Walking Past History

 

Written by Mustafa Kujo in the June 2018 Issue

Walking Past History

Walking Past History

It’s easy to walk out of a great concert at the UCO Jazz Lab or a delicious dinner at Hideaway Pizza, reach for your keys as you look for your car, and not notice that you’re walking past history. Located on the corner of 5th and Littler, at the southwest corner of Stephenson Park, is rough-hewn building of uncut, red sandstone. It is the Frank H. Collings American Legion Post 111. Corporal Collings died in action on July 1, 1918 defending the American lines in Vaux, France. He was the first resident of Edmond killed in World War I.

Congress chartered The American Legion on Sept 16, 1919 and Edmond’s American Legion Post was chartered three months later on Dec 19th. Records on its history are sparse until 1935 when, in the midst of the depression and years-long drought, the Edmond City Council submitted a proposal to the Works Projects Administration to build a “community meeting place” to house the Frank Collings Post. Legionnaires themselves raised $2000, while the city donated the land, and the WPA paid for the labor, employing dozens of drought-ravaged local farmers.

The building went up in record time, along with many other WPA projects throughout Edmond and in Stephenson Park. When completed in 1936, the city leased the building to the American Legion for $1/year in 5-year increments. That agreement, and price, are still in force today.

The Legion is still very active in community activities. Their historic hall, full of photos of past commanders and Frank Collings himself, is in demand as various groups rent it for meetings and even to cook meals in its full kitchen. Members of Post 111 provide annual scholarships to eligible Edmond high school students to attend a week-long intensive leadership development program at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami, OK where they study Oklahoma government, law, and emergency management.

The Post is always open Monday mornings from 8-10 am for a weekly “coffee call” where members and visitors can come in for coffee and donuts, trade war stories, and meet some incredible Edmondites. LTC (R) Oren Peters is a veteran of both WWII and Korea, a past Post Commander, and an inductee of the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame. He’s as well aged as the building itself and still active at the Post, telling stories of all the faces adorning the walls, to include how pictures of people with last names of Rankin and Bryant have streets named after them in Edmond today.

The American Legion Hut is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and much of its structure is still original construction. Any renovations to it requires detailed planning. Stephenson Park, however, is due for a number of renovations over the coming years. Edmond Parks & Recreation Director, Craig Dishman is coordinating a Preliminary Design Concept of the park’s future which Edmond’s Advisory Board will make final decisions on over the coming months. The goal is to create an urban landscape park, more conducive to families and outdoor recreation, especially as development groups begin construction of retail, restaurant, and residential buildings around Littler Ave. and 4th street surrounding the park.

The Legionnaires have seen many changes in Edmond over the years, yet continue their traditions of selfless service to the community. Says Ken Wyatt, Post 111 Adjutant and Vietnam Veteran, “We were recently at the IOOF cemetery by Lake Arcadia before Memorial Day placing flags on the graves of Veterans. We enjoy doing our part.”

Visit www.edmondpost111.org for more information.

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