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The ‘spirit’ of American Legion

Is former Post Commander George ‘Holschuh’ haunting American Legion building? Will 1918 poster produce a reaction from the World War I veteran?

Is former Post Commander George ‘Holschuh’ haunting American Legion building? Will 1918 poster produce a reaction from the World War I veteran?

 

By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent

HARRISON –

I went ghost hunting last week. I even brought the ghost a bit of memorabilia. I tried talking to him. I asked, politely, if he could make his presence known.

All to no avail.

But! The mystery as to why the ghost is haunting American Legion Post 282 in Harrison may have been solved.

In February, your correspondent wrote a feature on the Post’s yearlong celebration in anticipation of its 75th anniversary in January 2014. During an interview, former Post Commander Edwin G. Marshman related the story of another commander, George Holschuh [sic/hint], who regularly visits the AL headquarters at 8 Patterson St., just off Harrison Ave. I was invited to return around Halloween to see if I could “meet” him.

Marshman is an Army veteran of the Korean War.

Holschuh was an Army veteran of World War I who died decades ago. We couldn’t find the exact date, but Marshman believes it was in the 1970s.

When the Post is very quiet, with only one or two people there, footsteps have often been heard coming from the empty former meeting room on the floor above.

Marshman has heard them and says many other members can also attest to the phenomenon.

“They always start at the front [southeast corner] of the building and continue to the back,” stopping near the pool table just before the rear wall, Marshman explained.

“It’s a nice steady pace,” he said.

Of course, when the steps have been heard, someone has checked the room above. But there is never anyone up there.

Post 282’s headquarters is a fairly old structure, having once been the laundry building on the 19th century Peter Hauck estate, so it may be that the footsteps belong to some unfortunate laundress who might have met her demise there (if such a thing ever happened).

But Marshman and the other members are convinced the walker is George Holschuh.

On our earlier visit, Marshman had surmised, “I think he’s trying to tell us to keep doing the job we are supposed to do.” In other words, continuing to reach out to and support returning veterans.

Holschuh had been an energetic Legion supporter and recruiter. During World War II, when draftees were leaving for training, “he’d go down to the railroad station and give $5 to every Harrison guy,” Marshman said.

“No one could figure out how he got all the money. Five dollars was a lot in those days, and Harrison had hundreds of men leaving. But every time there was a draft group going, he’d be there.”

“At the end of the war,” Marshman said, “he made it his business to personally greet them when they came back — and then he’d sign them up for the Legion. We picked up 85 new members just like that – bam!”

Holschuh was also known for his active involvement in the scrap-metal drives the town held to support the war effort.

So why are the members sure that the ghost is George?

Photos of all the past commanders are mounted on the wall. But, after his death, Holschuh’s would not stay put, even though it had been affixed exactly as the others. His picture — and only his — kept falling down.

“The place would be closed up over a weekend, and we’d come in on a Monday, and there would be George’s photo, down from the wall again,” Marshman said.

“We tried a dozen different ways to secure it, and nothing worked.”

Eventually, the photo display was moved to another wall, and a small bracket supporting each row of pictures was added, so falling was no longer an option.

And that is when the footsteps started.

If the ghost couldn’t make his presence known one way, he’d do it in another?

On Friday, the day after Halloween, I revisited the Post with Marshman. For most of the time, we were the only two there. It was very quiet. And I tried talking to the ghost, “George? George? Are you there? Would you make yourself known to us?” Nothing. Then I figured maybe I was being too informal. “Commander Holschuh? Are you there?”

Nothing.

We visited the empty meeting room and I took some photos, most of which came out very blurry, which could be a paranomal phenomenon (or more likely, the result of my having dropped the camera on the street the day before).

I left a “gift” for George — a temporary loan — but it might produce some results.

It is from my collection of WWI posters. It features a stark, charcoal drawing of a helmeted, trench-coated Doughboy (this has nothing to do with Pillsbury, children), sitting in a trench and drinking from a tin cup.

It was printed in 1918 by the U.S. Food Administration, which was the government agency responsible for the Allies’ food reserves, and it reads: “Feed a fighter. Eat only what you need– waste nothing– that he and his family may have enough.”

I picked that one not so much for the message as for the art. Marshman said Holschuh served in France in World War I, so he had to be familiar with the terrible conditions in the trenches. The soldier depicted represented all the Yanks who were “Over There.”

We now await news of anything strange happening to the poster. Will it be moved? Turned around? Dropped on the floor? Or will George just ignore it?

Whatever does or doesn’t occur, it is possible George might soon be making his final visit and at long last stride contentedly into the Great Beyond. Provided something on his photo is changed.

I have been referring to him as Holschuh, which is how his name is spelled on the title under his picture and is the spelling I was given back in February.

But something had bothered me. George’s surname was once fairly common in Harrison and environs. To my knowledge, those families spelled it “Holzschuh.” With a “z.”

On Friday, Marshman and I pored over some old Post programs, and we found George’s name spelled at least three ways: Holschuh, Holschuk and . . . Holzschuh. (My instinct says the last one is the right one.)

No wonder George kept tossing his photo on the floor. He was hoping someone would notice the misspelling and correct it.

We now await word of a correction, and further news.

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