South Congaree, SC – This Christmas season, the 40 & 8, an associated organization of the American Legion, is selling SC pecans to raise funds for veterans’ programs. According to the legion’s area chaplain, Fred Mullis, the 40 & 8 has a long tradition of supporting legionnaires and other veterans’ efforts.
According to the website www.fortyandeight.org, in 1920, Joseph W. Breen, a member of the newly formed American Legion and an officer of Breen-McCracken Legion Post 297, met in Philadelphia with fifteen other prominent Legionnaires where they originated the idea of The Forty & Eight. They envisioned a new and different level of elite membership and camaraderie for leaders of the American Legion.
The box car of the French railways, so familiar to American ground troops of the First World War, was chosen as the symbolic heart of the new organization. The French/Railroad theme was applied to officer titles and organizational functions.
The organization was named La Societe des Quarente Hommes et Huit Chevaux (the Society of Forty Men and Eight Horses). Its members were called Voyageurs Militaire (military travelers) and candidates for membership were called Prisonniers de Guerre (Prisoners of War).
The “40/8” cargo capacity sign emblazoned on each French boxcar that had carried American doughboys to the front, and also the "French horizon blue" color, became symbols of the new society. An initiation ceremony was developed based on the common wartime experiences of American soldiers, sailors and marines, incorporating fun making with patriotic bonding.
The first statewide Forty & Eight Promenade (meeting) was held in June, 1920, following the 2nd Annual Convention of the American Legion’s Department of Pennsylvania. Several prominent Legionnaires were wrecked (initiated) and Joseph W. Breen was unanimously elected Chef de Chemin de Fer (President of the Railroad).
The new Forty & Eight organization agreed to send a delegation to the Legion’s national convention in Cleveland, Ohio, with as much fanfare as possible in order to introduce the Forty & Eight to the nation and to other Legionnaires. A railroad box car was rented and in it the Forty & Eight delegation rode the rails to the Cleveland Legion convention. This publicity stunt gained substantial news coverage for the energetic new elite organization. In Cleveland more than 700 Legionnaires became members of the Forty & Eight.
Over the years, the Society has gone through a number of changes and is now a veterans’ service organization in its own right. Separate from the Legion but always joined, it has its own charities that it helps support.
Buying specialized equipment for hospitals, sponsoring nursing students with scholarships, helping to support child welfare programs, and sponsor of the national AAU/USA Special Olympics are just some of the projects that the 40 & 8 support each year.
Here locally the members of the 40 & 8 are selling all South Carolina grown plain, butter roasted, or chocolate covered pecan halves. The pecans are in 16 ounce bags.
The costs are as follows: The jumbo pecan halves are $16.00, the fancy chocolate covered halves are $13.00, and the butter roasted halves are $13.00 All of the moneys raised will be used for some of the key aforementioned projects of the 40 & 8.
To get your pecans, call Fred Mullis at 803-755-1449 or Darlene Walton in Cayce at 803-794-7624. You can also pick up pecans at the Blue Amethyst Beauty Salon on Main Street near Ramblin Road in South Congaree.