THE FOUNDING AND EARLY YEARS
Early in 1950, A group of veterans who met at a local bar, began discussing amongst themselves of starting an American Legion post. These veterans mainly lived in an area around the eastern end of Metairie Road. The bar was located at 531 Metairie Road and it was named Bill and Oneil’s Restaurant and Bar. Today the bar still stands next to the railroad tracks but it is now named Winstons. Bill Williams was then the owner and a member of American Legion Post 175′ He was a World War I veteran. His son, Oneil Williams, co-owner of the bar was a member of the American Legion and a World War ll veteran. Some of the members of American legion Post 175 left it to meet with other veterans who joined the American Legion. This was the start of American Legion Post 350.
The first meeting was held at Bill and Oneils Restaurant and Bar and Durel Grosch was elected as the first commander. The post was named for Thomas j. Hanly Jr., a decorated member of the United States Army Air Corps who died in Europe during World War ll. (see appendix) He was the brother of Edward Hany who would be the second commander and first commander of a chartered American Legion Post 350.
On October 29, 1951, a permanent charter was issued to American Legion Post 350′ There were 105 charter members and only 33 were mentioned by name on the charter application. ( see appendix ) Edward Hanly was listed as commander. lt states that committees were established and constitution and bylaws adopted. There was 5187.00 on hand for a post building fund.
It is interesting to note that six of the nine original officers lived in an area that was un-officially known as Hogs Alley. The other three lived no further than a few blocks outside of it. The first commander, Durel Grosch lived in it and so did Thomas J. Hanly Jr. before his death. Bill and Oneil’s Restaurant and Bar was located on the border of Hogs Alley. This shows that the early membership was specific to this neighborhood.
Hogs Alley was bounded by the 17th Street Canal, the railroad tracks that crossed Metairie Road, Metairie road, Focis Avenue and roughly the area where lnterstate 10 now crosses in the north. The name was given to the area because people had once raised pigs and allowed them to roam in the streets. Even as late as 1950, the area north of Canal Street, which bisected the area, had just began to develop. The area of modest home reflects a working class neighborhood.
The members of newly chartered American Legion Post 350 were young men. With few exceptions, they were World War ll veterans and men who were in their twenties and early thirties. Korean War veterans were beginning to show up now that the war was concluding. Most were married and starting families. Many would form life-time friendships with other post members. A few would give a life-time of service to Post 350 and the American Legion. Friendships would be nurtured by post activities.
As young men, most were interested in physical activities. There was bowling and softball teams to keep them busy. Holiday parties and dances were popular. lt was told to me that one memorable New Years dance was held at Camp Plauche’s recreation center. Camp Plauche was and old WWll training camp that was located in what is now Elmwood/Harahan. Great effort was made to blow up many balloons which were dropped on top of the revelers at the stroke of midnight.
Since Post 350 did not have a place to call home, it was necessary to rent space to hold dances, bingos, and other types of events to raise money to support American Legion activities and to grow the post building fund. One such place was a dance hall which was located on South Causeway Blvd. near Metairie Road. Post 350 participated in American Legion activities as it could afford. Post 350 was represented at all patriotic events and observances.
While the first post meeting s were held at Bill and Oneil’s Restaurant and Bar, the meetings were moved to a srnall pentacostal church located in the 400 block of Carrollton Avenue in Hogs Alley. The post later met at Metairie Grammar School that was located in the 200 block of Metairie Road. Memories are sketchy as to the other places were post meetings were held.
On March 3, 1958, Post 350 Veterans Club was incorporated with the purpose of managing the effort to purchase a post home in the future.