End of an Era for VFW Post 3074

By H. Scott Hoffmann scott.hoffmann@news-record.com

Previously printed by the News & Record January 25, 2014

LEXINGTON — Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3074 has seen its share of sad days. Days when its members stood by solemnly as grim witnesses to funerals — so many that post commander Buddy Byrd can’t keep count.

“Hundreds, maybe a thousand,” says Byrd, a Korean War veteran and two-time post commander. “The government kept sending boys overseas and they would keep coming back in boxes.”

Yet it’s hard to imagine a sadder time than what Post 3074 faces today.

After 72 years of serving its veterans and community, Post 3074 is closing its doors.

It’s selling the very building where veterans shared stories, drinks, laughs and tears. The place where bingo calls and the raucous sound of square dances filled its meeting rooms on Friday nights.

Those times are gone.

Friday nights, like nearly every night now at Post 3074, are silent.

• • •

For more than 70 years, VFW posts across the country have served as a second home to combat veterans.

But not as much anymore.

Declining membership — the result of old age and a chronic shortage of younger veterans to fill the shoes of its dying members — has forced leaders to sell its building.

It’s a story playing out at many VFW posts across America.

After Post 3074 was formed in 1941, it became one of North Carolina’s largest and most active VFW posts with more than 1,500 members.

Clifford Lopp was one of those early members. An Air Force bombardier who served in 35 missions during World War II, Lopp returned home to Lexington in 1945 and promptly joined the VFW post.

“It was a hell of a post.” Lopp says.

There were bingo games, square dances, billiards, ping-pong, an active ladies auxiliary — the list could go on.

The post’s members-only canteen was so popular “you almost had to fight to get in it was so full,” World War II veteran Jack Frank recalls.

Still, there was more to this post than just grizzled veterans rehashing old war stories. There were parades to march in and an active ladies auxiliary to see that the post’s many good deeds got done.

Lopp saw to much of the work. He led the post’s honor guard unit for decades, where they played “Taps” at the end of funerals.

“We were there for a purpose — to give our men a good burial,” Lopp says. “They were our good friends … and some of them were mighty, mighty young.”

• • •

When you step inside Post 3074, history comes to life through walls covered with vintage photos, maps, artifacts and memorabilia recording the organization’s 72 years of operation.

Among the most treasured artifacts is a framed combat rifle carried by member Curtis “Speedy” Spach, now 94 years old but able to recall his combat days in rich and compelling detail.

Spach was a cocky youngster with a reputation for wrecking cars — 14 by the time he turned 22 — until a fateful December night in 1941 when Spach and his father sat on the edge of their seats, listening intently to a radio station break the news of a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

“I wanted to be the first man to go,” Spach recalls.

Spach rose early the next morning and made his way to an enlistment center where the long line stretched so far back he nearly left. A neighbor spotted Spach and allowed him to cut in line.

Spach felt certain he would be headed for combat only to discover that he was three pounds underweight after stepping onto the recruiter’s scale.

“The recruiter told me to go home and eat lots of bananas and come back. So I went home and stuffed silver dollars in all my pockets, even in my socks, and when I went back and stepped on those scales I had gained three pounds,” Spach says.

Eight months later, Spach found himself in the middle of a unit which was part of the first wave of Marines to invade Guadalcanal.

“Those Japanese had us surrounded and they were all trying to kill us,” Spach remembers. “But I wasn’t afraid of the Devil back then.”

With supplies running short and his fellow Marines being cut down by the hour, Spach decided it was time to find help by swimming up the Matanikua River under the darkness of night. His fellow Marines tried to discourage him.

“Well, if those crocodiles don’t get me, the Japs will,” Spach replied.

Spach stripped off his clothes and left.

He survived along with 25 other Marines in his unit.

When Spach returned to America after World War II, one of the first things he did was join the Lexington VFW.

“It’s the only veteran’s unit as far as I am concerned,” Spach says. “When you are in a VFW meeting, everyone you look at is a combat veteran. They’ve been through what you’ve been through. They relate to each other.”

Stories and the bonds of friendship kept Spach and others coming back to Post 3074.

But as the years and decades passed, many aging veterans from World War II and the Korean War simply found themselves too old to remain active anymore.

For Lopp, the day finally came when “I could no longer walk.”

So he stepped away from the unit’s honor guard.

As other veterans followed suit, Post 3074 gradually began to show its age.

Membership started dropping and the bar emptied out.

Post 3074 was soon losing money — $20,000 to $30,000 a year — that subsidized its canteen, bingo and square dances.

They eventually were cut.

Declining numbers eventually hit the post’s honor guard, causing the unit’s members to drop from 21 to just a handful of volunteers.

The honor guard was disbanded in 2013. The unit’s rifles, uniforms and flags were no longer needed.

Soon, Post 3074’s home will be, too.

• • •

What happened to this once proud and vibrant post is a problem affecting VFW posts across the country.

“In my 13 years, we’ve closed or consolidated 80 posts,” says Bruce Edwards, the quartermaster for Veterans of Foreign Wars in North Carolina. “Our state membership has dropped from 33,000 to 28,000. It’s happening across the board, all across the U.S.”

It’s a desperate battle for survival, affecting not just the VFW but other veterans groups like the American Legion as well as the Moose, Elk and Mason lodges.

“Younger veterans don’t seem to need the face-to-face interaction that veterans from the Korean and Vietnam wars needed,” Edwards says. “They’re younger. They have families, jobs … They tend to rely on social media or Internet for interaction.

“We’re fighting it but it’s tough.”

• • •

One of the ways state and national VFW leaders combat the problem is by merging posts.

Like the 2012 merger in Greensboro between the larger and historically white George E. Preddy Jr. Post 2087 and the smaller and historically black 1st Sgt. Willie Wilson VFW post.

“Both posts were dying down a bit. It pulled everyone together and gave our members more support,” says Nathaniel Degraffinreaidt, the commander of the merged posts.

Merging posts can be a good thing because it keeps the members of a weaker post from disappearing completely.

“You’re almost always going to have one successful post in the larger cities,” Edwards says. “But it’s tougher in smaller communities.”

VFW posts in Randleman and Arcadia (in northern Davidson County) were merged recently into the Archdale VFW post, with letters sent advising members from both posts to transfer their memberships.

James Reaves received one of those letters. The 74-year-old Vietnam War veteran was a member of a VFW post in Winston-Salem until it closed.

So he joined the Arcadia post.

Then it closed.

On one of the coldest winter nights in decades, Reaves recently drove to Lexington hoping he might find a new home at Post 3074 only to discover a large “For Sale” sign driven deep into the red clay of the post’s front yard.

Reaves blames Vietnam for his string of misfortune with so many VFW posts closing.

“We came back from that war and people called us baby killers,” Reaves says. “You can’t blame those vets for not trying harder.”

As Vietnam veterans tried to shrink into anonymity, it ultimately cost places like Post 3074 valuable members who should have served a vital link in its hierarchy of leadership, Reaves points out.

“We should be here taking over now from those World War II and Korean veterans. If the Vietnam vets would have turned out, this place would have been full right now.”

But Post 3074 has been the farthest thing from full.

• • •

As he stands at the podium, Byrd sees the numbers problem staring him squarely in the eye.

Meetings that once drew a 100 or 150 members now routinely see 20.

So last summer, Byrd sat down with his daughter and sent postcards to the remaining members, notifying them of an upcoming meeting where they would determine the post’s future. Of 361 members, only 47 attended — 37 voting to sell the post.

“We don’t really have any other choice,” Byrd explains. “We just can’t sustain it anymore.”

Ceremonial rifles used by the post’s honor guard in funeral services have been shipped to the government.

Most of the post’s rich history, documented in vintage photographs, weapons, posters, maps and uniforms are being donated to the Davidson County Historical Museum, which is currently working on an exhibit that will open Memorial Day.

Byrd supports the museum’s interest. But, like many of its members, he’s sad to see this day arrive.

Post 3074 plans to hold bi-weekly meetings at its current home until a buyer is found. After that, they’ll gather at local restaurants.

The atmosphere of those meetings probably won’t be the same without the rich collection of historical artifacts and memorabilia now hanging inside the Lexington post.

“It’s going to be new for us. A lot of us old folks are not sure how it will work,” Byrd says.

Some members like Ned Beck support the decision. “

“It’s a big, expensive building and it’s falling apart,” Beck says. “It doesn’t have any sentimental value for me.”

Other members like Lopp see it differently.

“I hate to see it go. It ‘s like seeing my old home place being sold.”


Summer Community Calendar

May 17
The ACH 16th Annual Show-Off Car, Truck & Motorcycle Show. 8 am-3 pm. American Children’s’ Home, 3844 NC Hwy 8, Lexington. The ACH expects 100 to 150 cars of all makes and models. DJ Gary Miron will be spinning all of your favorite oldies while the Trinity Boosters serves up hot dogs and hamburgers. The children or those young at heart can enjoy Sno-Cones, Popcorn, face painting, Bounce Houses, Bake Sale or a tour through the Southmont Fire Department’s ‘Smoke House.” The Silent Auction includes NASCAR memorabilia, jewelry, artwork, furniture and lots more. Registration is from 8 am – 12 noon and cost $20 to enter a vehicle. Judging begins at 1 pm with awards sponsored by O’Reilly Auto Parts given out at approximately 3 pm. The Silent Auction will run from 9 am to 1 pm. For more information call 336-357-7133 or visit www.ACH-NC.org.

May 23
Summer Stroll. 6 pm-8:30 pm. Historic Uptown Lexington. “Meet Us on Main Street” for the first stroll of the season. In the Square at Conrad & Hinkle the bluesy sound of Caleb’s Bridge awaits you. In the Square at the monument you’ll find Miss Charlotte, Uptown’s mascot, and art activities with Arts United for Davidson County. Many merchants will be open until 8 pm. Outdoor activities may be impacted by rain or storms; however, merchants will be open! For more information call 336-249-0383 or visit www.UptownLexington.com.

May 23 & 24, June 6 & 7, June 20 & 21, July 25 & 26, August 8 & 9
Yadkin Valley Youth Rodeo. Friday 8pm & Saturday 7 pm. The SX3 Arena, 586 Andrew Sink Road, Lexington. Yadkin Valley Youth Rodeo Association is a non-profit association dedicated to promoting western heritage through supporting children and young adults up to 20 years old. For more information call Rodeo Director Roy Sink at 336-240-1918, email sinkfenceco@ptmc.net or visit www.yvyranow.com.

May 24
Bee Yard Day. 10 am-3 pm. SandyCreek Farm, 3160 South NC Hwy 150, Lexington. Spend the afternoon on the farm. Do you have a fascination for honey bees? Bring the kids to the SandyCreek Farm exhibit and learn more about these wondrous creatures! Great fun for the entire family. For more information call 336-853-8834 or visit www.SandyCreekFarm150.com.

May 26
Annual Memorial Day Parade & Celebration. 11:00 am. Main Street, Thomasville. Opening ceremony at 9:30 am at The Vietnam Memorial Wall on I-85 .Gov. Pat McCrory will serve as the grand marshal during the 27th Thomasville North Carolina Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony. Parade begins at the Big Chair, featuring 100 American flags in formation and the Army Ground Forces Band. Military vehicles and equipment, along with many veteran groups, are highlighted in the procession that continues to Memorial Park and Cushwa Stadium. At 12:15 pm Pat McCrory will address the families of fallen service members and the thousands in attendance. The Special Forces Association Parachute Team will close the program by parachuting directly into Cushwa Stadium. For more information call 336-472-4422.

May 31 & June 1
Davidson County Master Gardeners 10th Annual Garden Tour. Saturday 10 am-4 pm; Sunday 1 pm-5 pm. The tour will be in the Historic Area of Lexington, NC area this year and will feature six private gardens. For $10, you can attend both days. Tickets available in advance at the Agriculture Center, 301 E Center Street and The Backyard Retreat, 106 S. Main Street. On tour days tickets can be purchased at Edward Jones, 426 S. Main Street or at the Tour gardens. A program book with map will be provided with each ticket. Participants are encouraged to bring their cameras and notepads to gather ideas for their own gardens! For more information call (336) 956-0400 or 250-3014.

June 14 & 28, July 12 & 26, August 9 & 23
Instant Picnic Lunches. 12 Noon, SandyCreek Farm, 3160 South NC Hwy 150, Lexington. Make your reservation by 2 pm on Friday and we will have your lunch ready and waiting in our picnic area at noon on Saturday! You may bring your beer or unfortified wine (16% or less alcohol) or pick up your favorite at one of our local wineries or wine shops. Before and/or after, you can walk the Nature Trail, check out the Mushroom Forest, Greenhouses and Farm Store/Market. Get outdoors at SandyCreek Farm! For more information call 336-853-8834 or visit www.SandyCreekFarm150.com.

June 14, July 19, August 16

The Old-Time Square Dance. 7 pm. Denton Civic Center, 459 W. Salisbury Street, Denton. The dance features traditional Appalachian style square dance with old-time and bluegrass bands. Refreshments available. Admission fee; children under 12 free. For more information visit www.DentonDance.net or DentonDance93@gmail.com.

June 19
Alive After Five. 5:30 pm-8:45 pm. Lanier Hardware Parking Lot, corner of State Street and Third Avenue, Lexington. Summer concert series sponsored by the Lexington Area Chamber of Commerce featuring Too Much Sylvia. Come eat, drink and wiggle your feet. Free admission, food and drinks are available on site for purchase; no outside food, drinks or coolers. A bounce house will also be on site. For more information call 336-248-5929 or visit www.LexingtonChamber.net.

June 21
Tour de Kale. Denton FarmPark, 1072 Cranford Road, Denton. Registration 6:30 am-8 am. The Summit begins at 8 am with other race times beginning at 8:30. Races: Summit Challenge, 110K, 60K and 25K cycle events start and end at Denton FarmPark. The Summit boasts 90 mile views over High Rock Lake. There will be cash prizes for the first to reach the Summit. For more information call 336-313-9544, visit www.TourDeKale.com or email info@TourdeKale.com.

June 21
5K Twilight Glow Run. Harrison Park, 20 W. Salisbury Street, Denton. Registration 7:30 pm-8:45 pm. Race time 9 pm. 5K Twilight Glow Run in Downtown Denton at Harrison Park through the streets of Denton also features food and live a band. For more information call 336-313-9544, visit www.TourDeKale.com or emailinfo@TourdeKale.com.

July 1-5
44th Annual Southeast Old Threshers’ Reunion. 8 am-9 pm. Denton FarmPark, 1072 Cranford Road, Denton. The largest steam, gas and antique farm machinery show in the Southeastern US! Over 1,000 antique tractors on display, hundreds of gasoline engines on display, antique farm machinery demonstrations, tractor pulls, lawnmower pull, horse pull, auction, arts & crafts, flea market, 15 restored old buildings, country, bluegrass and gospel music, and some of the best food you will ever eat! Admission is $14 for adults; $6 for children under 12; pre-school free. Camping is available. For more information call 800-458-2755 or visitwww.FarmPark.com.

July 4
Fantastic Fourth of July Festival. 6pm-9:30pm. Finch Park, 15 Paul Beck Road, Lexington. Fantastic Fourth is sponsored by the City of Lexington. A great FREE family event with music, rides, inflatables and amusements for children and kids of all ages. Between 9 & 9:30 pm fireworks will begin! For more information call 336-248-3960 or visit www.LexingtonNC.net.

July 12
Tomato Madness. 8 am-12 pm. Lexington Farmer’s Market, 29 Railroad Street, Lexington. The Lexington Farmers Market will celebrate “TOMATO MADNESS.” Voting takes place from 9 am to 10:30 am for the best tasting tomatoes. Our market vendors will be bringing their best tomatoes for customers to vote on. This is a great time to try different varieties of tomatoes and decide which one you like best. Every customer who votes for their favorite tasting tomato can enter in a raffle for a basket full of market goodies. This year you can vote for your favorite slicing tomato and favorite cherry tomato. In addition to the best tasting contest there is a “Biggest” tomato contest. Everyone is welcome to enter their biggest tomato. The tomato weighing in the heaviest will win a cash prize. All biggest tomato entries must be entered by 9:45 am. All winners will be announced at 11 am. The market is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 am-Noon. At the market you will find locally grown meat, tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, squash, cucumbers, blackberries, blueberries, shiitake mushrooms, sweet corn, baked goods and more. For more information visit www.LexingtonNCFarmersMarket.com or call 336-242-2085.

July 26-27

Davidson County Amateur & Senior Amateur Golf Tournament. 8 am- 2 pm. Lexington Golf Club, 200 Country Club Boulvard, Lexington. An individual two-day golf tournament that is flighted. Open to all amateurs 18 and older. For more information call J.J. Fashimpaur 336-248-3950 or visit www.LexingtonGolfClub.com.

August 2
Melon Mania. 8 am-12 pm. Lexington Farmer’s Market, 29 Railroad Street, Lexington. Join us for “Melon Mania” at the Lexington Farmers Market for a watermelon eating contest. The children’s competition (12 and under) starts at 10 am. Participants must sign up before 9:45 am. Adult competition (ages 13 and up) starts at 11 am. Participants must sign up before 10:45 am. Space is limited to the first 12 competitors with prizes for competitors who finish first. There will also be a raffle for a basket of bountiful, fresh farmer’s market goodies. Raffle tickets are $1. For more information visit www.LexingtonNCFarmersMarket.com or call 336-242-2085.

August 5
National Night Out. 6p m-9 pm,. Main Street, Lexington. Coordinated by the Lexington Police Department this annual event features exhibits by police, fire and safety units throughout Davidson County, live performances by area musicians, games for kids, information booths set up by community organizations and free hotdogs and drinks while supplies last. For more information call the Lexington Police Department 336-243-3303.

August 9
Lexington Marlin Tri. 8 am. Lexington Swim Club, 3 City Club Circle, Lexington. Specified age groups will start at interval times. All age groups will be timed by On The Mark sports. The J. Smith Young YMCA of Lexington will be offering a Kids Triathlon Training Program. For more information 336-224-5267 or visit www.LexingtonSwimClub.com

August 14
Alive After Five. 5:30 pm-8:45 pm. Lanier Hardware Parking Lot, corner of State Street and Third Avenue, Lexington. Summer concert series sponsored by the Lexington Area Chamber of Commerce featuring Honeysuckle Ridge. Come eat, drink and wiggle your feet. Free admission, food and drinks are available on site for purchase; no outside food, drinks or coolers. A bounce house will also be on site. For more information call 336-248-5929 or visit www.LexingtonChamber.net.

August 23
Health Fair at the Lexington Farmers Market. 8 am-12 pm. Lexington Farmer’s Market, 29 Railroad Street, Lexington. Several area agencies will be on hand to share information with you and your family. This would be the perfect opportunity to spend the morning at the market with your children with special activities for them to participate in. As usual there will be lots of fresh produce, plants, flowers, baked goods and locally grown meat at the market. The market is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 am-Noon at the Historic Southern Rail and Freight Depot. There is free parking at either end of the depot. Make the choice! Make a difference! Make it local! For more information about the Lexington Farmer’s Market call 336-242-2085 or visit www.LexingtonNCFarmersMarket.com.


Summer Camp @ Home

The kids are out of school and home for the summer. Now what?

Why not host a summer camp at home? With a little planning and a few creative ideas, you can keep costs down but excitement up as you host your own summer camp with the kiddos. Each week you can check out books from the library that go along with the weekly the theme. This will keep kids excited about reading through the summer and get them out of the house and into the library each week!

Eleven Themed Weeks for the Perfect Summer Camp

Week 1 – Friendship Week
Talk about being a good friend.
Have a friendship day with water fun and a special pizza treat.
Write letters to a friend and make crayon art.

Week 2- Beach/ Under the Sea
Learn about different animals under the sea.
Have an Under the Sea Mega Movie Night (“Finding Nemo” and “The Little Mermaid”) with a special treat and campout in the living room.
Make some under the sea sand art, visit an Aquarium and go to a pet store to see the fish.

Week 3- Outdoor Fun
Have a S’mores Night campout.
Go for a hike and make a nature bracelet, outdoor art and painted rocks.
Make a bird feeder and get creative with some sidewalk paintings.

Week 4- Go America!
Participate in Fourth of July celebrations.
Make Patriotic art and a USA treat.
Enjoy pool fun, hold a yard sale and go for ice cream.

Week 5- Outer Space
Enjoy glow in the dark bubbles outside.
Make a spaceship or model plane, make an outer space mobile and visit a planetarium.
Eat dessert outside and watch the moon and stars.

Christmas-in-JulyWeek 6- Christmas in July
Host a Blizzard Party and make Christmas crafts.
Start a Christmas Saving Jar and give toys to a charity.
Enjoy a Christmas movie during the week.

Week 7- Pioneer Week
Make homemade bread, ice cream and butter.
Visit a history museum.
Talks about what a pioneer is.

Week 8- Trains and Transportation
Go on a train ride.
Participate in transportation activities (cars, buses, trains, planes, etc.).
Enjoy Hot Wheels® races with friends.

Week 9- Dinosaurs
Visit a science museum.
Make a dino model and dino art.
Make a “mudpie” dessert .

Week 10- Be Creative
Have a fancy family art show with a fancy dinner for the kiddos.
Make lots of art to show at the art show.
Enjoy lots of crafts this week.

Week 11- Sports and Water Play
Visit a new park, host an end of summer barbecue and enjoy pool play.
Host a Family Olympics and let the kids make medals for awards.
Enjoy back to school shopping and begin prep work for the new school year.

These are just a few ideas to get your started with eleven weeks of themed activities. The kids will love that each week includes new ideas, and don’t be afraid to take these themed weeks with you on vacation!


Save Yourself – Healthy Habits for Summer

We all love to have tan bodies during the summer, but sun worshipers beware!  Melanoma, which is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is also one of the most common forms of cancer and is connected to overexposure to UVA and UVB rays. Although you can have overexposure to the sun any time of the year, it’s more likely to happen during the dog days of summer.  Longer days, warmer temperatures and enjoying the outdoors during the summer months makes this season a prime time to overexpose your body to the elements. By following a few simple steps, you can be on your way to a safer and healthier summer.


When you think about the term “overexposure,” you probably think about sunburns or being in the sun for extended periods of time. For example, hours upon hours enjoying the sand at the beach, right? In actuality, overexposure means any more than 15 minutes exposed to the sun before 10 a.m. or after 2 p.m. Anything more than that is considered overexposure.


The Difference Between UVA and UVB Rays

UVA rays are less intense than UVB rays and are more preventable as well. UVA rays are present any time of the day, even the cloudiest of days. UVB rays cause burns and reddening of the skin. UVB rays are the ones responsible for damaging the surface of the skin.

Aging and Wrinkles

Sun exposure gradually thins skin and that is what causes wrinkles. To keep the signs of aging away a little longer, it’s imperative to reduce your exposure to the sun as well as to apply sunscreen. Another idea is to invest in a few sun-proof shirts.  These shirts can be found at local outdoor sporting goods stores. They’re lightweight, allowing heat to flow away from the body, but protect the skin form the sun’s harmful rays.

Tips for Staying Sun Safe This Summer

sunblock and legsApply Sunscreen Regularly

  • Use sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. It’s no longer just about a high level of SPF in your sunscreen.
  • Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before exposure. This allows ample time for the sunscreen to be absorbed by the skin and offers the highest level of protection.
  • Your eyes need just as much protection from the sun as your skin. Make sure to wear sunglasses while exposed to the sun. Today there are so many varieties you can find a pair that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

Moisturize Regularly

  • Lips need love, too! Keep your lips well-protected against damaging rays by applying an SPF lip balm or ChapStick® to your lips on a regular basis. This will help keep them moisturized and soft.
  • Moisturize often. Keep your skin pliable and soft by moisturizing throughout the day and throughout the year. Purchase a daily moisturizer that has at least 15 SPF (and this goes for the men as well). Women can purchase makeup with an added SPF and if your makeup doesn’t have it, make sure to apply a facial moisturizer that does before putting on your makeup.
  • As always, make sure your children are protected with hats, sunglasses and clothing that covers delicate skin. Use UVA/UVB sunscreens with at least 45+ SPF. Apply sunscreen often. Although some sunscreens are water repellent, it’s still a good idea to reapply frequently to avoid sunburns.

When it’s beautiful outside, make sure you take the right steps before enjoying the sun to avoid causing damage to your skin. With these helpful tips you can keep your entire family safe this summer and all year round!