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Rise and shine: American Legion opens doors for breakfast

Betty Wilson serves up an order of pancakes with sausage gravy
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Betty Wilson, a cook at the American Legion Shenandoah Post 77, plates an order of pancakes with sausage gravy inside the post kitchen on Monday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Chow time

  • The American Legion Shenandoah Post 77 is on Washington Street in Strasburg.
  • Current breakfast hours for the public are Monday-Friday from 8 to 10:30 a.m., but will change to 7-10 a.m. around Aug. 8.
  • For more information, call the post at 465-8167.

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Randolph Beeman has coffee
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Randolph Beeman, of Strasburg, sips coffee with his breakfast in the club room. Rich Cooley/Daily

Darla Lisbon gives Betty Wilson an order
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Darla Lisbon, a summertime waitress at the American Legion Shenandoah Post 77, gives Betty Wilson an order in the kitchen during breakfast on Monday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Betty Wilson passes off a pair of breakfast orders
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Betty Wilson, right, passes off a pair of breakfast orders to waitress Ashlee Couch, 19, inside the kitchen. Rich Cooley/Daily

Jim and Margaret Steele eat breakfast
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Jim and Margaret Steele, of Strasburg, eat breakfast inside the club room at the American Legion Shenandoah Post 77 in Strasburg, where they are members. Breakfast is now open to the public at the Legion on weekdays. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Jessica Wiant -- jwiant@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- At 75 cents an egg and a dollar for two cups of coffee, the members of the American Legion Shenandoah Post 77 in Strasburg aren't expecting to get rich with their latest endeavor, but they are hoping more people will realize they aren't just a bar.

Earlier this month, the Legion started opening its doors to the public and serving breakfast Monday-Friday, according to Bob Killen, past commander of the post and its current club manager.

The menu offers all the basics, including two pancakes for $2.50, home fries for $1, biscuits and gravy for $3, and a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich for $2.50.
The Legion's special breakfast plate is just $5.50 for two eggs, home fries, bacon or sausage, and a biscuit with sausage gravy or chip beef gravy.

"As you can see, we don't make money on the breakfast," current post commander Frank Hillyard said. Instead, it's more about giving veterans a place to come, socialize and get a good breakfast for a good price, he said.

They hope that by also offering meals to the public, more people -- especially veterans -- will have a chance to see what the organization is all about.

Since setting out the chalkboard sign inviting people in for the first meal of the day, the Legion has actually had very few guests who aren't members, according to Hillyard, but they do have members who are gathering around the bar for breakfast every day. And word is starting to spread.

They are currently serving from 8 to 10:30 a.m., but hope to change the hours to 7-10 a.m. around Aug. 8 to suit more working people's schedules.

The breakfasts replace the daily lunch specials for members that the Legion had been doing, which weren't selling too well, Killen explained.

In addition to the breakfasts, the public also can get a glimpse inside the Legion two evenings a month with a dinner special and karaoke, Hillyard said, with the next karaoke night set for July 30.

The bar, still, is a very small part of what the Legion does, Hillyard said.

It isn't even technically one and the same as the American Legion, Killen explained. The Legion itself is the organization that does fundraisers, sponsors scholarships, hangs flags down King Street on certain occasions and holds a Memorial Day service each year, he said.

To be a member, one must have served in the U.S. military during designated periods of conflict -- which includes any time since 1991 -- and must have been honorably discharged.

The bar is run by its own committee.

And, Killen and Hillyard are both quick to point out, you don't have to drink alcohol to be a member of the Legion. Plenty of members come and drink coffee or soda, they said.
The Legion is always looking for ways to bring in money -- and people -- to get involved in all its efforts, Killen said.

While most people who join are 40 or even older, the Legion is finding a younger generation of members, according to Hillyard. And there are plenty of veterans out there who don't know what the American Legion is about, he added.

Offering breakfast is just one more way to spread the word.

While nonmembers will be seated in the social hall, apart from the canteen side of the building that is still for members only, coming in for breakfast still offers a peek at what the organization is about.

In the social hall, old photos from throughout the post's history and multiple awards and other mementos are on display.

A photo of the original building built in 1919 when the post was chartered -- a meeting hall about the size of the current bar -- is one example.

"There's a lot of history in this post," Hillyard said.

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