Walton F. Hoffmann Memorial Post 179

AL Post 179 History

To understand our own post history, we must have at least a minor understanding of how we came to be as an American organization. Following is the history of the American Legion, Texas American Legion, and Post 179.

The American Legion

    The idea of an organization for the troops who were anxious to leave a warzone and go home was cultivated in Paris, France in March of 1919.  The meeting was attended by 443 U.S. Army officers and enlisted men who were charged with finding ways to uplift morale since World War I had ended.  Initially, most viewed this as a gripe session, but as the meeting moved forward it became a discussion of forming a veterans organization.

    The basic plans for the organization were laid out and ended with the naming of the group.  An officer of the U.S. Army 36th Infantry Division, Major Maurice Gordon of Madisonville, Kentucky, proposed the name American Legion; it was soon discovered that a similar society already existed in Canada, placing the newly inaugurated organization in distinguished standing.  The meeting in Paris closed with scheduling a follow-up meeting in St. Louis, Missouri to define the basic structures of this new association.  An executive committee of 100 members (comprising two members from each state met) were named to complete the group and an advance subcommittee of 17 members returned to the United States to stimulate the awareness and interest of service members who were not assigned to overseas duty. 

    The executive committee met in St. Louis on May 6, 1919 to prepare for a general caucus meeting.  Its first decision was to leave permanent policymaking for a later date and call for a more representative gathering of veterans in the United States.  This subsequent meeting was scheduled for May 8—10, 1919 in St. Louis, where the attending members produced the blueprint of the American Legion.  The principles set forth in Paris were adopted and implemented in a tentative Constitution, and a hierarchy for a permanent organization was created.  This caucus did write and adopt the Preamble to the future Constitution of the American Legion.

    It is interesting to note that some of the first honorary national commanders and chairmen of this era included General of the Armies John J. Pershing, Maréchal de France Ferdinand Foch, and Medal of Honor recipient Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.  A full listing of important dates in American Legion history may be found at the American Legion History page.

 

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 would determine the fate of the American Legion in Texas.  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 who were elected to the state organization included Vice Commander Henry Hutchings of Austin; Adjutant J. A. Belger of Austin; Acting Adjutant Charles W. Scruggs of San Antonio (later, Mr. Scruggs became a member of Comal Post 179 in New Braunfels); Publicity Director Kent Watson of Fort Worth; National Executive Committeeman W. E. Jackson of Houston; and National Executive Committeeman Holland Bradley of Houston.

    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 after a living person; representation at state and national conventions must be based on the number of members paid up prior to October 1, 1919; temporary charters would be issued by Department Headquarters only; and each post must have post officers consisting of a commander, vice commander, adjutant, finance officer, historian, and chaplain.  Sixty percent of state and post officers must be former enlisted men.

 

The American Legion in New Braunfels, Texas

WWI to WWII

    On February 15, 1920, a group of 24 World War I veterans came together at club rooms of the New Braunfels Clubs for the purpose of organizing a post of the American Legion, including:

A. O. Babel Adolf Eggeling Albert Foerster Frank F. Hasse
Arthur Heidemeyer William Koltermann R. A. Ludwig Arthur Mergele
Albert Moos Henry Oberkampf Albert Pfeuffer Fred R. Pfeuffer
Erhardt Plumeyer G. H. Roessing Edwin Schulze Edgar Streuer, Jr.
Henry Streuer, Jr. Julius W. Streuer Arno I. Tausch R. H. Tays
Ernest C. Tietze Alex Vogel Frank B. Voigt Dr. R. Wright

These veterans were the men who met to organize the post we now call Walter F. Hoffmann Memorial Post 179.

    The assembled veterans got down to business and discussed the organizing of a local post.  Each veteran could present his ideas, points of view, and his willingness as well as readiness to support such a group.  They next elected veterans to temporary post officer positions and drafted the first constitution and by-laws of Comal Post 179, which included basic membership rules.  Membership dues would be $2 a year, itemized as $1 for national dues, 25¢ for state dues, and 75¢ for local dues.  The members paid $6 at 25¢ apiece to help defray the cost of communication with all locally resident ex-servicemen.  Since New Braunfels was considered rural at the time, it was noted that all of Comal County had to be involved in the organization of the American Legion Post in order to develop a productive and community-oriented establishment.

    The first permanent meeting place for Comal Post 179 was provided courtesy of the First National Bank of New Braunfels on the second floor of its building.  In use from February 1920 to 1931, the Post moved to the basement of the newly built New Braunfels Court House Annex and during World War II, meetings were held in the New Braunfels Servicemen’s Center.  The first meeting held at the 410 W. Coll Street address occurred on April 6, 1949; the formal dedication of the Post took place in July.  The celebration was a two-day affair which included, among other festivities, a parade ending with the dedication ceremony, a skit performed by the Order of the Cooties, and a barbecue, which all culminated in dancing on both Saturday and Sunday nights.  Entertainers and bands that played at the dances were the T-Patchers, Al Schnabel, the Comal Post 179 Band, and the Travis Post 76 Drum and Bugle Corps.

    Convention action initiated the American Legion Baseball program in 1925; after all, baseball as a pastime is as American as apple pie!  Hundreds of boys every summer receive lessons on citizenship, sportsmanship, loyalty, team spirit, self-reliance, and the acceptance of responsibility by way of the baseball diamond.  Through the years, Comal Post 179 has sponsored a youth team for competition in American Legion Baseball.  In 1975, Comal Post 179 sponsored a team to play in the Senior Babe Ruth League.  Unfortunately, there currently is not a Post 179 baseball program, but its legacy lives on.  Some of the more famous alumni of American Legion Baseball are former U.S. President Bill Clinton, astronaut Neil Armstrong, political commentator and television host Lou Dobbs, radio show host Rush Limbaugh, basketball star Michael Jordan, rock star Jon Bon Jovi, actor James Gandolfini, rock star Bruce Springsteen, former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, news anchor Tom Brokaw, Massachusetts Governor and U.S. Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, actor Scott Bakula, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie — not a bad group to be associated with and one that seems to take you places!

    The Comal Post 179 Band was originally organized as a Drum and Bugle Corps in 1928.  The Corps was initially used only for entertainment and ceremonies either at the Post or local civic events.  At odds with leadership about the ability to play at other events outside of the New Braunfels area, our musicians stood firm and were finally allowed to travel throughout the State of Texas and beyond as their skill became renowned.  One of the Corps's first events was the 14th District American Legion Convention in 1931 in El Paso, Texas, becoming name “The Official Band of the 14th District”, a proud honor.  The Corps dissolved at the start of World War II and was re-organized in 1946.  From 1946 to 1953, it participated in eight state conventions and one national convention.  Our band was lucky to have such wonderful Legionnaires, not least of whom was Mr. Walter Faust, who not only provided the bulk of the money for uniforms and bugles, but bought the band a new bass drum.  [n.b. from the Post Historian: 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 January of 1936, the Drum and Bugle Corps became the Post Band and was filled with both Legionnaire and civilian musicians.  In 1954 the band was reorganized again, adopted uniforms with a Western motif and two-tone wool gabardine.  With Walton F. Hoffmann as the band manager, in 1958 the Band placed sixth in the musical competition at the national convention in Chicago, Illinois, in the face of 94° weather and those infamous wool gabardine uniforms.  The Band's trip to our nation’s capital led to a first place victory in the Class B Division competition.  Equally triumphantly, the Post 179 Color Guard readily took first place in the 1964 Department Convention in San Antonio.  Even though one of the Guard members could not seat his flag into the pole on his harness, F. S. Stolinski held tightly to Old Glory throughout the competition.  By 1972, the Band grew from the Class B Division, a comparatively small number of people and instruments, to the Class A Division and first place in the Department Convention.

    Founded in 1935, the American Legion runs a male-oriented youth activity called Boys State that was created for boys of high school ages.  The program was designed to enable participation in the functionality of state government at the local, county, and state levels.  Boys State was a particular favorite of Richard Philebar's; after his death in May of 1981, his family felt that a memorial in his honor would be an appropriate tribute to him and the program.  The memorial was established for Comal Post 179, allowing it to send additional young men to Boys State yearly.

    Boys State also sponsors a variety of school awards that place emphasis on the development of character for pupils attached to state, county, and local posts.  The Comal Post 179 scholarship program has been in effect since 1958, with each awardee being chosen by the faculty of local schools.  Cash awards are granted to each boy and girl within the top 30% of New Braunfels graduating classes.  Comal Post 179 launched another scholastic pursuit, the High School Oratorical Program, in 1938 after the national finals were held in Norman, Oklahoma.  Every contestant orated on some part of the Constitution of the United States, emphasizing the attendant duties and obligations of a citizen to our government.  Today, the program enables students to help the public better understand the meaning of the United States Constitution.  Prepared orations must be original to the student and last between 8 and 10 minutes.  It is still a vibrant program to this day!

WWII to Today

     Comal Post 179 was recognized as one of the initial promoters of the New Braunfels Servicemen’s Center, a combination of the servicemen’s club and motel used by service members in their leisure time.  The idea for a servicemen’s center was visualized by the Comal Post 179 in June 1943 during the height of WWII.  The American Legion, along with city and local leaders, were immediately tasked with obtaining the building from Harry Landa.  Four steering committeemen, consisting of New Braunfels businessmen and city government employees, were charged with creating and overseeing a comfortable, safe, and entertaining place for servicemen to relax.  Rancher and oilman Willard Hill, along with U.S. Air Force Major General Gerald Clark Brant at Randolph Field, 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 labor and materials for little or no cost.  Once the building was finished, it was up to the Comal Post 179 to run the center.

    The New Braunfels Servicemen's Center officially opened its doors on July 3, 1943 and held its first dance.  The Randolph Field Ramblers played orchestral music while hostesses from Seguin, San Marcos, and San Antonio assisted with the dance and ensured the servicemen had a moment to take their minds away from the war.  World War I veteran and previous Post 179 Commander Mr. Walter B. Dillard encouraged all “the boys” at San Marcos Army Airfield (c.f.) to enjoy the hospitality of the New Braunfels Service Center.  In 1928, a huge flag with only 45 stars arrived from the Capitol in Washington D.C. at Comal Post 179 and was prominently hung in the servicemen's center.

    As World War II pressed on, the center was an active monument in New Braunfels on the Platz (Main Plaza) in the center of the city for all servicemen.  Open from noon Saturday to Monday morning, it furnished complete weekend accommodations for military members.  Featuring a 100-bed facility with areas for conversation and recreation, coffee and donuts were available free of charge during Sunday morning breakfast while cookies were always free.  Mrs. Jack Kaufman, hostess, and Mr. Albert Hoffman, custodian, served as the two primary attendants.  Along with regular volunteers, Mr. R. A. Ludwig was the Legion Home Chairman and would appoint men that would act as attendants throughout the weekend.  Mrs. Ludwig, Mrs. Harry Balsh, and Miss Ottie Coreth oversaw the female attendant volunteers. 

    This is only a small breakdown of the rich history of the American Legion and its community-oriented programs, as well as the proud and productive history of Comal Post 179, New Braunfels, Texas.  The Post was officially renamed Walton F. Hoffmann Memorial Post on October 1, 2002 in remembrance of one of its most dedicated and enthusiastic members.  Post 179 has been going strongly for over 100 years, albeit under a variety of names, and has incorporated myriad programs and organizations under its umbrella, such as the Sons of the American Legion and the American Legion Riders.  Walton F. Hoffmann Memorial Post 179 has continued to be a vital part of the New Braunfels community, caring and catering to the worthy veterans it serves.


For more information on the quotidian history Post 179 makes, read the Post Citizen Newsletter.

Here are additional documents that the Post has obtained and uncovered concerning its rich history:

 

Walton F. Hoffman