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New American Legion Post 106 Commander Mike White poses with Ashley Messer, his cook, waitress and right-hand woman, at the Post Café. White wants Dade to know the café is now open six mornings, Monday- Saturday. “Come and have breakfast,” he invites. “We’re still here.”
 

By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter

 

"People don't know we're open," said Mike White from across the table at the Post Café in American Legion Post 106.

When he took over management of the café in January, said White, it was serving breakfast only two days a week. "I had a feeling that it should be open longer," he said. So White at first extended the café's morning hours to Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, then, several months ago, decided to go whole hog and open for breakfast all week, from Monday to Saturday, 6-11 a.m. "If it makes it, fine; if not, at least we tried," he said.

Things started out slow, but White says business has been picking up every week. He thinks the reason for the initial slump was that Dade County - hadn't and still hasn't - realized the Post Café, in addition to serving hot-dog-hamburger type fare during the Legion's musical evenings and Bingo nights, has now returned to dishing up its famous $5 breakfast-with-everything six days a week. 

“What I’m hoping is that people will get the word out that we’re open,” said White. “I’ve been told that we have the best breakfast anywhere.”

Getting the word out was one reason White and the Dade County Sentinel found themselves staring across coffee cups at each other one recent weekday morning. Another was that, with Veterans Day approaching, now seemed a good time to make the acquaintance of the new commander of Post 106.  White was elected to lead the Trenton post in July and took office this summer, succeeding Gary Patterson. So, ladies and gentlemen, please meet Commander Mike White.

White is a spare, courteous man with a cheerful way of speaking and enough dash about him to remind new acquaintances that, while he is now a sedately married father of three who has served as post chaplain, he was once a sailor with a girl in every port.

A Vietnam-era veteran who served from 1968-’69, White did his active duty as an electrician in the U.S. Navy working in a dry dock off Spain. “A floating dry dock is like a big tub,” he said. “We open the stern gate and pull the vessel in. We shut the stern gate and then we pump the water back out. The submarine or whatever will come down and sit on blocks. After all the water’s out, then we will go down and work underneath it.”     

After discharge, White was a National Guard reservist from ’70 to ’76. “And I got in more trouble because of it,” he said. Once he’d slipped the military leash, he explained, he disliked being tied down to the schedule of training weekends and camp sessions. “I was a runabout, more or less,” he said. “I was a floater. I was a hippie.”

White had grown up in Arkansas but when he did finally settle down, in the 1980s, he ended up in this neck of the woods because his mother and stepfather lived in Dalton. 

As far as making a living, he spent the last 23 years of his career as a cop, working as police officer, sheriff’s deputy and U.S. Marshal, culminating in a stint as chief of police of the small town of Varnell; but before that he was a merchant, running among other ventures a TBA, which he clarifies means an automotive store. The initials stand for tire, battery and accessories. “I’ve always been in small business,” he said.

All this was in Whitfield and Walker counties, and White continues to make his home in Rossville. His gig in Dade came about because in the regional American Legion administration he was junior vice commander for the seventh district of Georgia, so that Trenton was one of the posts in his area of responsibility along with Rome, LaFayette, Chickamauga and Ringgold. The Trenton post needed some help because it was struggling under a crushing load of debt. “Really, they were getting ready to lose their charter if something didn’t change, because they couldn’t pay their bills,” said White.

So White's initial involvement with Post 106 was when, at the beginning of the year, he took over the café. He separated it from the post itself, incorporating it into an independent business entity called Dade Post Café, Inc. The company pays the restaurant's employees and taxes as well as remitting 15 percent of gross revenues to Post 106 for the use of the building.  

"It usually turns out between $390 and $400 a month," said White. "So at least they're getting something - and they're not paying out nothing." He has high hopes for the café going forward but right now, he said: "It does good to pay the bills."

How did managing the café morph into managing the Legion post? White shrugged. "A bunch of members, like 15 of them, came to me and said would you run for commander," said White. "That's all I can say."

So White drives back and forth from Rossville every day and he’s doing his best for Post 106, though he stresses he’s not doing it alone. “The commander, the only thing really he does is steer the vessel the way it’s supposed to go,” he said. “Your adjutant and your finance officer, they’re the machine. They run the post.”

Willard Short is the post’s financial officer, but he’s been out of action recently with some health issues, so Ray Moore, the adjutant, is the acting financial officer.

But White is sufficiently in the financial know to say the post is doing better now. A lot of its misery came from the construction-type mortgage it was carrying, he said, and a neighboring Legion post rescued it from that. “Post 40 out of Ringgold came in and bought the note from the bank, and they’re carrying the note for the post,” said White. “They have dropped the premium from $1,200 to only $800 a month.” 

The 106 vets think a lot of Post 40, he said.   

As far as steering the vessel, White has brought back the post’s popular Pickin’ nights on the second Thursday of the month – this month, by the way, that’s next Thursday, the 14th – and the post continues to hold its free Gospel nights every Monday and host Bingo on Friday and Saturday. Each night, doors open at 6 p.m. and the main event begins at 7 p.m. White has ambitions to add at least one more Thursday Pickin’ evening a month.

For now, though, his main drive is to get Dade County back to the Post Café. The food is good, he reminds, the staff is friendly and helpful, with any kinks in the service now ironed out – "I had to dissolve that," says White – and prices remain low. Not only is the full two-egg-with-choice-of-meat-and-sides still five bucks, he said, but there are $3.50 specials and several a-la-carte stand-alones for $1 or $2.

White says he’s been advised to raise prices but has steadfastly resisted that. “We’ve got people come in at what we call the Liars’ Table and you can’t change it or they won’t come in,” he said. “I’d rather have them six days at what they’re paying than lose them, and then where’s the purpose?”

So this week, as Dade gives thanks to those who have served America in uniform, White invites the county to do so behind a coffee cup, with fork in hand. “Come and have breakfast,” he urges. “We’re still here.”

American Legion Post 106 is located on Highway 11 North. Its telephone number is (706) 657-5275.


Visitor Comments
 
Submitted By: Hilda Submitted: 11/7/2013
The food is very good. Keep it up guys.




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