VF double… you. It’s not just for veterans

Have you lived in Marblehead a while but never set foot inside Chaplain Lyman Rollins VFW Post 2005?

You are not alone.

But if Ron Knight, Jim Full and the rest of the VFW’s board have their way, that will change soon.

The sandwich board outside 321 West Shore Drive reads in part, “Public welcome.” 

‘Public welcome,’ reads part of the sign outside the Chaplain Lyman Rollins VFW Post 2005 on West Shore Drive. But for many, that message has yet to sink in, say members of the VFW board. CURRENT PHOTO / KRIS OLSON

But Knight said the perception persists that the facility is “just for veterans.” 

Not so, Knight assures. Annual “auxiliary” memberships — available to one and all — are just $15. One need not even ring the doorbell to enter anymore. Just come down the ramp at the rear of the building and stroll right in.

Knight said that at least a few folks have discovered the VFW since the temporary closure of one of the town’s other preeminent watering holes, the Riptide Lounge. Those folks have pledged to return, having discovered what Knight calls the most affordable place in town to enjoy a beverage or two.

Head bartender Ed Preble holds forth from behind the bar at the VFW on West Shore Drive on a recent weeknight. The VFW is open from 3-11 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, and will be opening at noon Sundays during the NFL season. CURRENT PHOTO / KRIS OLSON

Gone are the legally dubious poker machines of the days of yore. But there is still a pool table and old-school CD jukebox spinning what now qualifies as “classic rock” from the ’70s and ’80s. The VFW may soon invest in upgrading its TVs, too, if there is enough demand from the clientele, according to Knight.

To be sure, Knight said he is particularly hopeful that the town’s younger veterans — whom he knows are out there — will start showing up and sustain a facility once known for having bodies three-deep at the bar, to the point where it had to engage the services of a bouncer.

They might particularly appreciate the camaraderie of the older veterans who frequent the VFW and perhaps be inspired to uphold a tradition established when Dr. William T. Haley Jr., an Army medical officer  World War II era who received the Distinguished Service Cross for his courage after he and the 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mechanized) landed at Normandy two days after D-Day. Months before he died in 2009, Haley was also awarded the Purple Heart.

Haley donated the property to the VFW to be its home, and Knight cannot stomach the thought that it would ever come to serve some other purpose.

Ensuring that does not happen means getting the word out and the bodies through the door.

The VFW has long hosted a Memorial Day cookout that has attracted crowds of about 150 to 200 people. But it has begun to add other events to its social calendar.

Earlier this summer, Full, who also serves as the post’s chaplain and quartermaster, put the word out that the VFW would be hosting a tournament in the well-groomed horseshoe pit behind the building. The brackets filled up, and as the saying goes, a great time was had by all — to the point where Full said he is considering convening another tournament later this month.

On Saturday, Oct. 7, 6-11 p.m., the VFW will host an event to benefit Wreaths Across America, which in 2022 placed more than 2.7 million wreaths on headstones of the nation’s service members at 3,702 locations.

For $20, attendees of the event can sponsor a wreath, enjoy live music from the Melody Makers, enter raffles, eat and drink.

Aside from those special events, the VFW is open from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, though it will begin opening at noon once the NFL regular season begins, according to head bartender Ed Preble.

In addition to being the most cost-effective place to sidle up to the bar, it is also the most affordable place in town to hold an event, with a function hall that has begun to get booked more frequently since Doug Gatchell gave it a fresh paint job. Gatchell gets the credit for other upkeep in and around the VFW property, according to Full.

Those who rent the function space also get the benefit of a commercial kitchen, which has been a pleasant surprise for caterers coming into the facility, Full said.

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