Birch-Miller Post Prints Book to Celebrate 100th Anniversary

By: 
Debbie Hemmer

    Did you know that the American Legion Post in Milbank sponsored a beauty contest in 1927, hosted minstrel shows, staged boxing bouts and gave a car away in 1945 as a fundraiser for the construction of new clubrooms?
    This is just a sampling of the many interesting stories that can be found in the book printed by the Birch-Miller American Legion Post No. 9 in celebration of its 100th anniversary. The local post is a Centennial Post as it was charted the first year the national organization was created in 1919. The 75-page book covers the activities of the Milbank legionnaires during their 100-year history.
    The book features many stories about its members, the programs it sponsored such as Boys State and the oratory contest, Legion baseball in Milbank and the history of the baseball field. It also includes the history of the veteran memorials, baseball monument, the occasions celebrating Milbank as the Birthplace of American Legion Baseball and the construction of its clubrooms.
    The Legion Post N0. 9 worked with the Grant County Review to compile the book, and much of the information contained in it was obtained from the newspaper’s archives.
    Following is a story from the book which details the celebration hosted on the 25th anniversary of the founding of Legion baseball:
    Birch-Miller Post No. 9 celebrated the 25th anniversary of the founding of the American Legion baseball program with style in 1950. Recognized as the birthplace of Legion baseball, Milbank was a fitting site for the celebration which was conducted in conjunction with the state baseball championship between the Class A and B champions. Each class had separate state tournaments, and the winners of the tournaments faced off in a best of two out of three series to determine the overall state winner every summer.
    Plans for the two-day event on August 10 and 11 included a parade, a baseball monument dedication, the baseball games and an evening meal on the first day followed by a program. A lot of planning went into the event and chairmen of the various committees were Earl F. Nixon, general chairman; E. F. Miller, program; Ray Miller and Frank Carr, memorial dedication; Gerald Gardner, baseball games; Lewis Miller, ticket sales; J.T. Harvey, parade; Arthur Berkner, policing, and J. J. Eisenmenger, housing and reservations. A. A. Schwagerl was commander and E. F. Miller, post adjutant.
    A two-mile long parade kicked off the celebration. It featured 100 floats and ran for one hour. Main Street was festively decorated with banners, and a large crowd turned to watch floats created by Milbank business firms, clubs and fraternal and professional groups. Bands, Legion posts from across the state, drum and bugle corps and riders from the Silver Spur Saddle Club of Marvin, Pleasant Valley Saddle Club of Strandburg-South Shore and the Wilmot riding club joined in on the fun. The Mundwiler float with the theme “Milbank Lit the Fuse” was named the top float in the parade and won a cash award.
    After the parade, the celebration moved to the baseball field on the east side of town where a newly created granite monument to baseball was dedicated. Taking part in the ceremony was Governor George Mickelson who flew in by plane for the event; Chet Trumbo of Arlington, state department Legion commander, and Frank Sieh of Aberdeen, one of the very first legionnaires to conceive the idea of Legion baseball at the state convention in Milbank in 1925. The main speaker at the dedication was Milton Boock, national vice commander. Also on hand were Angelo
Guiliani, former big league catcher for the Washington, St. Louis  and ­­the Brooklyn Dodgers and scout for ­­the Minneapolis Millers and the New York Giants, and Burleigh Grimes, former major league player and scout for the New York Yankees.
    The first championship game between Aberdeen and Corsica was staged after the monument dedication with Aberdeen winning. After the activities at the field, everyone was invited to a community meal at the city auditorium put on by the Legion auxiliary. Toastmaster for the program at the meal was K. D. Munro of Wilmot, formerly of Milbank, and past state Legion commander. An address was given by Richard I. Butler of Cincinnati, OH, assistant to High Commissioner of Baseball “Happy” Chandler, and the quartet of Stearns Tait, Carl and Marwood Wise and Leonard Stengel provided musical entertainment.
    Rain Friday morning resulted in the postponement of the second baseball game between Aberdeen and Corsica, but the field dried as evening rolled around and the teams hit the field. Aberdeen again won which eliminated the need for a third contest.
    Grimes, a big name in the big leagues from 1916 to 1934, was interviewed by the Grant County Review in the lobby of the St. Hubert Hotel. “The memorial is tops! It’s the Thomas Edison, the Henry Ford, the first,” was his reaction to the monument, and he was also impressed with the parade and baseball field.
    The parade, dedication exercises and ball games were broadcast over KWAT at Watertown and were sponsored by J. H. Drewelow Company of Milbank and the Ford Motor Company.
    To order a book contact Tim Jurgens at 605-880-0184.
– Debbie Hemmer

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Grant County Review

Grant County Review
P.O. Box 390
Milbank, SD 57252
(605) 432-4516

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