Milan legion member shares memorabilia

Wanda English Burnett


“You honk the horn on the car and I’ll ring the dinner bell,” are words Leroy Zimmermann of Milan, will never forget. Those memories come from 1945 when the second world war ended.

Zimmermann was visiting his aunt and uncle - Harry and Ann Wanstrath - on a Ripley County farm when WWII was declared over. The impression of the end of the war on a nine-year-old is imprinted forever in his head as he remembered the event like it was yesterday. He said cars were driving by laying on their horns.

While Zimmermann never served during war times, he did serve his country for 12 years in the National Guard, Army and finally the Air Force. He and his wife, Eleanor, now make their home near Milan.
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Zimmermann’s parents, Louis and Eleanor, owned a restaurant/bar known as Green Gables. The family business began in 1928.

Zimmermann remembers one day when his father was in the restaurant and some of the guys were arguing about when the end of WWI was. “My dad had a newspaper in the back room he brought out to end the argument,” he noted.

He said others then brought in their newspapers, they were framed, and hung permanently on the walls of the establishment until it closed in 1986.

Zimmermann then received some of those framed copies. “They were just hanging in my basement and I thought they would be better where others could see them too,” he told The Versailles Republican.

The newspapers meant a lot to Zimmermann and he decided to share them with another group that he has fond thoughts of - members of the Milan American Legion where he has been a member for 27 years.
“We are grateful and honored to have these framed newspapers,” noted Ron Mills, commander of the Smith-Ashcraft-Kissell Milan American Legion.

The headlines screamed War Ends as Japan Quits, published in The Cincinnati Enquirer that only cost four cents. Another headline noted, Celebration Wildest in History of City, with a picture showing people celebrating in the streets.

In another paper, The Morning Republican, the news was in November 11, 1918 that read, Armistice Signed, War Comes to Close at 6 o’clock at Washington.

The reason for celebration was clear as other headlines read, USS Indianapolis Lost, All Aboard Are Dead, Missing or Injured.

Commander Mills said the newspapers are important to those who frequent the legion because they can relate. He welcomes new members to join their group as they have a membership drive beginning in June.
About the Milan American Legion

The group holds several fundraisers throughout the year to help them support the Milan community. In light of the economic downturn, Mills said they are combining their Annual Bluegrass Festival, a raffle and Top 40 Dance for one big event on August 18 this year. The bluegrass music will be played in the afternoon and the dance held that same night.

The legion helps the community by providing scholarships to high school seniors; sponsor the flag contest at the Milan school; send delegates to Boys State; sponsor “student of the month” at the Milan Elementary School; donate to Milan United Council of Churches, Fore Kids program at Christmas, Milan Fire Department, Rescue 69, People Helping People fund; and provide use of their building for local residents.

Something they are doing more frequently these days, according to Mills, is conducting military funerals. They will also be conducting memorial day services on May 31.

Those needing to have old Flags destroyed are encouraged to drop them off at the legion post Monday through Friday after 3 p.m. and Saturdays after noon. The flags will then be retired in a special ceremony the legion will announce.

The women also have a big part in the legion at Milan. The ladies auxiliary will be sponsoring a golf scramble at Milan Hoosier Links Golf Course on June 26.

Members of the legion recently participated in the distribution of poppys. The red flower is handmade by veterans and reminds Americans of the millions who sacrificed their lives and health for our freedom.