Memorial Day memories

New York state, 1982
New York state, 1982

I took the picture when I was on vacation back in June of 1982, outside of Naples, New York. Luckily I wrote that information on the back of the picture, or all I would be able to tell you was that I thought it was in the Finger Lakes district of New York state a long time ago. Memory is fleeting.


I don’t have any memories of a specific Memorial Day weekend. There was sameness to many of them, and that’s what I remember, the broad generalized memories.

On the Sunday before Memorial Day (back then it was celebrated on May 30th each year), the Sunday School children of the Methodist Church would walk down the street and join the children from the Christian Church Sunday School, and from there walk to the Rolling Prairie Cemetery carrying small American flags. When we got to the graveyard we would find the graves of a veteran and place our flag in a marker designed to hold the flag. I believe that those markers were supplied by the VFW, but I could be wrong about that detail.

We also had a family tradition that took place in South Bend. We would drive (well I rode in the car) to my Uncle Earl’s and Aunt Louisa’s house in the Paxton Park division of South Bend. Every year we would gather there, and then go to the graveyards to decorate the graves of family with flowers. I remember my Uncle Earl still called it Decoration Day.

After delivering the flowers to the graves, we would get back in our cars and return to Paxton Park. My uncle would fire up his grill. He used charcoal in a grill that he had built. He was a stone mason. I remember the hamburgers and hot dogs. I don’t recall if he ever grilled anything more exotic, like sausages, but he may have.

As the afternoon wore on we would make occasional checks of the radio to hear who was leading, and then who won the Indianapolis 500. That’s the closest I ever got to caring about the race.

In my memories it never rained on Memorial Day. Each and every one was sunny and warm with no humidity, just gentle breezes. I believe we may have one just like that this year.