Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:24 pm
Elm Grove Legion post looking for bigger bang with new public hall
By John L. Campbell, for SBT
The Elm Grove American Legion Post has opened its new facility at 3245 N. 124th St. in Brookfield, just north of Burleigh Street.
The remodeled office facility is twice the size of the old Legion hall in Elm Grove, which the American Legion post was forced to abandon due to the devastating floods of 1998.
The former 449th Legion post building, a 50-year-old landmark, was nestled between Legion Drive and a creek that runs through Elm Grove.
Two local children drowned in the flood, which filled the Legion building to the rafters.
The Legion could no longer buy flood insurance, and the village forced the post to move. The closest it could get to a suitable building was on l24th Street, across from Wauwatosa’s Briggs & Stratton plant.
But while the post has left its familiar home, its new facility has a greater capacity to generate business, says Ken Lamster, who orchestrated the remodeling of the 124th Street building.
"We can seat 208 for dinner and there are 36 seats in the bar," Lamster boasted. "The old bar had only 17 stools. This place is 10,000 square feet, twice the size of our old building."
The business will be needed as the move cost the post almost $1 million.
The post hall has long been known for its Friday night fish fries and specials on other nights, and for the gatherings held there.
"We served 300 to 600 meals on a Friday night from the old kitchen," said Kathy Kempf, the new post commander. Kempf is the first woman commander for the Four-Forty-Niners in its 53-year history.
Children remember it as the place where they served free ice cream and hot dogs and where loud music played in the parking lot after Memorial Day parades. Brats, burgers and beer were part of the Legion’s fare for its July 4th celebration.
The new kitchen opened June 5, serving tacos. The post has developed a popular weekly event known as Taco Thursday. On Friday, June 6, Professional Food Services, the post’s caterer, served the first fish fry.
There is live music on Thursday and Friday nights, also. And the post is promoting rental of the building for private events.
Post installs first woman commander in 53 year-history
After 53 years, American Legion Post 449 in Brookfield has installed its first female commander.
"I’m a veteran of the old Army," Commander Kathy Kempf said. "When I enlisted, right out of high school in 1971, we were still called WACs."
Contrary to Kempf’s old-army moniker, she’s young enough to be the daughter of most World War II veterans who established the Four-Forty-Niners’ Stenz-Griesell-Smith Legion Post.
Active in several veteran’s organizations, Kempf served as the district commander for the Disabled American Veterans. She joined the American Legion 12 years ago, and has held many offices with another Legion Post. She transferred to Post 449 four years ago, and she has used her experience and leadership ability to work her way through the ranks.
Kempf earned a degree in police science at MATC and served as a deputy with the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department. She raised two daughters, along with a few foster children. When the children left the nest, she pursued a degree in nursing.
Asked if younger veterans were joining the ranks of the Legionnaires, Kempf expressed a positive outlook. As an example, she cited Robin Jacobs, their new sergeant-at-arms, a woman in her forties, who served in the Coast Guard.
"Robin has the potential to become commander in a few more years, just as I have," said Kempf.
June 27, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee