In the 1950s, the American Legion Auxiliary was the women’s branch of the “men only” American Legion. It was a service organization comprised of wives and mothers of American Legion members and was focused primarily on veterans’ affairs and promoting patriotism, as well as other worthy causes.
On July 11, 1957, officers for the 1957 – 1958 term were installed during the general meeting held at the Villa Chanticleer. Later that same month, the projects and goals for the 12-month term were planned and mapped out at the initial meeting of the officers, executive board and committee chairmen held at the home of the new president, Mrs. Norman (Maria) Taeuffer. The activities and accomplishments of this group of ladies are described below.
The group enjoyed many social activities including monthly birthday teas, which were held at St. Paul’s Parish Hall. Refreshments were enjoyed and cards were played. Responsibility for arranging the teas rotated between ladies each month. Anita Larrieu, Margaret Cadd, Elsie Leard, Mildred Gagliardo, Mrs. Roy Gannow, Mrs. Edward Beeson, Margaret Luce, and Miriam Tingstrom each took their turn. Also, monthly meetings of the Past Presidents were held. These gatherings rotated amongst the homes of various participants and featured refreshments and Canasta tournaments.
At the December general meeting of the Legion and Auxiliary held at the Villa Chanticleer, Mrs. George (Lois) Day, resident of Healdsburg since 1895, was honored for her 30 years of service with a Gold Life Membership award. Anita Larrieu prepared one of her famous cakes for the occasion, decorated to resemble a Life Membership card. Elmer Sandborn sang “If I Had My Way.”
But the Auxiliary was more than just a social club for local ladies.
In the late 1950s, polio was a major concern throughout this country. The Auxiliary spearheaded several activities during the January 1958 March of Dimes fund raising drive. Ladies of Post 111 made and sold “Blue Crutches” in front of local businesses and raised $180. This initiative had originated with the Healdsburg group the prior year and by 1958 had spread to other communities. Also, a “Dimes Dance” was held in coordination with the Legion at the Villa. Admission to the dance was $1, but additional funds were surely collected “at the Villa’s beautiful cocktail lounge” bringing the total for the night to “over $500.” Later in the month, the ladies also participated in the “Porch Light” collection drive. The town and surrounding area was divided into sections which were assigned to the various volunteers. The details were published in the papers. On the prescribed evening, those interested in making a donation were instructed to illuminate their porch light so the ladies would know to knock on the door to collect.
In addition to the work done with the March of Dimes, the Auxiliary made donations to numerous local groups. These included monies given to the Healdsburg Elementary School for school lunches, to Healdsburg Junior High for underprivileged children, toward the cost of dinner for the 6th Army Band during the Future Farmers of America Fair parade, and to the Camp Fire Girls.
At the March 1958 general meeting, the Auxiliary presented the Sotoyome Post with two signs reading “Welcome to Healdsburg, Please drive carefully” in honor of the Legion’s 39th anniversary. These signs were posted at the North and South ends of Healdsburg for many years.
Jim Foppiano and Mildred Gagliardo
Mrs. Anita Larrieu again provided an elaborately decorated cake for the birthday celebration. This cake was designed as a replica of the “Welcome to Healdsburg” signs.
The Auxiliary also upheld a strong commitment to supporting the country’s veterans. They worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the residents of the Veterans’ Home in Yountville.
In October 1957 “Legion Day” festivities were held at the Home. The Auxiliary provided a picnic lunch for the Legion color guard and the former Healdsburgers living at the Yountville facility. Those veterans listed in the Tribune were Gidon McCord, William Allan, A.V.A. Johnson, and Fred Leoni. Also in October, Margaret Cadd, Mrs. Ray Ganow, and Anita Larrieu represented the Auxiliary at the annual bingo party in the women’s quarters housing 54 ladies ranging in age from 64 to 86 years.
In preparation for the Christmas festivities, in November a basket was placed in Biasotti’s Market to collect scraps of foil, lace, etc. to be used by the Junior Auxiliary members to make ornaments for the veterans’ trees. On December 14, 1957 a Christmas party was held for the mostly World War I Veterans. Participants from Healdsburg included Gracie Stewart, Margaret Cadd, Hazel Kolb, and Anita Larrieu. The morning began with each of the 2,000 veterans in residence being presented with a stocking filled with fruit and cigarettes while other ladies trimmed the trees. Later on, a “Christmas Review” consisting of singing and dancing by Florence Berning’s group of 50 youngsters ranging from 4 to 20 years was presented. The day concluded with cake and coffee in the evening.
An important activity each year was the making and selling of poppies for Memorial
Day. The poppies, made in 80 veterans’ homes across the nation, represent those seen growing in Flanders Fields, France in 1919 (immortalized in John McCae’s poem). The poppy is also the official flower of the American Legion and Auxiliary. The first Poppy Day was held in Milwaukee, WI in 1920. Hazel Young began the tradition in Healdsburg in 1925. In 1958, the Auxiliary provided the supplies for the Veterans to make the poppies. Volunteers traveled to Yountville twice a week for six weeks in the winter to assist the veterans in making the poppies. Veterans were paid a standard amount for each poppy they made. The balance of the proceeds from selling the poppies in May was placed in a special fund used towards projects for veterans and their families. Lucille Hoskins (1957 Poppy Chairman for Post 111), Margaret Cadd, Anita Larrieu, Mildred Gagliardo, Gracie Stewart, Marie Foppiano, Mrs. Ray Ganow, Ruth Albini, and Hazel Kolb participated in the twice weekly visits. As Memorial Day approached, the Auxiliary then began selling the poppies on the streets of Healdsburg for donations.
Promoting patriotism was important to the Auxiliary. An Americanism essay contest was held each year. Students submitted written essays describing their views on the topic. First prize winner in 1958 was Cyd Stockman, sixth grader. Marylyn Smith and Doris Pedroni took second and third.
In addition, Girls’ and Boys’ State conventions were held in Sacramento. Boys’ State was
begun in 1937 and Girls’ State in 1943 for the purpose of “educat(ing) our youth in the duties, rights and responsibilities of American citizenship.” High School students were chosen to attend this event where they participated in mock elections and legislative activities at the county, city and state levels. In 1957 the auxiliary sponsored Loretta Wright while the Legion sponsored Pete Peterson. Loretta was appointed councilman of her city and Pete was appointed Supreme Court judge. Delegates for the 1958 Girls’ and Boys’ State were Sarah Ann Higbee and Steve Harrington.
Another example of youth outreach in 1957 was the formation of the Junior Auxiliary. All girls who were members of an Auxiliary or Legion Post family were eligible to join.
Between the Auxiliary, Legion, VFW, and War Mothers, numerous flags were donated throughout 1958 to local groups including the St. John’s Boy Scout troop, the Alexander Valley 4-H, and to Sonoma County for use at the Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach.
Of course, Memorial Day was an important event for the organization. Preparations began well in advance. In 1958, calls went out in local newspapers beginning two weeks ahead for donations of floral arrangements. Most local merchants closed their shops for
the day. The festivities began with a morning parade. In addition to the Legion and Auxiliary color guard, the VFW, the Marine Reserves of Santa Rosa, War Mothers, Boy Scouts, 4-H, Camp Fire Girls and High School band participated. The parade began at the Healdsburg Shopping Center and concluded at the Oak Mound Cemetery. A solemn ceremony was then held, which consisted of speeches, laying of a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier, recitation of the poem “Flanders Field,” and a 21-gun salute followed by four trumpeters, led by George Izzett, sounding Taps. After completion of the ceremony at Oak Mound, the Legion and Auxiliary conducted additional ceremonies at Shiloh Cemetery in Windsor and Olive Hill Cemetery in Geyserville. After the long day, the participants retired to the Taeuffer ranch, South of Healdsburg, where Norman and Maria Taeuffer hosted a huge barbeque.
When in July 1958 a new roster of Officers were installed for Sotoyome Post 111 Auxiliary, the outgoing officers of 1957 – 1958 could rest assured that they had successfully promoted their cause by caring for the old, nurturing the young, and supporting the community, while enjoying fellowship and good times.