A new legion for old stories and values

This past Saturday I climbed the narrow stairs of the Keewatin City Hall, stepping around the hoist chair at the bottom which was new last year but is now just part of the scenery. The occasion was the annual Keewatin Legion and Sons of the Legion spaghetti feed held in the auditorium where they used to have dry socials back when that meant something. As a second-year member of the Sons I was there with my Grandpa Johnson and his friends. On one hand this was what you might expect: A group of men talking about the past, checking who was alive and who wasn’t from last year, sharing stories. There was spaghetti, and no shortage of it. Giant meatballs. Giant.

But for me, these things are always significant for what is not typical, even if it seems typical to those participating. These old hall auditoriums are found all over the Iron Range. There’s a stage in the corner, an old piano. Old portraits of presidents adorn the walls. All other imagery is devoted to one of two things: military veterans or education. Inspiration statements extolling the importance of education and self-improvement are etched into ornate decorations around the top of the auditorium. Everything else is the names, photos and accomplishments of the town’s military veterans.

Halls like these show the values of a community, and military service and education are the very historic definition of what separates the Iron Range from other mining regions. The immigrants that built this place had the twin goals of proving their allegiance to their great new country and providing a better life for their children than the dark, damp dangers of underground mining. They succeeded, producing more enlisted men and women and educated professionals per capita than any other region in the latter half of the 20th century.

These men are old and gray now but there remains hope yet for what they and their fathers defended from tyranny, both foreign and domestic. It is up to the sons and daughters, many of whom are absent from occasions such as this but remain capable of carving a better future for their children, too.

Also of note: there is a Facebook class sign-up sheet on the wall up there.

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