Nearly everything about The American Legion, Post 92, rules. The people are friendly, the drinks are cheap, and the jukebox slays. To make things sweeter, 20 years ago, unless you were a member, you wouldn’t have been able to hang out in there.
“Years ago, you had to have a card, had to be a member, buzz in,” said Gary Schoenfelder, an executive board member, “Things change, so they need non-members coming in to help support the club.”
I usually hit the Legion solo, but within ten minutes, I’m talking with someone.
The place is saturated with accumulated wisdom. There are ex-Marines, Army, Navy, and Air Force servicemen and women, military family members, refugees. Gulf War veterans, survivors of the Khe Sanh siege – people who have lived through months of muck, sweat, and blood. They’ve seen the worst of this earth, yet exhibit some of humanity’s best traits.
“We’re open to anybody.” said Dale “Okie” Brumm, another executive board member.
“Everybody fits in. We have Blacks, we have Hispanics, we have everything,” says Schoenfelder.
It’s a bar where trouble doesn’t happen and conversations are easy to join.
Midway through my chat with Schoenfelder and Brumm, a Pitbull song started bumping from the jukebox. No one batted an eye. Then a classic rock cut kicked in. Nothing changed. Kendrick Lamar was met with similar ambivalence when my girlfriend’s posse queued it up one night this January.
Which reminds me, I won $100 off of $20 worth of pull tabs that night thanks to a fortuitous selection by the woman running that window. I wouldn’t have felt bad for losing, though; most of the club’s gambling money goes to charity. They support Legion baseball teams, veterans who need help with rent or moving costs, and a range of other causes. Many of the members serve in the honor guard, which performs military funerals.
It might be months from now or it might be years, but someday soon-ish, Rochester’s American Legion club will move. The club isn’t facing any financial troubles, but its current location sits smack-dab in the middle of a proposed transit zone and a buyer has expressed interest in the building.
Maybe you’re new to Rochester. Maybe you haven’t noticed the creeping Edina-fication of our downtown. I sure have. Everywhere I go, I see buildings cloaked in the ghosts of rad things past. Broadway Records,The Masque, Board to Death, Extraordinary Booksellers, Pappageorge’s beautiful bar. They’re all gone now.
The Legion is on its way to joining my list. If you loved the Roxy Bar back in the day, maybe the building is already on your list. August 27th, golf tournament, and they’re looking for players. Take my advice and sign up in person. You won’t regret it.
“Everything on that table has a meaning,” says Gary Schoenfelder.