned in 1985. Post 7 rebuilt on the same site.
The American Legion Park started out as Chattahoochee Park in 1901 when Dunlap Dam formed Lake Warner on the Chattahoochee River. North Georgia Electric Co., which operated the dam and park, used it as a camp for employees, as did Georgia Power Co. for many years after it acquired North Georgia Electric.
The park continues as a recreation area, and the Legion rents a restored pavilion for parties, reunions and other activities.
The legion has lost some of its past glory, as older members have died and younger members are less inclined to join.
“We’re all getting older,” Dellinger said in a 2012 interview. “We have got to have some younger people to start passing it on to. Our biggest problem is trying to figure out exactly what we can do to appeal to these younger veterans, to get them involved.”
The 100th anniversary event will serve, in part, “to let the (public) know what we do as far as our post services and programs,” said American Legion member Johnny Varner, leading the organizing effort. “We have a lot of community service programs.”
Many people don’t know much about the post, said Wayne Smallwood, helping Varner in organizing the event.
“We’ve been working diligently to try to get it out there that we rent this place out to the public, we have events out here, and it’s open to the public,” he said.
“We’re trying to duplicate a Mule Camp-style (event),” Varner said. “We’re going to have some local vendors ...and will be kind of our open house.”
Retired editor Johnny Vardeman contributed to this report.