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By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
Warren G. Harding was still the popular president of the United States on July 2, 1923, just one month away from sudden death and the scandals that would ruin his reputation once they came to light after he died.
Gasoline cost eight to nine cents per gallon to fill the still popular Ford Model T and other vehicles and the Browns were clearly the better of the two St. Louis Major League baseball teams.
Closer to home, the Ste. Genevieve American Legion Ladies Auxiliary was finally granted a charter.
Local women had been holding meetings, working toward this goal since the previous year.
Local historian Bob Mueller, while researching his weekly “Looking Back” column for the Herald, discovered that the anniversary was coming up and notified the members.
“We wouldn’t know about it if Bob hadn’t sent Rosie an email last year,” said Mary Giesler, current president.
“He notified me and said, ‘Hey, a heads-up; you guys are going to hit 100 years,’” auxiliary member Rosie Buatte said.
Mueller said notices began appearing about organizational meetings in February 1922.
“Whenever he notified me by email, I took it to the meeting,” Buatte said. “She (Giesler) wasn’t president, I wasn’t president, but I took it and we discussed it at the meeting that tis was really something and that when it gets closer we want to do a celebration for it.
So, when Mary became president, that was one of her goals. She ran with it.”
“I remember we talked about the fact that it really started organizing in 1922, but you didn’t get your charter until July 2, 1923,” Mueller noted.
They have about 120 signed up to attend a special celebration this July 2, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of receiving their charter.
To join the auxiliary, one must be the daughter, granddaughter or spouse of a veteran. Today males are eligible if their wives have served in the military.
“Now we have so many female veterans,” Giesler said. “We do not have any male members, but they qualify.”
Digging through minutes of meetings from years past, in preparation for the July 2 celebration has been fascinating.
“One interesting thing I found was when they were notified that they had to add “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance,” Giesler said. “The old minutes tell you a lot about how they felt about the country,”
The Auxiliary continues to be active in the community. They distribute poppies for donations, they send girls to Girls State under “Children and youth,” they also do Amercanism essays, work with Veterans Administration and Rehabilitation, work at veterans homes, etc.
“We go to the Cape veteran’s home,” Buatte said. “We go twice a year, weather permitting.
They also make donations to various military funds and give to Camp Hope near Farmington and the Veteran’s Wall in Perryville.
“It’s not just a social organization,” Mueller said.
They work with VFW Auxiliary in a coordinated to fill tote bags for veterans in local nursing home.
“We alternate and take turns delivering” Giesler said. They are usually delivered on Veterans Day.
The group has been active longer than most.
“I think the fact that you’ve got 100 years is pretty amazing,” Mueller said. “There are only three or four organizations in town that are that age.”
“That’s why I thought we needed to do something,” Giesler said. “We need to celebrate it. We had to do something to recognize the ladies who came before us. Hose ladies used to make bandages.”
They worked in conjunction with a group called War Mothers, making bandages and what not.
Buatte said one of the things that amazed her in reading the earliest minutes were the prices of some items.
“They didn’t have a place to meet,” Giesler said. “They used to meet in private homes until they were able to rent a place. Here’s one where they were going to go to a meeting in Cape but they couldn’t get a car, so they voted to go by train. It’s just amazing.
“In 1940 the American Legion got a meeting room above what is now Common Grounds,” Mueller said. “You guys had a couple of meetings there in 1947.”
Giesler said that that was in keeping from her understanding of the group’s history.
“They coordinated everything with the legion, pretty much,” she said. “Hey would go to visit deceased war veterans. It would be like three members of the legion and one of the Auxiliary. They would go to the home of the deceased war veterans to see if they needed anything.
“They sold gowns, bibs, lap robes, cancer bandages and more things and took them to Jefferson Barracks, John Cochran (Veterans Hospital) and nursing homes.”
They read some minutes from 1948 in which war dead wee finally being sent home following Worlds War II for reburial.
In one October 1948 notation, Legion Commander Tom Wilder urged the auxiliary members to go to Basler Funeral Home to pay respects to Private Schilly. A motion was also made to send flowers for $5 to the funeral of a Private Grifford.
Another notation talked about a requiem high mass for Armistice Day, the predecessor to Veterans’ Day.
In one August 1944 entry, someone came in and asked the group for help to deliver telegrams to families of soldiers dead or missing in action.
A big crowd is expected for the 100th anniversary celebration. They had 120 signed up to attend the July 2 event as of June 16.
“I’m glad there’s going to be a big turnout,” Giesler said.