A Brief History of Delaware Veterans Post #1
1946 – Present
In the spring of 1946, returning veterans of WWII (Charter members – Henry W. Bryan, Eugene A. Delle Donne, Robert K. Emmons, John E. Healy II, George F. Kelly Jr., James C. Stewart, William W. Swayze, James F. Toner, Jr., and Robert P. Vandergrift) were disenchanted with the operations of the local VFW’s and American Legions’ and decided to form their own Veterans Organization.
The first meeting was held in the boardroom of the Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. at 9th & Market Sts., in Wilmington, Delaware, because Bill Swayze was employed there and could get the meeting room free of charge. A State organization was formed, incorporated, and a State Charter obtained. Then the Delaware Veterans of WWII Inc., Post #1 was established. Jim Stewart was the first State Commander and Jack Pearce was elected the first Post Commander. By this time they had already started bringing in new members as you can see by Jack Pearce’s name not being listed on the Charter.
Several meetings were held at the Blue Rock Community Center on Baynard Blvd., and then the meetings were moved to the Central YMCA At 11th & Washington Streets in early May or June 1946.
Dover Post #2 was organized in the spring of 1947. There also have been several attempts to form a 3rd Post in Sussex County, Delaware, although none have ever proven successful. Our first clubhouse was started late in 1947 over the Branch Post Office on the southwest corner of 4th & Union Street. The St. Thomas Catholic Church owned the building and donated a room rent-free. Our membership climbed to approximately 250 and everything seemed to be going great. About a year and a half later St. Thomas sold the building and things started falling apart. We eventually wound up back at the Central YMCA.
We later met in the Acme Bridge Club, The Iannelli V.F.W Post Home and then back again to the YMCA. By late 1949 and into 1950 things were beginning to look very bleak when much of our membership lost interest and dropped out. The Post became dormant until 1952 when we acquired our present property. Interest began to pick up again mainly through the efforts of Gene Delle Donne, John Healy II, George Kelly and Jack Pearce. Construction began on the original building and we held our first meeting with elections in April 1953. This Election was deferred from January so that it could be held here.
Numerous members, friends and family donated money and time to the total cost of $8,664.89 for the original building and grounds. Included in this amount was a donation of $5,000.00 from Pierre Samuel DuPont.
The swimming pool was built in 1955 at the cost of $30,000. Much of this cost was donated along with the time and labor needed. It was a long summer waiting for the pool to open, which didn’t happen until Labor Day weekend. We had three days of swimming, one of which was rainy. We loved every minute of it.
We started to grow, although progress was slow. The ballroom was enlarged in 1963 and a deck overlooking the pool was built in 1964, but we continued to struggle until the early 1970’s when we started to allow non-Veteran members to join under IRS code 501c-19.
Our name was changed from Delaware Veterans of WWII Inc., to Delaware Veterans Post #1. This was in keeping with the feeling that the original name was keeping younger members from joining, even though they had always been eligible for membership. This small change aroused quite a bit of interest and our membership again started to flourish.
A new kitchen with storage rooms was built during 1971 and 1972, including a new entrance foyer to the ballroom and an enlargement to the original bar. During 1980 & 1981 the original game room was converted to the present cocktail lounge and a new game room was built on with office, storage room and a meeting room constructed in the basement.
The ballroom, lounge and kitchen were again remodeled during 1988 and 1989, along with a repaving of the parking lot. A handicapped accessible ramp was installed at the main entrance to the ballroom.
In 1994 the entrance foyer and main restrooms were remodeled and made handicap accessible. During the fall of 1994 & spring of 1995 the swimming pool was completely re-piped with new skimmers and all aprons redone. At the same time this was being accomplished the parking lot to the pool area was enlarged with new footers placed to allow for future expansion of the lounge.
During 1996 we had Delmarva Power run underground piping to our building so that we could replace our old inefficient oil burner system with a gas fired service.
The year 2000 found us completely remodeling our Banquet Hall as it is today.
Our baby pool was relocated in the spring of 2002 (the baby pool had been leaking badly for several years, and as it turned out, was less expensive to relocate) to the North side of the main pool. The old baby pool was filled in and repaved to create a very popular family picnic area.
On November 17, 2004 ground was broken for a major expansion of a new game room and remodeling of the lounge and game room area. Construction was started on December 3, 2004 for the new game room expansion. In February 2005 the lounge equipment was moved to the ballroom and the ballroom was closed to rentals so daily business activity could be carried out in the ballroom and the lounge was closed. The entire lounge, game room and basement area were gutted and remodeled. We moved back into our new facility on July 15, 2005 with our new game room and restroom area and a remodeled lounge including a new bar with a large lounge area with fireplace. The basement included a new meeting room and office area. The entrance into the lounge area was constructed to accommodate handicap entrance into the Post. This entire project cost over $700,000.
Little did the Charter Members realize what they were starting over 60 years ago. We should always be grateful to those nine men for the legacy they have bestowed upon us.
Courtesy of the archives and keen memory of Jack Houck.