Many young men and women returned to Manchester from World War II,
inspired by the complete and unified victory over the facist empires of Germany,
Italy, and Japan. These men and women aspired to settle down into the country
they had fought so hard to defend. All through our great nation towns and cities
flourished with the new push of eager citizens ready to start families and
businesses and live the American Dream. This "Greatest Generation" shaped the
future for years to come and set the stage for the most idyllic time in American history.
Here in Manchester, a group of patriotic veterans returning from
World War II decided that they wanted to form an organized veterans group - a
VFW. They met in a variety of different places among which were Joe Lynch's
Center Restaurant, situated on the site of the present day Town Green as well as
the American Legion Post rooms, the Grange hall, and the Zion Parish House. On
April 7, 1946 an induction of officers ceremony took place at the Burr and
Burton gymnasium. Eventually there were 71 men whosigned the original charter.
A picture of the original inductions ceremonies hangs in the VFW post rooms in Manchester.
In the early days of the VFW organization involved meeting "where
space was available". The major order of business was trying to come up with a
permanent meeting place. The Ladies Auxiliary along with the post members
"devised several ingenious ways to raise funds". The men gave the newly
instituted Ladies Auxiliary $25 to get them started. Meeting attendance reached
50% which bode well for the future of the club.
Lyn Bourn was the first Commander of the new post. In later years,
in an interview with Don Powers, he related to me that the initial vote for
Commander was tied and Don very graciously changed his second vote to Lyn Bourn
and he became the first Commander. Such comradeship and respect was a big part
of the organization's beginnings. All were united in a common cause.
The post was named after two local boys who died during wartime.
James P. Harned, US Air Force, a 1940 graduate of Burr & Burton, died on
July 1, 1942 from malaria while being held prisoner in a prisoner of war camp in the
Philippines. He is buried in his family plot in Johnson, Vermont. Harvey Klapp
Fowler, US Marines, was a 1935 graduate of Burr and Burton. He was killed by
mortar fire while landing on Guam in August of 1944. His remains were returned
to Manchester on April 17, 1948 and he was buried here. These two heroic men
were chosen as soldiers whose names would be given to Manchester VFW post. The
post became the Harned-Fowler Post#6471, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
The original property was purchased in 1948. The deed was signed
by Trustees Howard Ambrose, Fabio Zandy and Art Sessions at the cost of $2500.
After various fundraisers the club members painted and renovated the original
old burned out shoe repair shop owned by John Lipani. Equipment was purchased
from the Old Center Restaurant, where several meetings had previously been held.
The first addition to the building was dedicated on May 30. 1953. The room was
named after Vernon King, who died in action during the Korean Conflict. These
early years were filled with an undying sense of purpose and it heralded an era
in the club as well as in the town of Manchester which exemplified the true
essence of community building.
Consequent years saw a steady increase in membership and the
systematic enlargement of the club rooms. Additions were put on in 1953, 1964
and 1966. The ongoing cooperation of its members along with the continuing
fund-raising by the men and women members of the VFW have assured that would
continue to be an asset to veterans and our community.
Many prominent citizens have passed through the doors of the
Manchester VFW Club. During Loyalty Day parades, many of Vermont's former
Governors have graced her halls. These parades were not only the first in the
state of Vermont, but the first in all of New England. This and many other
events sponsored by the VFW added a great deal to our community. Thousands of
hours of community service and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been
donated to worthy projects both local and national. The club has provided a
haven for veterans from World War I to Afghanistan. The characters that have
graced her halls are too numerous to list. Over the years the club has provided
a wide array of services to the community including scholarships, fundraiser
sponsorships and countless cash contributions as well as years of helping
veterans and their families.
For 65 years the VfW club has offered our community a connection
to the needs of all veterans. What started out a a dream to a bunch of local
boys returning from the war, has become an integral part of our town. For six
decades hundreds of patriotic individuals have passed through her doors and made
a difference in the broad fabric of Manchester. There is no reason to believe
that tradition will not be carried on to future generations. The seed of
patriotism grows hardy and strong in the Harned-Fowler Post#6471 of the Veterans
of Foreign Wars. Its growth through the years has been steady and true, and our
town has been better for it. This organization deserves our utmost respect.
Written by Bill West, February 2011 for ilikemanchester.com