This year marks the 100th anniversary of the American Legion’s existence.
We’ve written several pieces and run with stories of the American Legion’s anniversary observances here in Christian County, and rightly so. The American Legion is the largest veterans organization in the country, with an estimated 2.2 million members.
It’s an 88-year-old American Legion memorial fountain on the Christian County Historic Courthouse lawn that is the subject of today’s writing, because one of our newspaper’s followers on Facebook is not apparently a fan of it.
To be accurate, it’s more of a concrete monument than a functional fountain at this point.
“I find it appalling (and yet so illustrative) that both Christian County governance and the American Legion have left this dysfunctional fountain up, mocking the public with the line "come slack they thirst" while offering no water,” Facebook user Lynn Kempen told the Headliner News and its followers.
Christian County Building Maintenance Supervisor Richard Teague explained that anything on the courthouse lawn property falls under the county commission’s authority. That includes the fountain, the gazebo, the Baldknobbers hanging historical marker and the anti-tank gun.
Teague said it has been several years since the county commission has done any sort of examination of the memorial fountain.
“They had a company investigate and see what it would cost to have that thing brought back up, have water run to it, put the frost free system in it, and it was a very expensive, very large sum,” Teague said.
A bout of sticker shock stopped the county commission from spending any money to update the fountain so that anyone could slack their thirst.
Before I explain further, Lynn, here is a fast history lesson.
VFW Post 7628 of Ozark donated the charter document of Christian County’s original American Legion post to the Christian County Historical Society. American Legion Post 434 veteran David Bowden presented the framed document to the historical society at a ceremony on Oct. 20, 2018.
“In 1920, we had a group of veterans who came back from World War I, and they formed the American Legion Post 437 right here in Ozark called the Graham-Wasson Post,” Bowden said.
Lowell Wasson and J.A. Graham were Christian County soldiers killed in Europe in World War I. Veterans from Christian County named their American Legion post in their honor.
Fifteen original members chartered the Ozark post in 1920. A corresponding auxiliary post organized in 1931, the same year that veterans built a memorial drinking fountain on the east side of the Christian County Historic Courthouse lawn.
What’s left of the plumbing system was built in 1931. Teague said it has been examined.
“We did find a water line where it goes into it at the supply line, but there is no drain,” Teague said. “It really wasn’t set up for maintenance.”
In fact, relatively simple plumbing work is complicated by the need to remove concrete and stone.
“Basically, there is no access door to the inside of the plumbing, the way it was built. They would have to disassemble it and reassemble it,” Teague said.
Still, I hate to see any veterans memorial sit dormant as a shell of what it once was. Running water would attract attention to the fountain, which would hopefully attract attention to the veterans that the fountain is dedicated to.
On the other hand, I have to acknowledge that the county commission acted with some fiscal responsibility to stop pursuing a fountain renovation project once estimated costs climbed above $15,000, according to Teague. Attention shifted to constructing an additional courthouse building, which just opened on Walnut Street.
“It wasn’t a necessity, so it was put on the back burner,” Teague said. “I haven’t heard anything about it for a few years.”
Until talk of the fountain resurfaces in the county commission office, I guess we’ll have to remember to bring bottled water. We will also continue to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation through their military service, and honor those who continue to honor their sacrifice through 100 years of the American Legion’s existence.