Walton F. Hoffman Memorial Post 179 History
100 Years of History
The American Legion
To understand our own post history, we must have at least a minor understanding of how we came to be as an American organization. The idea of an organization for the troops that were anxious leaving a war zone and going home was cultivated in Paris, France in March 1919. The meeting was attended by 443 American Army officers and enlisted who were charged with finding ways to uplift morale since World War I had ended, and the men were anxious to leave for home. Initially, most viewed this as a gripe session but as the meeting moved forward, it became a discussion of forming a veteran’s organization.
The basic plans for the organization were laid out and ended with the naming of the group. It was decided by these men that it should be called the “American Legion”. It was found out that a similar society already existed in Canada and the meeting in Paris closed with a follow up meeting in St. Louis, Missouri to define the basic structures of this new association. The name “American Legion” was proposed by an officer of the 36th Division, Major Maurice Gordon of Madisonville, Kentucky.
In May 1919, the group met in St. Louis as proposed with their first decision was to leave the permanent policy making for a later date and call for a more “representative” gathering of veterans in the United States. An executive committee of 100 members were named to complete the group and a subcommittee of 17 member returned to the United States to stimulate awareness and interest of service members who were not assigned to overseas duty. An advanced committee of two members from each state met in St. Louis on 6 May 1919 to prepare for a general caucus meeting. This meeting was scheduled from 8-10 May 1919 in St. Louis, Missouri. This assembly produced the blueprint of the “American Legion”. It was here that the principles set forth in Paris were adopted and implemented in a tentative constitution as well as creating a hierarchy for a permanent organization. It was at this caucus that the PREAMBLE to the Constitution of the American Legion were written and adopted.
It is interesting to note that some of the first national commanders and chairman included General John J. Pershing, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, and Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
The American Legion in Texas
Prior to the caucus meeting for the national organization in May 1919, a similar league met in April 1919 at the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio, Texas on San Jacinto Day for the purpose of establishing a branch of the American Legion in Texas. In attendance were 572 veterans of World War I, some of whom were still in uniform and who would determine the fate of Texas’ American Legion. Claude Birkhead of San Antonio was elected Chairman of the temporary society and held this position until the first branch convention was held.
The Texas caucus assumed the name “Texas Division of World War Veterans” and it was this body that was recognized at the St. Louis, Missouri conclave as the official State Organization of the American Legion in Texas. The additional officers that were elected into the state organization were Henry Hutchings, Vice Commander, Austin, Texas; J.A. Belger, Adjutant, Austin, Texas; Charles W. Scruggs, Acting Adjutant, San Antonio, Texas and later, Mr. Scruggs became a member of Comal Post 179 , New Braunfels, Texas; Kent Watson, Publicity Director, Fort Worth, Texas; W.E. Jackson, National Executive Committeeman and Holland Bradley National Executive Committeeman, Houston, Texas.
The next step was to elect committeemen from various districts to bring about a permanent organization by creating and establishing posts as well as awarding charters. It was in these documents that the eligibility rules for membership were spelled out. Initial temporary rules stipulated that no post be named for a living person, that representation at state and national conventions must be based on the number of members paid up prior to 1 October 1919, temporary charters would be issued by Department Headquarters only, and each post must have an adjutant as well as post officers to include a commander, vice commander, finance officer, historian, and chaplain. Sixty percent of state and post officers must be former enlisted men.
The American Legion in New Braunfels, Texas
On 15 February 1920, a group of 24 veterans of World War I came together at club rooms of the New Braunfels Clubs for the purpose of organizing a post of the American Legion. Dr. R. Wright, Frank B. Voigt, Arno I. Tausch, A.O. Babel, G.H. Roessing, Arthur Mergele, Frank F. Hasse, Albert, Pfeuffer, Erhardt Plumeyer, Julius W. Streuer, Edgar Streuer, Jr., Arthur Heidemeyer, Ernest C. Tietze, Henry Streuer, Jr., Alex Vogel, William Koltermann, Albert Moos, Henry Oberkampf, Albert Foerster, Edwin Schulze, Fred R. Pfeuffer, R.H. Tays, Adolf Eggeling, and R.A. Ludwig were the men who met to organize the post we now call the Walter F. Hoffmann Memorial Post 179.
It was at this meeting that the assembled veterans got down to business and discussed the organizing of a local post. Each veteran could present their ideas, points of view and their willingness as well as their readiness to support such a group. Next point of order was to elect veterans to temporary post officer positions and lay down basic membership rules. Membership dues would be $2 a year, which included $1 for national dues, 25 cents for state dues and 75 cents for local dues. Each member present paid 25 cents for a total of $6 to help defray the cost of communication with all ex-servicemen residing in Comal County. This meeting also included the drafting of the first constitution and by-laws of Comal Post 179. Since New Braunfels was considered rural at this time in history, it was noted that all of Comal County had to be involved in the organization of the American Legion post to be a productive and community-oriented establishment.
The American Legion has a male oriented youth activity called Boys State Program that was created for high school age boys. The program was designed for each boy to participate in the functionality of every level of state government to include local, county, and state. After the death of Richard A. Philebar in May 1981, his family felt that a memorial in his honor would be an appropriate tribute to him and the Boys State Program. This program was a particular favorite of Richard Philebars’ and this memorial was established for the Comal Post 179 Boys State Program to allowed for sending additional young men to Boys State yearly.
Not only did Comal Post 179 sent young men to the Boys State Program; they also had a variety of school awards that placed emphasis on the development of character which provided scholarships to pupils attached to their state, county, and local posts. This Comal Post 179 program has been in effect since 1958 and each awardee has been chosen by the faculty of each school. Cash awards are given to the boy and girl within the top 30% of the New Braunfels graduating classes. In addition, Comal Post 179 has the High School Oratorical Program which originated in 1938 after the national finals were held in Norman, Oklahoma. It is a program for students to help our local, county, and state public to better understand the meaning of the United States Constitution. The subject of the contest was to be on some part of the Constitution of the United States by giving emphasis on the attendant duties and obligations of a citizen to our government. Prepared orations must be original to the student and not take less than 8 minutes and no more than 10 minutes. It is still a vibrant program today.
The American Legion Baseball program is a national program that was initiated by convention action in 1925. After all, it is the American national sport along with apple pie. Each summer, hundreds of boys would receive lessons on citizenship, sportsmanship, loyalty, team spirit, self-reliance, and the acceptance of responsibility on the baseball diamond. Through the years, Comal Post 179 had sponsored a youth team for competition in the American Legion Baseball program. In 1975, Comal Post 179 sponsored a team to play in the Senior Babe Ruth League. Currently there is no Post 179 Baseball program. Some of the more famous alumni of the American Legion Baseball Program are U.S. President Bill Clinton, Neil Armstrong, Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Jordan, Jon Bon Jovi, James Gandolfini, Bruce Springsteen, Dick Cheney, Tom Brokaw, Michael Dukakis, Scott Bakula, and Chris Christie. Not a bad group to be associated with and one that seems to take you places.
This is only a small break down of the rich history of the American Legion and its community-oriented programs as well as the proud and productive history of the Comal Post 179. It was not until 1 October 2002 that the post became know as the Walton F. Hoffmann Memorial Post in remembrance of one of its most dedicated and enthusiastic members. Comal Post 179 was recognized to be one of the initial promoters of the New Braunfels Servicemen’s Center. It was a combination of the servicemen’s club and motel used by the service members in their leisure time. The idea for a servicemen’s center was visualized by the Comal Post 179 in June 1943. Immediately, the American Legion and city leaders were put to work by obtaining the building form Harry Landa, while Willard Hill, rancher/oilman and Major General Gerald K. Brandt, reached out to friends in the construction, plumbing and electrical fields to help with the renovation of the run-down building. Many of the needed experts provided the labor and materials for little or no cost. Once the building was finished, it was up to the Comal Post 179 to run the service center.
During World War II, the service center was an active monument for all the servicemen in New Braunfels and was located on the Plaza in the center of the city. It was open from Saturday noon to Monday morning and furnished complete weekend accommodations for the servicemen. It had a 100-bed facility which included areas for conversation and recreation. Coffee and donuts were served free of charge for Sunday morning breakfast and cookies were always free. There were two regular attendants at the center, Mrs. Jack Kaufman who was the hostess and Mr. Albert Hoffman who was the custodian. Along with regular volunteers, Mr. R.A. Ludwig was the Legion Home Chairman and would appoint men that would act as attendants in the service center throughout the weekend. It was Mrs. Ludwig, Mrs. Harry Balsh, and Miss Ottie Coreth who oversaw the female attendant volunteers.
The service center had four steering committeemen who were made up of New Braunfels city government and businessmen, whose job was to create and oversee a comfortable, safe, and entertaining place for our servicemen to go. The center was opened on 3 July 1943 and its first dance was held with orchestral music by the Randolph Field Ramblers. Hostesses from Seguin, San Marcos, and San Antonio assisted with the dance and ensured the servicemen had a moment to take their mind off of the war. World War I veteran and previous Post 179 Commander, Mr. Walter B. Dillard, encouraged all “the boys” at San Marcos Army Airfield to enjoy the hospitality of the New Braunfels Service Center. In 1928, a huge flag with only 45 starts from the Capitol in Washington D.C. came to Comal Post 179 and was hung in the New Braunfels Service Center.
The first permanent meeting place for Comal Post 179 was courtesy of the First National Bank of New Braunfels on the second floor of their building. This space was used from February 1920 until 1931. It was then the post moved to the basement of the newly built New Braunfels Court House annex and during World War II, the meetings were held in the servicemen’s center. The first meeting held in the Coll Street address was 6 April 1949. It was in July 1949 that the formal dedication of Comal Post 179 at 410 W. Coll Street in New Braunfels, Texas was celebrated. The celebration was a two-day affair which included the following: a parade ending with a dedication ceremony, a skit performed by the “Order of the Cooties, a barbeque and culminating with dancing both Saturday and Sunday night. The bands that played at the dances were the T-Patchers, Al Schnabel, the Comal Post 179 Band, and Travis Post 76 Drum and Bugle Corps.
The Comal Post 179 Band was originally organized as a Drum and Bugle Corps in the 1928. The Band was initially used only for entertainment and ceremonies at the post or local civic events. The Drum and Bugle Corps was at odds with leadership about the ability to play at other events outside of the New Braunfels area. Our Musicians stood firm and were aloud to travel through out the great State of Texas and beyond as their prowess became so very well known.
One of their first events was the Department American Legion Convention in 1931 in El Paso, Texas. The band participated at the 14th District American Legion Convention and was named “The Official Band of the 14th District”. The band dissolved at the start of World War II (WWII) and was re-organized in 1946. From 1946 to 1953, the band participated in 8 state conventions and 1 national conventions. Our band was lucky to have such wonderful legionnaires; especially Mr. Walter Faust who not only provided a bulk of the money for uniforms and bugles but bought the band a new bass drum. I wonder if that prized piece of history is hidden away somewhere at the post in some unused nook or cranny of our building.
In Jan 1936, the Drum and Bugle Corps became the Post Band and was filled with legionnaires and civilian musicians. It was in 1954 that the band was reorganized again, and our band put on uniforms that were of a western motif with two tone wool gaberdine with Walton F. Hoffmann as the band manager. In 1958, They wore those uniforms to the national convention in Chicago, Illinois, and placed 6th in the competition in the face of 94-degree weather and despite their wool gaberdine uniforms.
It was our trip to our nation’s capital where we won 1st place in the Class B Division competition. Let us not forget the Post 179 Color Guard who readily took first place in the 1964 Department Convention in San Antonio, Texas despite the fact that one of our color guard member could not seat his flag into the pole on his harness. Instead, F.S. Stolinski held tight to Old Glory throughout the competition. By 1972, we grew from a Class B Division, which was small amount of people and instruments, to a Class A Division and place first in the Department Convention.
New Braunfels Post 179 has been going strongly for over 100 years albeit under a variety of names and has added a plethora of programs under their umbrella to include the Sons of the American Legion and the American Legion Riders. The Walton F. Hoffmann Memorial Post 179 has continued to be a vital part of New Braunfels community as well as caring and catering to the worthy veterans it serves.
For more information on the day-to-day history Post 179 makes…Read the Post Citizen Newsletter.
We have obtained a couple of PDF documents concerning the donation of the deeds to the land for the Hoffmann Memorial Post 179. Mr. Eugene Seibert transfers deed to Mrs. Gertrude Wright who tranfers deed to Post 179.
Walton F. Hoffman
Post 35 Letter and Envelope.