The Formation of
the Darien Post 6933
Veterans of Foreign Wars
by George Mason, Post Historian
ForewordThe guns have stopped shooting.
World War II is over.
The Navy’s ships have returned to their home ports with their sailors.
The hospital ships and troop transports have been bringing home the surviving soldiers, Marines, and airmen.
The service men and -women are being reunited with their families and loved ones, and once again they are civilians.
They are happy that their military life is behind them, and that they are the lucky ones to come back and get on with the challenges of civilian life.
Their military service life is behind them, but by no means is it forgotten. Each person has his memories; some good, and some not so good. Some went away from home as young boys, but grew up in a hurry and returned as men.
Those servicemen who returned wanted to do something so that their deeds would not be forgotten, and at the same time to do something for the community.
In the early part of 1946 some of Darien’s veterans got together to talk about it. The result was the birth of Darien Post 6933 VFW. The following are some of the happenings.
The Very Early Months of Darien Post 6933 VFW
The earliest meetings to form a new Post were in January, 1946. The meetings were held in the Hillcrest Restaurant, owned by Charter Members Benny Bruno and Angelo Galati. The restaurant was located on Hecker Avenue between the Noroton Heights Fire Department building and the Noroton Diner.
Not too many years later, the Hillcrest, then under new ownership and called the Sportsman, and the N.H.F.D. both were torn down to make way for the new Connecticut Turnpike (now I-95). That entire portion of Hecker Avenue was also relocated.
Subsequent organizational meetings were held in the Noroton Heights Firehouse in order to accomodate larger numbers of veterans attending. On March 25, 1946, temporary Post Officers were elected. In attendance were approximately 50 veterans. Principal speaker at the meeting was John Nicholson of Stratford, Commander of the Department of Connecticut VFW. Other speakers were Deputy Chief of Staff John Ryan of New Canaan, Department Junior Vice Commander James McGrath, also of New Canaan, and District Commander Aaron Dawson of Bridgeport.
On April 8, 1946, the following roster of permanent officers was elected:
|Commander||Harold J. Leavy|
|Sr. Vice Commander||Joseph Papp|
|Jr. Vice Commander||Benjamin Bruno|
|Trustee, 3-Year||James A. Abbott|
|Trustee, 2-Year||Harrison E. Fawcett|
|Trustee, 1-Year||Gordon W. Lindner|
|Adjutant||Harry F. Carlson|
|Officer of the Day||Angelo Galati|
|Quartermaster Sergeant||Steven A. Carter|
|Sergeant Major-Adjutant||William F. Coe|
|Guard||Harry W. Thorncroft|
|Color Bearer||Domenico Granata|
|Color Bearer||John T. Ofiero|
|Legislative Officer||Harrison E. Fawcett|
|Chaplain||Salvatore Mazzeo, Sr.|
|Historian||Hollis P. Cook|
Installation ceremonies were held May 13, 1946, at the Noroton Heights Fire Department. department Adjutant Dibble obligated the Officers. (Post 6933 was the 26th new VFW Post chartered in Connecticut since September, 1945.) The membership rolls for Charter members were then ordered to be kept open for 90 days.
The July 22, 1946 meeting was held at the home of James A. Abbott on West Avenue, Noroton Heights.
In the latter half of 1946, space was obtained at the former US Naval School. Meetings were held in the former library.
Most of the furnishings (chairs, couches, kitchen utensils, piano and pool table) came from the former USO Headquqarters, which was located in the former deMaine car dealership (where August Brothers’ Getty Station now stands) at the corner of Noroton and West Avenues. It is estimated that about 70,000 sailors (counting repeats) used the USO facilities during its five-year existence.
There were two veterans from the First World War among the Charter Members: Hollis P. Cook and Salvatore Mazzeo, Sr. Harold J. Leavy served in the Second Nicaraguan Campaign of 1926-27. The remainder were World War II veterans, but several were also veterans of Nicaraguan Service. (Later, two veterans of the Spanish-American War, Ernest Groat and Benjamin Albrecht, would become members of Post 6933.)
In November 1946, the Post received its colors, donated by the Mitchell Dairy Company, with whom Commander Leavy was associated.
On November 7, 1946, the Ladies Auxiliary held its first election of officers. Installation of this roster took place Sunday afternoon, January 12, 1947 at the Veterans’ Clubhouse on Noroton Avenue:
|Senior Vice President||Mildred Zwart|
|Junior Vice President||Constance Abbott|
|Secretary||Julia Lasko McCaffrey|
|Patriotic Instructor/Trustee||Mary McClelland|
Finding a Post Home
In April 1949, installation of officers was held at the Halfway House (currently Giovanni’s II) on the Post Road on the Stamford/Darien Town Line.
The 1950 installation of officers was held at the Twin Terrace Restaurant (most recently a Scot/Sunoco gas station) on the corner of Hecker Avenue and the Post Road.
In March of 1950, the former chapel at the Fitch Home for Soldiers was purchased from the State of Connecticut for a nominal amount. William Pratt was involved in the negotiations with General Rex DelaCourt, who represented the State. Legal counsel was given by Philip Morehouse and Eugene Venn. The building had to be moved from its current location, and a site was found across the street, on the west side of Noroton Avenue on a site measuring 100 feet by 170 feet, purchased from the Wilson Estate. The contract for building the foundation for the building was awarded to the Sutton Building Company of Norwalk. The Reverend Lawrence McCall Horton of the Noroton Presbyterian Church desanctified the chapel.
The building was then moved across Noroton Avenue in May of 1950, by E.L. Monroe Company of Norwalk.
Thomas Kerrigan recalls that a Town Hall official had declared that the chain link fence surrounding the Fitch Estate could not be taken down in order to move the former chapel. Somehow, during the night before the move was to take place, that critical portion of the fence disappeared, thus allowing the move to continue.
Events of the Early Years of Post 6933
In 1947, during the week of August 18th – 23rd, a bazaar was held in afield on the Post Road near Quaker Lane across from Renshaw Road. Prizes were valued at $1,000, including $750 worth of furniture. Second Prize was a weekend for two at the Waldorf-Astoria, with tickets for the Stork Club. Other prizes included tickets for Broadway shows like “Born Yesterday” and “Call Me Mister.”
The Second Annual Bazaar was held the following August 12th – 21st, with additions including rides and a Nash sedan as First Prize.
By 1949, the Bazaar was moved to June 1st – 10th and a larger location on the west side of the Post Road (now the location of Grant’s Auto Body and the Paint Spot). It was attended by 30,000 people. The Post Entertainment Chairman, Paul Sanchez, made arrangements with Dumont (NYC Channel 5) for a complete remote broadcast, hosted by Dennis James, with orchestra leader Vincent Lopez, comedian Morey Amsterdam, and many others. A new Ford station wagon was won by a Darien resident. The Bazaar netted $10,000.
A popularity contest was also held, sponsored by the Post and participating merchants, and Miss Alice Albrecht was chosen out of a field of 50 and crowned “Golden Jubilee Queen.” The method of voting was as follows: $1 in purchases represented 10 votes. Over $290,500 in sales were made in Darien, including automobile sales.
An Armistice Day Costume Ball was held November 9, 1950 at the High School (now Town Hall) gymnasium to raise money to renovate the new Post Home, the former chapel. Celebrities on hand included Miss Elsa Maxwell, famous Hollywood columnist and hostess; Miss Marcia Robie of Darien, a monologist and comedienne; Ray Kraft, baritone; Phil Jones and his dancers, of stage and TV.
Also, to help meet the heavy renovation expenses ($8,000 already spent), a “Shingles Drive” was started earlier that year in July. Tickets were sold to “buy” a shingle, eligibility for a $500 cash prize, and a vote in a popularity contest for “Miss Darien.” The winner appeared on the local CBS television show, Johnny Olsen’s Rumpus Room. Miss Janet Peterson was crowned at the Armistice Day Ball. She also received prizes from local merchants.
Due to the war in Korea, plans for the (1950) Fourth Annual Bazaar had to be cancelled. Most of the committee members belonged to the Reserves, and were expecting to be recalled to active duty at any time.
In 1952, Post 6933 sponsored its first Carnival in three years on the Norman lot on the Post Road, the same site as the 1949 Bazaar. There were concessions, rides, games, and motorcycle stunts.
During the 1960s and the Vietnam War, the Post established communications with our troops in Vietnam and, in conjunction with the Ladies Auxiliary, sent many packages and messages to them. On the home front, it was also their somber task to attend the all-too-frequent funerals of those who fell.
During the middle 1980s, the mantle of Post leadership passed from World War II and Korea veterans to the Vietnam veterans.
During the Gulf War, Post 6933 was the first VFW Post in the country to implement an “Adopt-a-Platoon” program, sending nearly a ton of needed items to troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. President George Bush acknowledged this effort publicly in a speech in Stamford.
Included in Post 6933 membership are two recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor: Michael Daly and Homer Lee Wise (deceased).
Two members of Darien Post 6933 have held the highest State office of Department Commander: Sam Oliver in 1965-66, and C.R. “Bucky” Wiltshire in 1994-95.
In May 1992, the Post sponsored the State of Connecticut Loyalty Day Parade. General William Westmoreland was Grand Marshal.
Respectfully submitted,George Mason,