By Connie Reddy Dwyer
“For all too long, there’s been a misunderstanding about the American Legion being a private club. It is open to the public and we welcome everyone, all ages, especially veterans,” said Don Mekler, as of last year the bar manager and new administrator at the Legion, Post 58.
He talked about his new position. “There is a lot of paperwork to deal with that the town and state require but I have tremendous support from my bartenders, particularly Sue Carlson. Sue has walked that extra mile. Sue did something for me and the Club that if she hadn’t, I don’t know what would have happened to this Club.”
He was quick to add, however, that all his four bartenders deserve praise. “They are my main asset and without them I would have never gone as far as I have. They are the best. If I didn’t have them, it would be like a quarterback not having a running back or receiver.”
The affable bar manager was also pleased to say that he and Sue “are a couple.”
One of the first tasks he handled was to clear out clutter from a back room and make it into an entertainment center with several dart boards, pool table and ping pong table and chairs to sit and relax.
Besides being bar manager and tackling all the paperwork, he is the “custodian and maintenance man.” “I’ve worked every spot in this building,” he noted.
Don loves the American Legion and is happy to continue in the footsteps of his family.
His father, Paul Brunelle, a former Viet Nam vet, brought Don to the Legion when he was 9 years old and that’s been a big part of Don’s life. His dad was also the bar manager at the Legion, and he used to own Half Heads, the former Day’s Inn, readers may recall. Paul’s nickname was “Half Heads.” He also ran the Clinton Hideaway and his wife was the bar manager at the Beagle Club in Charlton. Don’s mother was also a member of the Legion’s Auxiliary.
Don’s sister Kathy was for many years a bar manager at Oxford’s downtown Days End Tavern, which is now under new management. His other sister, Christy, has been the bartender at Happy Gardens in Oxford. Bartending, it seems, comes naturally to this family.
Don was very pleased to say that younger people are coming to the American Legion and he hopes more will come. Due to age, declining health and deaths, the number of veterans is not as large as in the past and this is why younger members are needed and welcomed. “The younger generation is the future of the American Legion.”
Many activities take place at the Legion, with two pool leagues a week and the entertainment room with video games, ping pong, pool and dart boards and a “great juke box.”
“We are striving to become a bigger and better club, but it will take everyone’s involvement to achieve this.”
The sad news of the Auburn Legion burning affected all the members in Oxford and they are doing all they can to help the Legion rebuild in another year or two. “The Auburn Legion was the role model for not only Oxford but all Legions,” said Don.
With the Legion’s affiliation with the “Sons of the American Legion” and the VFW, “our sister club,” amazing fundraisers have been done to help veterans individually or in shelters through the Legion Riders.”
Speaking of the Riders, Don especially wanted to credit Tom Siplas and his wife, who dedicated their time and energy to establish a charter for the Legion. “Oxford is one of the first and only a few others in the area have a charter.”
The Legion is open 7 days a week from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. and on the weekends from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Every Friday there’s a popular meal of fish and chips from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and the cook, Michelle Donovan, is “outstanding.” Michelle runs her own catering business, Simply Michelle, out of Webster.
Besides fish and chips, other meals include scallops, clams, shrimp and chicken tenders. During the week, sandwiches and burgers are available.
One of Don’s hopes is to see the hall upstairs, vacant during the week, used for something useful in the community. He will welcome anyone in town or beyond who has ideas.
Most of all, Don wants readers to know the American Legion in Oxford is not a private club, but open to the public, young and old, veteran or not. “Come see us and find out more how you can make our American Legion the best Legion you ever joined!”