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American Legion Boasts a New Look to Attract Community
Monday, March 11, 2024


Operation Watering Hole is in the bag.

American Legion Commander Harry Bolton will proudly show you the handsome new bar that has taken its place in the American Legion Hall, a bright yellow flight helmet donated by a Legion member sitting on the shelves.

“Dedicated to all those who pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands one nation under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” proclaims a plaque hanging on the wall.

American Legion members aren't done as they convert their 1937 building at Ketchum's 220 Cottonwood St. into a modern establishment that will make it more attractive for wedding receptions and other events.

"The kitchen boasts new stainless-steel appliances now, and we think the Patriot's Bar is one of the most beautiful in the world," said longtime member Ed Simon.

The Legion gave the naming rights to the bar to a member who donated the most money for its remodeling.

"I love that he picked 'Patriots,' " said Simon. "All of our members are patriots, from all branches of the service, and various conflicts, including the Persian Gulf War. And that includes first responders and the women's auxiliary."

The American Legion plans to remove the wood panels in the meeting room later this month to make way for a more modern look. Workers have already removed stored items from the basement converting it into a room with computers and a big screen TV so that youngsters can work on the computers while their parents are meeting upstairs. It also means that American Legion members can park themselves around the TV with popcorn and brats for the Army-Navy game.

"The new Rec Room is designed to attract younger vets with children because now their kids will have something to do while they're here. Kids can eat with us, then retreat to the Rec Room," said Simon. "It's nice, too, because kids are the future."

Bean bag chairs offer a level of comfort beyond what the couches can afford and an ejection seat from a B52 bomber donated by U.S. Air Force Vietnam veteran Tom Tierney offers a certain mystique.

The building also boasts new carpet and new baseboards, in addition to a TV screen upstairs and a new state-of-the-art sound system.

Simon said that being able to rent the building out for Girl Scouts events, celebration of life gatherings, candidate debates and weddings is one of the ways the American Legion has identified that it can be sustainable into the future. Years ago, he said, the American Legion sold off adjacent property when it needed cash, but it no longer has any property to sell.

"We don't get any government funding so we need to raise money for our operating expenses. But we do have a lawn outside for weddings or picnic gatherings," he said.

Ketchum veterans, including Albert and Oscar Griffith, who had one of the early mercantile buildings in Ketchum, applied for a permit to open the American Legion on Jan. 6, 1937. The Legion has had members dating back to the Spanish-American War.

The American government honored the town of Ketchum following World War I for having sent the great number of troops per capita to serve in the war. A representative came from Washington, D.C. to present a flag and plaque to the town shortly after the armistice.

The veterans have staged two fundraisers to help pay for the remodel. American Legion members get discounts on the rental of the building.

"The idea is to offer the community an affordable place to have events," said Simon.

"We get to gather; we get to support the guys and gals in military service," said Bolton. "Now the word is getting out about what we've done here so we're starting to get quite a few more reservations. We need to generate income to maintain the building and we can do that through Super Bowl parties and other events."

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