After hotels on the west side of the Willamette River were sold and remodeled, the armed services members hospitality rooms for sailors visiting the Portland Rose Festival were no longer available during what’s called “Fleet Week” – those few days when Navy and Coast Guard ships port along the seawall.
With their motto being “The Service Post”, American Legion Portland Post #1 – with tremendous support from the Post #1 Auxiliary members – took up the cause of hosting visiting sailors at their building in the Hazelwood neighborhood, on SE 122nd Avenue.
Grill chefs and American Legion member volunteers Scott Buck and Nathan Gray cook up hot barbecue lunches for visiting armed force services members.
As the Portland Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade was beginning to snake its way through town, volunteers at Post #1 were bringing in food and beverages, and setting up barbecue grills, on the morning of June 11 – getting ready for their honored visitors.
“It takes a lot of volunteers to put this on,” acknowledged person-in-charge, American Legion Portland #1 Auxiliary Secretary Marie Larson.
Hostesses Auxiliary Past President Kelly Buck, Auxiliary First Vice President Liana Smith, and Auxiliary Secretary Marie Larson, are just three of the many volunteers providing Fleet Week hospitality.
About two dozen volunteers helped out by preparing homemade salads and desserts, picking up food items, setting up the barbecue, and providing transportation, Larson told East Portland News.
“Franz Bakery donated the buns, Tillamook Cheese donated our cheese, and Tim’s Cascade Snacks donated all of our chips this year – and Reser’s Fine Foods gave us salads,” Larson informed us. “Other local companies and organizations donated money to buy the hamburger and hot dogs.”
Sailors from the USS Champion Zachary Bragckenbury, USS Russell Parent Devin, and USS Russell Dylon Gonzalez, relax in the back yard of the American Legion hall.
Their clubhouse is quite a ways from the riverfront, Larson obsserved. “In fact, it’s more than 122 blocks east of the Willamette! But, with our volunteers driving vans and cars, shuttling our guests back and forth, it makes it easy for them to come out and enjoy a quick meal – for an hour, or for most of the day.”
What makes the volunteer effort worthwhile, Larson said, is the response they get from their visitors.
“We have activities for them, and we make sure they have enough food and beverages on hand to satisfy them all,” Larson said. “Some have also brought family members join us.
“As you can see, they all sit around and talk,” Larson went on. “We have music in the back for them to enjoy. We try to make it a friendly and fun good time for them here.”
USS Champion’s Joseph Proctor enjoys chow at the American Legion Post #1’s Fleet Week Celebration.
“This is my first time coming here,” smiled Joseph Proctor, a crewmember of the USS Champion. “I think this is just awesome. It’s also fun to talk to some of the veterans, and hear some of their stories. And I’m enjoying the great hospitality that they provide for those of us visiting Portland. We feel very welcome.”
Larson commented that this sailor’s response is typical. “When they come in, with big smiles on their faces, they shake our hands and thank us. They do so sincerely,”