In the late 1940s and early ’50s, veterans returning from World War II scattered across Long Island, seeking quiet communities to call home. Many were tired, forlorn, shell-shocked.
They founded local posts of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars to find companionship with the men they had fought side by side with in far-flung corners of the globe only a few years earlier.
Members of Merrick American Legion Post 1282 began meeting in local restaurants shortly after the Second World War, Bob Wieboldt, 95, one of the post’s founding members, recalled in a recent interview.
Post members sought a permanent home for their fledgling organization in the early 1950s, according to Wieboldt (pronounced WE-bolt), who was an aerial gunnery instructor during World War II and has been a Post 1282 member for 70 years. The post’s original members sold bonds to buy the main building of an old Merrick Avenue tennis club, he said.
Around that time, a post member moved away and sold his plot on Merrick Road, a block west of Babylon Turnpike, to the post for $10. A local construction company agreed to lay the cement foundation for the post’s new home for free. All the post had to do was transport the tennis club’s central structure from Merrick Avenue to Merrick Road, a roughly half-mile trip.
Post members had a flatbed truck they could use, but it was too small to fit the entire center. So they did what the “Greatest Generation” is famous for — they improvised.
Two post members climbed to the top of the structure, which resembles a quaint country house, and cut the building in half with a two-handed saw, the kind that lumberjacks once used. “If you go up in the attic, you can see where the saw marks are,” Wieboldt said with a laugh.