Bannock County Veterans Memorial Building
Plans for the Bannock County war memorial were progressing. American Legion Post 4, along with the Ladies Auxiliary, the War Mothers, and the citizens' committee of 30, were modifying their original plans. F.H. Paradise Jr., highly respected architect, became involved for specific plans. The committee determined that the original plans called for too small a building contemplated for use by patriotic and civic groups. New and expanded plans called for a larger building and a $50,000 building fund. A special committee, headed by Commander Ivan Gasser and Chairman D.W. Standrod, obtained from the city council the desired building spot west of the Portneuf River. Now the stress was to raise building funds. About now, all support of a rustic log building disappeared.
The Legion had already made a beginning by obtaining state and county memorial funds of $1,000 each and by presenting a musical comedy, “The Beauty Shop,” in 1922 and thus starting their own building fund. Now in 1923 they presented Frim’s “Sometime” in the auditorium to raise more building funds.
By early May, a downtown office was in operation and A.J. Pierce, chairman, was appealing to the entire county for subscriptions to this worthwhile project to honor all men of the county who had served in any way in our wars. Local captains included Jean Bisline, E.C. White, Jack P. Halliwell, Fred Dickerson, Ross Bates, Dr. W.A. Wright, and J. Robb Brady. A War Mother’s fund and a “Poppy Day” drive fund gave further impetus to the drive. In late June, Chairman Pierce announced that $7,000 of the total costs were to be subscribed outside Pocatello. To date $34,000 had been subscribed from 1,200 patrons out of a possible 3,500 patrons. The last $9,000 needed was to be a goal somewhat obscured at the moment.
As early as the American Legion meeting of April 16, 1925, plans were announced that National Commander James A. Drain had tentatively promised to be in Pocatello for the dedication of the Bannock County Memorial on Aug. 9. Past post commander Ivan Gasser reported that construction was progressing well.
Because of Commander Drain’s eminent position, plans were immediately launched for his reception here, even though the date had to be changed to August 11. Mr. A.J. Pierce laid plans for a major celebration for the welcome of Commander Drain and the dedication of Idaho’s most beautiful local memorial. His address was expected to stress the public support needed for the Legion’s five million dollar endowment fund for war orphans and disabled war veterans. Commander Drain was to come here from Lander, Wyoming, after attending the Wyoming department meeting.
By August 1 it became very evident that the building would not be ready for dedication August 11. Commander Drain’s schedule was altered, but he still attended the Idaho state convention in Hailey August 6, 7 and 8. The primary reason for the delayed dedication was the fact that original brick for the building was rejected because it was not up to standard specifications. Two-and-one-half months were lost before the correct brick arrived and work was resumed. The best that could be done was to display drawings in downtown windows.
Mr. Walter Cleare cleared up certain points about the Memorial before the Chamber of Commerce October 21. He reiterated the development of the Memorial story, how it was first to be an American Legion log structure, then a community-backed memorial to all servicemen. Finally the building was to be of stucco construction under the contract awarded Alex Mathers for $40,070. Mr. Mathers then consented to build a brick structure estimated to cost $51,700, and he donated the difference in cost between the stucco and brick structure! Mr. Cleare reported some pledge collections were still past due, but with the three-year bond in effect, the building was nearing completion. The memorial would yet be dedicated to those lost in service, “Lest We Forget.”
Obviously in trouble, the Memorial committee headed by Chairman A.J. Pierce and Treasurer John Hood reopened the campaign late in the year. The county had not been strongly solicited for funds because of adverse financial conditions. Now, with a more favorable outlook, speakers were dispatched throughout the county areas, hopefully to raise $10,000. As we have mentioned before, county efforts were now even more complicated because the state memorial effort was reaching its apex. This state memorial was to be a gymnasium and armory on the University of Idaho campus. State campaign director W.E. Swanson was high in his praise of the county’s memorial efforts and agreed to a joint campaign for the financial success to raise $20,000 for the state memorial and $10,000 for the Bannock County Memorial Building. Judge O.R. Baum was named chairman of the joint campaign committee with J.S. Russell, treasurer. Lo and behold, it was now March 30, 1926, when these outstanding citizens met in the Bannock Hotel to start this third campaign.
By the first part of May, the building construction was progressing so rapidly that definite plans for its dedication were laid out for Memorial Day. This time the long awaited day was celebrated most enthusiastically. Attorney General J. H. Peterson, in his dedicatory speech in the completely filled assembly halls, noted this beautiful memorial building was the county’s reply to those who said we had forgotten our war heroes. Chairman A.J. Pierce conducted the ceremonies. N.S. Pond offered prayer, and the high school treble Clef Club sang. The Tech glee club under the direction of Mr. And Mrs. T.R. Neilson conducted the musical number. Lester Albert, state adjutant of the American Legion accepted the building for Bannock County and the former servicemen, remarking that the building was now hallowed ground, “a constant reminder of the sacrifices of those men who went out to die that we might be free.”
Special mention for service “beyond the call of duty” were Frank Paradise Jr., A.J. Pierce, Alex Mathers (the largest individual contributor), Walter Cleare, Mayor C. Ben Ross, and John Hood. Reverend George S. Sloan of the Congregational church offered the dedication prayer, after which the visitors toured the delightfully beautiful building and were served refreshments. The fact that a manageable debt was still owed on the building in no way dulled the celebration.
The following morning, May 31, 1926, Mayor Ross in his speech at the Memorial Building again drew attention to the purpose of the building and the principles of our government to maintain freedom. The Congregational choir consisting of H.R. Flint, Dave Cleaves, W.I. Cornell, and R.F. Hoskinson, provided the inspirational and fitting vocal numbers. On the parade to Mountainview cemetery four wreaths were dropped into the Portneuf River from the Center Street bridge to honor sailors and marines. The National Guard firing squad performed its duty, followed by Taps. All service organizations and their auxiliaries attended sevices at the cemetery. Attorney H.B. Thompson gave a well-received memorial address. Reverends G.W. Barnum, George S. Sloan and William Ewing conducted the prayers of the day.
In September a petition signed by 250 tax-payers was presented to the city council and the county commissioners, which resulted in the eventual securing of German artillery gun emplacements on the Memorial grounds.
From the pages of “Pocatello Portrait” (by Leigh Giltins), in care of Bannock County Museum
Page 168 paragraph 8, Page 169 paragraph 1-3, Page 177 paragraph 3-8, page 178 paragraph 1-4