2017-11-05 / Insight

Voiture 1536 continues to quietly serve community

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com

DEERFIELD TWP. — While there’s hardly anyone who hasn’t heard of the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars, 40 et 8 is not a name that rolls quickly off the tongue.

The group, whose official name is La Société des Quarente Hommes et Huit Chevaux (French for the Society of Forty Men and Eight Horses), got its start in Philadelphia in 1920. Originally created as an honors group within the American Legion, which had been formed just over a year earlier, the group became an independent organization in 1959.

Unlike other veterans’ groups, said Wayne Jacobs, the Correspondent of Lapeer County’s Voiture 1536, 40 et 8 rules only allow one Voiture (boxcar) per county. He noted that Michigan only has 35 Voitures and Genesee County’s recently disbanded due to declining membership.

Lapeer County has had a Voiture since 1973. Because of the nature of the group, membership has never been large. Lapeer’s Voiture, Jacobs said, began with around 70 members.

The organization takes its name from the capacity of French railway boxcars used to haul men and materials to the front during World War I. The boxcars were typically marked that they could carry 40 men or eight horses.

The 40 et 8 is an invitation-only honor society and Jacobs said, “We haven’t done a good job of recruiting.” He noted that while four Voiture members passed away last year, the club recruited two new members.

He said the average age for Lapeer members is late 70s. But Jacobs added, the group does a lot financially.

Lapeer’s 40 et 8 makes donations to dozens of groups, among the Holiday Depot and LACADA, throughout the year.

Three years ago, the group took over the popular charity fundraising event Fantasy Forest at Lapeer’s Rowden Park after the women’s business group Zonta disbanded.

Lapeer’s Voiture 1536 also sponsors four poker tournaments a year at Legends Poker Place in Metamora, holds an annual raffle and hosts an invitation only Christmas dinner at its clubhouse on Norway Lake Road.

The group holds two meetings a month, a chemineau and a promenade. Each have their own rituals, but are open to all members.

The group participates in several parades around the county and was perhaps best known for the motorhome they transformed into an homage to French troop train. The parade vehicle was destroyed in a tragic traffic accident on the way to a Metamora event in 2014.

These days the Voiture uses a member’s MIA/ POW decorated pickup.

To learn more about 40 et 8, contact Jacobs at 810-664-0123.

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