Why did you join the American Legion Auxiliary?
My father signed me up because the Auxiliary needed one more member! I became a member of the Kirkland American Legion Auxiliary unit at 4 years old, right after my Jan. 11, 1934, birthday. Dues were 50 cents. My mother’s dues were $5 a year.
The Junior Auxiliary Unit 161 started in 1939. I started out as a color bearer at 9 years old. It was fun. We didn’t have TV in those days. Unit 161 was famous for fabulous dinners and dessert parties. The Auxiliary would decorate tables and help serve dinners. At times, there would be 300 to 400 people during holidays and district meetings. Our uniforms were a white blouse, navy blue skirt, and a red grosgrain ribbon around the neck.
We had mother silver teas for the Gold Star Mothers. We made our own cookies. The silver tea party taught us how to honor the mothers and serve formal tea.
What influenced you to keep your ALA membership all these years?
I have always felt honored to serve our veterans. We girls had so much fun — the senior Auxiliary made it fun. We met so many good friends. They were like family. My folks loved it. My four brothers belonged to the Legion, and my sister was in the American Legion Auxiliary.
In 1947, I attended the first ALA Washington Evergreen Girls State, held in a Bellingham, Wash., Teachers College.
We marched in the annual Memorial Day and Redmond Bicycle Day parades. For the three-day Bicycle Day event, we served homemade pies with ice cream (35 cents), cake, cookies, soda pop, coffee, and tea at our homemade booth.
After school during World War II, we would go over to a neighbor’s house to learn first aid and attend cooking class to help at home.
I received a 1,000-hour pin after serving 1,000 hours of volunteer service at the VA hospital. We had an ALA Christmas Gift Shop every year at the VA. We used Unit 161 Auxiliary money to buy items. All during the year, we purchased sweaters, bathrobes, towel sets, books, art sets, dress shirts, wallets, children’s toys, embroidered pillowcases, vases, rings, and jewelry. We would always have cookies, coffee, tea, and punch. The veterans would pick out items at the gift shop to give to their own families. So much fun! I miss those days.
How has being in a military family impacted your ALA membership?
My love of helping people, my love of the flag, and love of my country.
What leadership roles have you held as an ALA member?
I’ve done it all — officer positions in the Junior Auxiliary, all officer positions (except secretary) in the senior Auxiliary, and worked on many committees. I was president 17 times. When I was 19, I was president of the senior Auxiliary.
What projects are you working on now?
Membership, historian, and ALA Girls State.
What does the ALA centennial celebration mean to you?
We have successfully kept an organization together to help veterans and their families.
What does your ALA membership mean to you?
I come from a military family. My dad was in the U.S. Army Engineers during WWI; brother Don was in the U.S. Army during WWII; brother Richard was in the U.S. Army paratroopers overseas and wounded in the Philippines; brother Jim is a 20-year retired P-3 flight engineer in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam; brother Neal was in the U.S. Navy on the USS St. Paul in Korea; my son Michael was a cook in the U.S. Army; son Richard was in the U.S. Air Force; and son James was in the U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska. I am proud to be part of the Auxiliary. When the American flag goes by during a parade, I get tears in my eyes.
AMERICAN LEGION AUXILIARY UNIT:
Unit 161 in Redmond, Wash.
Halvor Stensland, father (U.S. Army Engineers veteran, WWI)
YEARS IN THE ALA: 87
SHARE YOUR MEMBERSHIP STORY! Tell us about yourself and how you support the American Legion Auxiliary as a unit member who also loves the ALA’s mission of serving veterans, the military, and their families. Contact us at ALAMagazine@ALAforVeterans.org or (317) 569-4500.