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VFW Post Closes Its Doors; Members Hope for New Home

by and on March 20, 2017 5:00 AM

POTTERS MILLS — March 12 marked the end of an era in the village of Potters Mills, as the Veterans of Foreign Wars Smith-Sweetwood Post No. 9575, established in 1947, closed its doors for the last time.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has taken the building by eminent domain to make room for a new four-lane section of U.S. Route 322. The organization, which was paid by the state for the property, has been trying to find a nearby site on which to erect a new building, but so far has had no luck.

The post’s last day of operation saw a crowded club, with many longtime members saying their last goodbyes to the facility and the social enjoyment it has provided for decades.

Junior Vice Commander Nevin Long joined the VFW in the 1960s, after serving in the Army in Korea from 1962 to 1963. He said that buying land, erecting a new facility and occupying it will take a significant amount of time.

“There’s a lot of hoops to go through,” Long said, referring to state and local government permits and requirements for a new building. “If we could find something soon, we’ll jump on it if it suits.”

Beside Long sat Frank Staines, of State College, who has been a post member for 34 years. He worked for 11 years maintaining the property. He also leads the post’s 18-member honor guard, which performs ceremonies in local cemeteries to honor deceased veterans on Memorial Day weekends.

“I’ll really miss the place,” Staines said.

Ralph Mozingo, from nearby Georges Valley, has been a social member of Post No. 9575 for 30 years. He remembers when the post used to hire a band on Saturday nights before deer hunting season years ago.

“The place was packed — standing room only,” he said.

Mozingo praised the post’s charitable donations over the years. “People might say it’s only a bar, but it’s more than that. We give a lot of money to help people out. I’ll miss coming here.”

Ray Young and Denny Wilt, both from the Spring Mills area, are longtime members. Both expressed sadness that the club was closing. “I’ll probably just stay home,” said Young.

In a previous interview, post commander and Marine Corps veteran Walter Mayes said the post has 110 first-class members, who are veterans, and a home association, consisting of about 200 social members, who use the club, but cannot hold office or vote in the organization. The post’s third branch is an auxiliary that was formerly called the ladies’ auxiliary, but is now open to men, too.

Mayes said the bar and club is the post's chief source of income, much of which goes to local charities and individuals who have suffered loss. He said the group donated more than $53,000 to local people in need over the past several years, and those donations will cease until the post is relocated.

According to Mayes, the VFW post will still exist as long as it holds one meeting a month. The Old Fort American Legion post has agreed to let the VFW hold those meetings in its facility temporarily at no charge.

“The Smith-Sweetwood Post No. 9575 has provided 70 years of service to the Penns Valley community, with numerous amounts of money donations made to many organizations and scholarships to schools. The auxiliary has provided 67 years of services to the community. Some of the post’s services may come to an end, or smaller services may be provided to the community,” said auxiliary president Suzanne Moyer in a letter to the Gazette.

For more information, call Mayes at (814) 364-1383.

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

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