Delmont Martin points out his photo when he served as commander of the Hayfield American Legion in 1975-76. Martin recently retired as manager of the Legion after 20 years. Photo by Ruth Hanson
By Ruth Hanson
Delmont Martin smiles when he stands in front of the wall of pictures of previous post commanders of the William Rothie American Legion Post # 330 at the American Legion Hall in Hayfield.
"Each one was a commander for just one year," he explained. "The men in the pictures in the top row are past district and state commanders. We've had quite a few. Some posts don't have any."
He explained that the post was named for a soldier who was killed in 1918 about two weeks before the Armistice.
Martin is a Hayfield man through and through. He was born on a farm near Sargeant.
"That was in 1931," he said. "Doctor Baker got to our farm right after I was born."
There were 365 students in his graduating class. Austin High School will graduate 323 seniors this year, a reflection of families "not having 15 kids in them anymore," according to the office secretary. "We have a lot more houses, but not as many kids."
There were seven kids in his family, which he said was a lot even in that day.
"We filled a whole pew at Evanger Lutheran Church in Sargeant," Martin said. "There were four families about that same size. We had fun times."
He was drafted into the Army in 1952, right after the end of the Korean War. He spent his basic training at Ft. Knox during a very hot July. He spent the next 18 months in Germany.
"I haven't been back there," he said. "I had had enough."
He and his wife Irene were married before he went overseas. Their pair of twins, Don and Ron, were born while he was in Germany. He claims his father-in-law named them.
He went to work operating heavy equipment, including bulldozers and scrapers, after he came home. Then came going into business for himself for 15 years.
"Then we moved to Hayfield and our kids went to Hayfield schools," he said. "I operated heavy equipment four more years before I retired and became active in the Legion. I had joined in 1954."
He was the post commander in 1975-76.
He recently retired as manger at legion, a job he has held since the 90s, over twenty years.
"I liked doing things for veterans and I liked the camaraderie of the American Legion," he said.
He added that the Hayfield Legion has sponsored Legion baseball since "long before I came along. We host an oratorical contest, the fifth and sixth grade spelling bee and we raised money for the Honor Flights to Washington, D.C., for World War II veterans."
They have had several funerals in the Legion Post building.
"Our Hayfield American Legion Chorus, which started in 1976, has sung for many funerals and in many churches in the area," he said.
As post commander that year, he got the chorus started."We sing in full uniform - 20 or 25 of us, all veterans - complete with rifles and flags and a bugle that plays 'Taps.' We used to load a small piano on to a pickup truck, but we have bought an electronic one now. We will be singing at the service at Veterans Memorial Park on Memorial Day again this year, even though most of us can't hear too well and I can't see too well. The park was dedicated in 2007."
He laughed and added that he has a wife with good eye sight.
He said he was glad they did the park when they did, before the prices jumped.
"It was a lot of work getting the money for it," he said.
He explained that the chorus sings songs like "Amazing Grace," "How Great Thou Art" and a medley of patriotic songs followed by the entire congregation singing "God Bless America" at funerals. They sang "Supper Time" at Charlie Phenix's funeral.
"We are good singers and yeah, I'm pretty proud of our group," he said.
Another thing he is proud of is the giant replica check that hangs on the wall - a check for $30,267 to the Cancer Telethon made out on January 19, 2013, from money raised by auctioning off new items.
"Years ago we used to have two hour concerts at the school," Martin said. "Oh, and we sang out at the Civil War Recruiting Station in Wasioja in the summer of 1988. We are a busy bunch of Legionnaires."