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Veterans invite community to celebrate centennial of H.B. American Legion post

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Members of Post 133 ride during Huntington Beach’s Fourth of July Parade in 1947, its first after World War II.
(Courtesy of city of Huntington Beach)

Huntington Beach’s American Legion Post 133 will celebrate its 100th anniversary Saturday with a free community party showcasing its history.

Members of the post, one of the four oldest American Legion chapters in Orange County, have worked on the celebration for the past year. Food, a children’s zone and a special honor to Post 133 World War II veterans William Kettler and Fran Ritchey are scheduled for the festivities at the Rodgers Seniors’ Center, 1706 Orange Ave.

The American Legion was founded in March 1919 and chartered by Congress six months later as a veterans service organization. Membership is now at nearly 2 million in more than 13,000 posts worldwide, according to the Legion’s website. Post 133 was founded in September 1919 and chartered that December.

Robert McClish, commander of Post 133, said he hopes Saturday’s event will educate residents on how the group has played a role in the development of the city of Huntington Beach, which is about 10 years older.

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“You got these veterans that not only served in war but were involved in community and in important civil positions and leadership,” McClish said. “That’s why we’re looking at the centennial as, ‘Hey, you might not remember the commanders from 10 years ago, but can you remember the mayor of 90 years ago?’”

As Huntington Beach slowly established itself, city officials often looked to Post 133 for assistance because its members were trained to serve and always wanted to help, according to city archivist Kathie Schey.

When a large earthquake rocked the area in 1933, post members stepped in to patrol and safeguard Huntington Beach High School, Schey said.

“If our city needed something, they were there for it. I don’t think people realize the integral role that they’ve always played,” Schey said.

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Post 133 held its meetings on the second floor of Memorial Hall for decades until the building was demolished in 1975. The group then moved from place to place, even meeting once at a bench in Central Park.

Even now, its current meeting place at Rodgers Seniors’ Center may be in doubt. It might be used as a temporary home for some police officers during a modernization project at the Police Department headquarters. City officials have said that if that happens, the city would find a new place for the Legion to hold its meetings.

Post 133 continues to serve the community through educational programs and its Veterans Resource Center, which opened in December. It has helped more than 300 veterans obtain documents needed for benefits and housing assistance, according to Russ Dohrmann, first vice commander.

“All of a sudden we’re seeing the little things we are doing making big impacts,” McClish said. “[When] I joined in 2012, we had 240 members and now we’re crossing 600. That speaks to a lot about the guys and what we’re doing. It’s a sense of purpose.”

IF YOU GO
What: American Legion Huntington Beach Post 133 centennial celebration

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday; ceremony begins at 1 p.m.

Where: Rodgers Seniors’ Center, 1706 Orange Ave., Huntington Beach

Cost: Free

Information: hbpost133.com

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