The End of an Era: Legion Auxiliary disbands
American Legion Auxiliary is folding, state group has asked for its charter
No more Memorial Day observance in uptown Clinton.
No more Clinton High School juniors attending Palmetto Girls State at Presbyterian College.
These are the consequences of the recent decision to disband the American Legion Auxiliary in Clinton. It is the organization responsible to erecting the “V” for Veterans Monument in uptown Clinton, and for placing trees commemorating veterans on the Clinton High School campus.
“It is sad,” said Robbie Cruickshanks, president of the organization for the past 20 years.
For a variety of reasons, no younger spouse of a veteran (American Legion member) has stepped forward to take the mantel of leadership from Mrs. Cruickshanks. She might have to send the Clinton chapter’s charter back to the state organization.
The action does not affect the American Legion chapter.
Mrs. Cruickshanks made an announcement that she was stepping down as Legion Auxiliary President at a dinner naming the Palmetto Girls and Boys State delegates from Clinton High School.
“We need active members,” she said.
The organization has eight active members and six inactive members. Mrs. Cruickshanks said, ideally, women in their 50s and 60s would take over the organization, and sustain its work. “Young women have families, I understand that,” she said, in an Aug. 15 interview with The Chronicle.
The women of the Copeland-Davidson Unit #56 American Legion Auxiliary received their charter in 1932. There are 64 names on the document. Mrs. Cruickshanks keeps it in her home.
“For years, we have tried to recruit members,” she said.
Used to be, an active Legion Auxiliary led by Mrs. Cruickshanks collected $400 to $500 in donations for poppies. The money goes to support disabled veterans.
This year, Mrs. Cruickshanks said she considers it a failure that she was able to collect just $200 - some from Memorial Day at Broad Street United Methodist Church and some from an evening at Dempsey’s restaurant.
“I just couldn’t do anymore,” she said.
Just two out of 36 businesses that Mrs. Cruickshanks contacted by letter for donations to Meals on Wheels responded. Just four responses were received to her 80 letters about Girls State. She wasn’t able to do her normal follow-up contacts.
Mrs. Cruickshanks said, through the years, the American Legion Auxiliary has had many wonderful officers, members and volunteers. As the membership has aged, however, its struggles to continue its projects have increased. One scholarship to Girls State was provided by a member, and the chapter was able to cobble together enough money to send six CHS juniors altogether to the June, week-long leadership and patriotic experience at Presbyterian College.
“I am very patriotic,” Mrs. Cruickshanks said. “Clinton means a lot to me. My husband was at PC before the war and after the war (WWII).”
Her roots run deep in Clinton, including five generations attending Presbyterian College. Her grandmother and aunt were members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter that erected the War Between the States monument in uptown Clinton. 2017 was the 10-year anniversary of the “V” for Veterans Monument, spearheaded by the American Legion Auxiliary.
Twenty years ago, the Legion Auxiliary and others conducted Memorial Day observances at the Legion Hut, across from what is now Clinton Middle School. The hut now is owned by the City of Clinton.
Now, the Clinton chapter is preparing to send what money it has on-hand to the State Legion Auxiliary. State officials also have expressed an interest in the charter.
Mrs. Cruickshanks said, “I hope the charter doesn’t go back to Columbia. It is our history. It deserves to be in a museum.”