Legion Memorial Library

Library History

Article from The Mellen Journal, February 20, 1997 written by Joe Barabe

On Thursday, March 10, 1927 the following appeared in the Mellen paper:

The Legion Library To Open Saturday

The Legion Memorial Library, organized and sponsored by the local post, American Legion, will be open to the public for the drawing of books next Saturday evening from seven until nine o'clock.  And in the future the library will be opened on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings.

The library is located in the Legion quarters in the City Hall and at present there are between three and four hundred volumes available, which include many of the latest copyright fiction.  Books are still being received by Mr. Charles Markee, at the Rosensweig store, but those with donations have not been received may have the Legion men call for them by notifying Mr. Markee.

The birthplace for the idea of the library came at an American Legion meeting in the basement of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church.  It was in January of 1927.  Commander Alvin Rabbideau called the meeting to order.  In the chairs sat Mark Ferrando, O.J. Guerin, A.E. Donais, Louis McCarthy, Ren Vought, Percy Fuller, Reinhold Henke, Joe Kramer, Dan McPherson, Fred Keller, Dr. Carl Lockhart and Charles Markee.  Dr. Lockhart told the men an old lumberjack named August Rohloff had come to his office and was told by the doctor that he was a dying man.  Appreciating the honesty, the lumberjack confided in him that he had a small estate and nowhere to leave it after his death.  The man was alone in the world.  He asked Dr. Lockhart where he should leave the money.  Dr. Lockhart told the man Mellen had no public library and that possibly the money could start one.  The dying man agreed.  At the meeting Dr. Lockhart reported that the library would need a sponsor.  He thought it would be a good and noble project for the American Legion.  Commander Rabbideau appointed Charles Markee, O.J. Guerin and Fred Keller to begin setting up such a library.  The Legion decided to give up their club room at City Hall for the proposed library.

The men advertised in the paper for donated books, all fiction, history and travel books were desired.  The drop-off point was the Rosenzweig Store where Charlie Markee worked.  O.J. Guerin, the manual arts teacher at the high school looked for a librarian.  Fred Keller supervised the new book cases that arrived at City Hall in February.  He estimated they would hold 500 books.  Then they contacted the traveling free library that was run by the State University and was promised help. 

Opening Night was Saturday, March 12, 1927.  Almost 70 years ago.  Mr. Guerin had found a librarian, the high school librarian, Miss Mary L. Davis had cataloged almost 400 books before opening night.  Miss Davis also gave the library its name.  It had no name when she ordered books.  She told Mr. Markee she had ordered a "Legion Memorial Library" stamp for the books and the name stayed.  Her assistants were Sere Stolen, Lucy O'Brien and Florence Wendt.  Sere taught high school History and Latin while Florence taught Commercial Arts. 

That night between 30 and 40 books were checked out.  The following Tuesday night over 70 books left the hall.  And so it began, three nights a week, between 7 and 9 the Legion Memorial Library was opened to the public.  It didn't take long for Charles Markee, O.J. Guerin and Fred Keller to discover their creation needed better organization so they added two women, Mrs. Edwin Wohlgemuth and Mrs. Carl Lockhart to their small library board. 

Seventy years ago the Mellen Legion Memorial Library began.  We approach its 70th birthday on March 12th.  Few of our institutions have lasted as long.

Shortly I took over the mayor's office in April, 1987, J. Louis Hanson was giving me fatherly advice at he Bee Hive and said, "If everything in the city ran as efficiently as the library you wouldn't have a problem in the world."  I never argued with Louie because he used the library too, and I knew he was right."