Synepuxent Post 166 History

The Beginning

Because Ocean city was a small fishing village following World War I, the population was too small to generate interest in an American Legion Post. There were few veterans in the city at the time. Ocean City’s growth began after the first span of the Bay Bridge was completed in 1952. Organizing an American Legion Post in Ocean City began a few year’s earlier. 

     Following World War II, as veteran’s were leaving the military service, an organizing committee formed with the purpose of establishing an American Legion Post in the city. They began meeting at Sacco’s Restaurant in downtown Ocean City. In February 1946, the organizers were  granted an American Legion Charter.  They elected as their first Commander was George  Cropper.

      After meeting at Sacco’s for about six months, the Post moved to the John Dale Showell building  on Talbot Street and Philadelphia Avenue. (This location is now a parking lot.)  The arrangement made between John Dale Showell and Post members was that he would receive half of the Post’s profits in lieu of rent. He received $167 the first  year, and  $1,700 the second. After the second year both parties agreed to a lease and the Postcontinused to hold meetings and events there for the next seven years from, 1947 until 1953.

      Around 1950, a decision was made to purchase land and establish a permanent Post home.  Following a real estate survey, the leadership decided on  a tract on 23rd Street, our present location, at a cost of  $12,500. Post members were divided about the purchase, arguing the location was too far out of town.  As one member stated at the time, “Why build way out of town.” The decision to go ahead with the purchase almost caused a split among the members.

     Our present building was constructed in 1953-1954, initially with space for dancing and the large hall meeting room. The bar and a small kitchen were added in 1955-1956. Robert Jackson was the Commander that year. Regrettably no photo of Commander Jackson exists today, that we can find.  In 1970-71, the Kitchen was enlarged and the pantry was added along with the Large south eastern storage area. Tony Villani was the post Commander.The second floor was added 1992-93 with a conference room, lavatory, and office space.


Growth and the Boardwalk Property Purchase

In 1959, the Post began looking into purchasing property on the Boardwalk at 5th street in which it planned to host Bingo games to raise money. The Post was unable to secure a mortgage on its own but then joined with the Ocean City Volunteer Fire department, and the Ocean City Lions Club. Together the three organizations obtained a mortgage and jointly purchased property and the building. During the 1960’s and beyond, the jointly operated Bingo parlor proved to be an excellent fund raiser. Bingo money was used to build the present Post home on 23rd street and Philadelphia Avenue. The 5th Street building is still owned by the three organizations, who share the annual lease that generates  roughly $ 40,000 per year for each group.

     In 1970, Bingo was moved to the Post home, where it  continued to be a fund raiser. Bingo held once a week on Thursdays, with doors opening at 4:30 and games starting at 6. Unfortunately Bingo came to and end in 2018. The last game was called on Thursday December 20 of that year.


Storms and Floods

In 1962 a storn flooded much of Ocean City, but the 23rd street property was spared. In 1970 during a Legion Parade, another downpour with flooding hit the town. Once again the Post received no flooding.


Gambling and Slot Machines

Post 166 had slot machines for a period of three years before they were shutdown when Worcester County passed a law prohibiting slots within the County. A big disappointment came in 2009 when the Maryland Legislature did not approve slot machines for veterans groups in the county. All other Eastern Shore veterans groups had slots as a fund raiser. That was when Commander Sarge Garlitz stepped up. He worked tirelessly to get a bill passed in the Legislature. It took two years but it finally happened in 2011. Slots have become our main fundraiser and the main source of charitable contributions we provide throughout the community.


The Robbery

In the early 1960s we experienced our one and only robbery. Records are unclear if it was in 1960 or 1961 but they are clear in explaining that the Post safe was broken into and $1,400 taken. The crime went unsolved.


Crowds and Famous Visitors

At times throughout its history, Post 166 has had large crowds, five and six deep, at the Bar, especially during conventions that attracted many visitors to Ocean City. Many sports hero’s visited us, including Johnny Unitas the Bar like Johnny Unitis and many of his Baltimore Colts teammates.  Presidents Richard Nixon and Pres. Lyndon Johnson traveled to Ocean City but regrettably they did not visit us at the Post.


Land Offers  

The Legion had an opportunity to buy what is now the Ocean Mecca lot for $32,000, and an  opportunity to buy for $80,000 the land to our south where the miniature golf course now operates. The membership passed on both.


Currently Post 166 has 876 members, plus an active Auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion unitsd, which brings the American Legion amily in Ocean City to well over 1,200. The American Legion holds general membership meetings on the fourth Monday of each month beginning at 6 p.m. with food and fellowship. The meeting stardts at 7 p.m. Eligible veterans are urged to make a difference by joining the American Legion to assist and support Active Duty military personnel and Veterans. The American Legion also  helps fund many community organizations with donations as well as youth groups . Scholarships are also provided to high school seniors to help them continue their education.

FOR GOD AND COUNTRY, American Legion members continue to serve their Community  and Veterans. Noteworthy are our observances of Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

MEMORIAL DAY has always been an outstanding event in this community. In addition to memorial observances throughout Ocean City, the graves of every veteran of any of the wars of the country are decorated on this national holiday. This tradition is being carried on for decades.

ARMISTICE DAY, now called VETERANS’ DAY, originally marked the end of fighting in World War I. It is an important holiday for Legionnaires everywhere and in the hearts of all veterans. Annually the Post has a Memorial Service at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to honor our War Dead.