American Legion Posts have been a well-known secret for DIY shows and having a good time across the US for decades. Read on as our Editor, Liz Earle, walks us down memory lane and shares her experience from Post 82 in her essay below. Got an American Legion story? Tell us! Send an email here.
As I drop the needle on my worn out copy of Grievous Angel, kick off my shoes and take the night's first sip of wine, my brain drifts off to those times I've spent at Post 82. East Nashville's American Legion located straight down Gallatin Road; A dimly lit and (once) smoky refuge that's somehow turned a blind eye to the past 50 years, becoming a secret spot to those who know how to have a good time. It’s like prom in 1954, or what I hope prom was like in 1954. There’s a full dance floor, a homemade stage with x-mas lights imperfectly strung against the tinsel streamer backdrop, and a disco ball. There are handcut paper stars dangling from the ceiling and American flags. There’s also a full bar and steak dinner restaurant. Not to mention a pool table, a jukebox, and something I only recently learned about after moving to Tennessee, a Turkey Shoot. It’s truly an unforgettable place, and one that locals try not to speak too loudly about.
American Legion Post 82, Photo by Grace Adele
Blackfoot Gypsies at Post 82, Photo by Jon Vaughn
I started thinking about that first night I made my way to Post 82, playing pool with bolo-tie-wearing-men in Hank Williams’ hats, drinking cold whiskey with veterans, swapping stories with new friends, and listening to Gram Parsons and CCR on the jukebox. The bartender was a woman who volunteered her time just to keep the doors open, and you signed your name in the guest book if you weren’t a member. Since then, I’ve been back for "Honky Tonk Tuesdays," various after-parties, secret shows and that one time for karaoke.
Some of my favorite Nashville stories manifested here, as I’m sure they have for every other patron and regular that haunt those halls. That's the magic of this place, bringing together those who wouldn’t usually find each other, in true good-ole-boy fashion. Even though the American Legion is transparently stuck in time with a masculine superiority complex and an America-only patriotic vibe, it’s still one of the best-kept venues in the neighborhood, as long as you keep your copy of the Feminine Mystique by your bedside.
The Farmer and Adele at Post 82, Photo by Brendan Malone
This isn’t the first Post I’ve been to, nor will it be the last. There was that one time in St. Augustine where my friend and I found ourselves in the middle of a wedding reception after party amongst the bikers and beach townies. We congratulated their nuptials and ended the night doing cartwheels in the adjacent yard. And that time on James Island where kids threw punk shows because it transformed into an all-ages venue back in the day.
For an institution that began in 1919 and has influenced monumental social change, I’ve been wondering if it’s always been this popular or is it quietly making a comeback?
Honky Tonk Tuesdays
Friends at Post 82, Photo by Liz Earle
Pool Queen Spiker, Photo by Liz Earle
Liz and the Turkey Shoot, Photo by Liz Earle