By: Danielle Incognito and Steve Sears
The American Legion, Post 390 in Denville has a long history behind it. It shares the philosophies, ideals, and visions as its counterpart American Legions.
The American Legion, Inc, is a US wartime veteran organization formed in Paris, on March 15, 1919, by three officers of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). The American Legion was chartered by the US Congress on September 16, 1919. It is headquartered in Indianapolis Indiana, and has a legislative office in Washington, DC. The Legion played a leading role in the drafting and passing of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, otherwise known as the “GI Bill.”
According to The American Legion Website, “The American Legion is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization with great political influence perpetuated by its grass-roots involvement in the legislation process from local districts to Capitol Hill. Legionnaires’ sense of obligation to community, state and nation drives an honest advocacy for veterans in Washington. The Legion stands behind the issues most important to the nation’s veterans community, backed by resolutions passed by volunteer leadership.”
The American Legion’s success depends entirely on active membership, participation and volunteerism. The organization belongs to the people it serves and the communities in which it thrives.
Americanism has two different meanings. It can refer to the defining characteristics of the United States and can also signify loyalty to the United States and a defense of American political ideals. These ideals include, but are not limited to self-government, equal opportunity, freedom of speech, and a belief in progress. This collection of ideals that forms the modern ideology of Americanism is appealing to people from all over the world.
The group is recognized around the nation. Nationally, its efforts resulted in the establishment of the Veteran’s Bureau in 1921. That led to The Veteran’s Administration, and eventually, it was elevated to cabinet-level status as The Department of Veteran Affairs after lobbying.
The American Legion Post 390 in Denville has its own, unique story, however.
On Mar 14, 1946, it started in a second floor office overlooking Main Street. The application for a charter was approved August 4, 1946. The first commander was Walter G. Peterman.
Then, on Mar 18, 1946 a tentatively named Denville Memorial American Legion Post was organized at Ferguson’s Milk Bar, Denville. The open charter listed 25 members. Temporary officers were Harry A. Doll, commander; Harry A. Doll Jr., Adjutant; A. Norman Mohr, Finance Officer.
Legion Units were named later that month. Committees of the Denville Memorial Post, American Legion, were named by Harry A. Doll, commander, at the first regular meeting of the Post held. The committees include Athletics, Entertainment, Constitution and By-Laws, and Housing.
Newly elected officers were named on May 16, 1946. Newly elected officers of Denville Memorial Post 390, American Legion were installed by county officers on June 11 at Denville School. The initiation team also inducted about 60 new members. The temporary charter was presented, and all the new officers but one were veterans of World War II. Walter G. Perlman Jr. would succeed Harry A. Doll as post commander.
“We have,” says John Ferrone,70, a United States Armey veteran and Commander since May 2018, “paperwork of all the signatures of the charter members that started it. Both our Legion members, our Ladies Auxiliary, and the SAL. We have the framed paperwork and were thinking of restoring it.” The frame hangs at an honorable location on the posts wall.
“I am a member (for) 37 years,” says Ferrone. “Back then I came back from Vietnam, and me and all my buddies joined together. We ran the whole post back in the 70s, 80s and 90s. I went through every chair in the post and was ready to be named Commander and my wife passed away. So I left for a period, but last year I started going to the post again and they needed somebody to take over as Commander and said, ‘Come on, we don’t have too many of the regular Legion combat veterans, and we need somebody to fill in.’ So, I agreed to take it and it’s been a wonderful experience.”
The first meeting of the Auxiliary of Denville Memorial Post 390, American Legion was held May 28, 1946 at Ferguson’s Milk Bar.
Ladies’ Auxiliary later elected officers on Jun 17, 1946. Newly elected officers of the Ladies Auxiliary, Denville Memorial Post, American Legion were installed by county officials in ceremonies at Ferguson’s Milk Bar. Officers installed were: Miss Claire Wiedman, president; Mrs. Elmer Scaichard, first vice-president; Mrs. David Cook, second vice-president; Miss Elsie Grossan, secretary; Mrs. Ernest Herland, treasurer; Mrs. Ernest Scofield, chaplain.
The post held an open house on Aug 6, 1946. Denville Memorial Post 390 for all veterans of World War II at its business meeting in the auditorium of the Denville Community Church. Richard Baldo, service officer, was present to advise veterans on any problems confronting them. The Post had voted to continue holding its meetings in the church hall because of its convenient location and large capacity. Meetings were decided to be held on the first and third Tuesday of each month.
And so, The American Legion Post 390 lives on today to support veterans and to inform the community around them. They have an efficient website that posts information, videos, and pictures regularly.
Another thing that the post promotes is the success of its relationship with The Boy Scouts of America. On the legion’s Facebook page, there are numerous pictures of boy scouts proudly standing in the Denville location.
Also, for Ferrone, a recent Boy Scout experience speaks volumes to their worth. “He (Mario Di Sanza, an Eagle Scout) put a crew together, a work party, including his mom and dad – there was at least seven or eight people – and they came in and painted with a nice color of maroon color paint on the lower half of the walls, put up new blinds, did all the windows and the trim – everything was painted up beautiful. It really just brightened the place up, and his mother got tablecloths for all of our round tables to match. The floor has been all stripped and waxed, and then they went to the kitchen area – and kitchens can take quite a beating in places like this – they went in there and scrubbed and cleaned the entire place, they took our chopping table and brought us a new stainless steel table which is beautiful, they went through all the drawers and organized all the drawers – they went through the entire kitchen and made it spotless.”
Like other American Legions, 390 hosts events and dinners to further support its veterans and its community. One dinner is the annual roast beef dinner which brings in a large crowd. It is open to the public, and it fills up quickly with adult tickets selling for 10 dollars and children’s tickets selling for five dollars.
“We support everything from baseball to our local fields – we’ve put up lights, scoreboards; as a matter of fact, we just donated $5,000 towards the Veterans (Memorial Park) Field on Zeek Road, they’re redoing that,’ says Ferrone. “We try to take care of our veterans’ needs, both locally and nationally, whenever we’re asked. We have all the way through the Legion command from the department like the state – the Commander, he has his projects he runs every year and his project this year is COTA (Children’s Organ Transplant Association) — and we donate (I think) $1,000 to him, and the other projects for the Legion organization outside of Denville. As far as the Denville community, we’re giving out donation every meeting it seems. We have requests from high schools, 5K runs and things like that, you name it. Then there’s the Joey Bella fund (www.joeybella.org), an organization that was started about 30 years ago. We’ve been involved in that since Joey as a young baby died. We give them $5,000 every year.”
American Legion Post 390, which in 2021 will celebrate 75 years, is located at 9 Legion Place in Denville. New members are welcome. “Contact the post for an application,” says Ferrone. “Call, fill out an application, and we like our members to attend the very first meeting where we present them with their new membership card, welcome them to the post, and introduce them.” He then adds, “Our post is thriving; we have a great bunch of guys,” says Ferrone. “Our SAL (Sons of the American Legion) is to be commended for stepping up to the plate, filling in where our membership is lagging.”
American Legion Post 390 meetings are held on the first Wednesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. To reach the American Legion location, call (973) 627-8237. John Ferrone can be contacted at (973) 627-7296 or firstname.lastname@example.org.