The VFW in Culver: a brief history - part 2 (conclusion)

The Ladies Auxiliary

On Sunday afternoon, March 30, 1947, 34 members were instituted into the newly-formed VFW Post 6919 Ladies Auxiliary, with Trelba Listenberger the first president, and Grace Talley vice president senior (Talley also sewed all of the original uniforms for the Auxiliary). The national President of the VFW's Ladies Auxiliary, Sally Cannon, in fact, came to Culver to install the new organization (she happened to be from Indiana). Past President Mary Lou Wise notes Virginia Baker Booker is the only living member of that charter group, though Chuckie Strang -- whose husband Ted was a charter member of the Post itself -- joined soon after the Ladies charter, in 1948.

"I met Reba Wagoner in a restaurant and she said, 'You have to join, and I did. She was a very dedicated charter member, and one of first people I knew in Culver." Wise herself joined the Auxiliary in Plymouth in 1954, and after marrying husband Roger, transferred to the Culver Post in 1967. She received her 55 year pun two years ago, she adds, and Strang has her 60 year pin as well. The first Ladies Auxiliary meetings in Culver took place upstairs in the 'Lion's Den' home of Culver's Lions Club, on the east side of Main Street above what was then the A&P grocery store. After, the group was brought into the Post building itself (Roger Wise, a Korean veteran who joined the VFW in 1958, says he's never known another Post to stay as long as Culver's has, in the same building).

"Every woman had a uniform (in the early years)," notes Mary Lou Wise, "which was very unusual. Nowadays they don't all have uniforms."

Looking back over the Ladies' records, Wise says the Auxiliary early on did work to donate funds to Veterans' Administration hospitals, though by the Korean and Vietnam Wars, members made bags to send overseas with personal care items and the like.

From the beginning, Culver's Ladies Auxiliary has been extremely active. Efforts have ranged from the still-ongoing Friday dinners -- whose earlier proceeds might total $20, "which was big money in those

days," says Wise -- work on local student band uniforms, collecting of backpacks for students, assisting with foreign exchange students, and raising a number of funds for ambulances and equipment as Culver transitioned to an EMS service in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Of course, parades and ceremonies honoring local veterans have always been a staple of the group's work as well, among other endeavors.

Many will recall Mary LouWise's notable status in the regional, state, and national ranks of the VFW. In 1972-73, she was District President (which encompassed several northern Indiana counties), moving up to State Presidentin 1983-84. She became National Director of several programs three times during the 1980s, including Legislative, in which she remains active.

"I was really thrilled being a Legislative Director," she recalls. "I got to go to Washington, DC and visit the VFW Building there and go to their legislative meetings, which was quite interesting. I have friends in this organization across the country."

Her name, as some readers will recall, was posted prominently on the Post building during her leadership years beyond Culver. The level of activity at Culver's Post, says Wise, brought her into the organization's many worthy programs. "We tried to do things for veterans, families, widows. We also have a big job of community service to make this community better, and to reward people like students, who get scholarship or awards for the Voice of Democracy or Patriot's Pen (essay contests)."

Wise says during her most active days with the Auxiliary, involvement in the VFW "was more of a family thing. You brought your kids with you here. We've lost that part of it, but most of the families then were veterans, and their wives and little children didn't have much money, so the came to eat Friday night, and the kids would go to sleep in the booths. You just stuck them in the car and went home. A lot of us raised our kids in the VFW...the first place they saw when came home from the hospital was the VFW!"

Telling the story

Culver's VFW Post can also boast what must surely be one of the most extensive and thorough documentations of its past of any area organization. A detailed timeline recording every appearance of the organization in the local press, each major event, Commanders and officers, and the history of various specific aspects of the Post was created with painstaking care and is lodged at the Post for reference and safekeeping. The Ladies Auxiliary documented its activities year-by-year with intricately detailed scrapbooks which in many ways tell the story of Culver as a community, and include a veritable treasure trove of local photos and information unavailable elsewhere. Those interested in delving more deeply into the organization's lengthy history will be well rewarded by a visit to the Post.