In This Place: May 28, 2014
Decoration Days of Yore
To start research on this week’s column on Memorial Day celebrations before the end of WWII, I first had to remember that our grandparents called it “Decoration Day,” and that its primary focus — whatever the pomp, parades and festivities — was a solemn cemetery visit to decorate the graves of veterans. The history of Decoration Day began shortly after the Civil War to honor the dead of that bloody conflict, whose graves were liberally scattered throughout every community in America. However, certain Southern states resisted the holiday until sometime around WWI, when the holiday’s portent was shifted to honor the fallen veterans of any war. It is interesting to note that here, even before WWI had begun, Catskills denizens used Decoration Day to honor veterans of all previous conflicts. Decoration Day back then was solemn and ceremonial; it all crescendoed at the graveyard, with “Taps,” and a sermon or benediction of some sort by the clergy.
Here in the Catskills, another more cheerful Decoration Day tradition was — base ball! It was often the first game of the season, and said that summer time pleasures had finally arrived. The next two items are also from the same edition.
June 6, 1913 – Real Ball Game at the Fair Grounds Decoration Day
Margaretville 13, Bovina 7 was the score of the game played between those two teams here on Decoration Day. This being the first game played here this year by the town team, a large crowd turned out and witnessed one of the prettiest games seen in many seasons. In the first Bovina made two runs on bases on balls and two wild pitches, but the Margaretville boys came right back in their half and evened the score on hits by Myers, Etts and Beecher.
In the second Margaretville made two more on hits by Todd, Hanlon and Etts. In the fifth and sixth innings the local boys made eight more and after that took things more easy.
Bovina threw a scare into the Margaretville camp in the seventh, but after making four runs they were soon stopped by the great fielding of the Margaretville boys.
Hollenbeck and Etts were the heavy hitters for Margaretville, each making a three-bagger. Myers, Hollenbeck, Etts and Bussy had several hard chances in the field which they handled in great style. Beecher caught a good game and only allowed one man to steal.
Henderson’s catch of Turner’s long fly while standing on the right field fence was the feature of the game.
Game called in 8th to allow Bovina to catch the train. Summary: Hits off weeks 12, off Bouton 11. Struck out by Weeks 10, by Bouton 5. Three-base hits, Etts, Hollenbeck, J. Myers. Two-base hits, Etts, Bouton. Stolen bases, F. My- ers, Etts, Todd (2), Hanlon, Hafele. Hit by pitched ball, F. Myers (2), Weeks. Wild pitches, Bouton (2). Umpires: Mungle and Grant.
Decoration Day Program was a Big Success
Red Cross Society decorated graves of old Soldiers
The Decoration Day observance here last Friday was by far the prettiest and most charming the village has ever seen. The parade formed in front of the High School building at 9 o’clock and moved through the principal streets to the village cemetery.
The parade was led by the Margaretville band, following there were about 25 veterans in automobiles, with colors flying. Behind these came Spanish War veterans, the Red Cross Society in uniforms, school children, citizens, fire department and Fife and Drum Corps. At the cemetery Dr. A. C. Follett made a rousing patriotic speech and the services were brought to a close with “Taps” and the firing of a volley over the graves of the veterans. All veterans’ graves were decorated with flags and flowers by the Red Cross Society. The ceremonies reflected much credit upon those who took such a deep interest in the matter and made the day a success.
Boys Got Home
The Arkville Junior Baseball nine visited the Griffin Corners team on Decoration Day, having driven in a lumber wagon, but while their victory over the opposing team was complete, yet it was somewhat marred by the fact that their noble steed was lured away during the ball game and the boys were obliged to haul their wagon by hand until Mr Wm. Jones came along and volunteered to draw them home.
The VFW’s campaign to sell red poppies to raise funds for veterans had barely begun in 1922; it had reached our mountains by the next year.
May 25, 1923 – Wear a Poppy Memorial Day
Sale of the Red Flower Will Meet With Universal Response
The Valentine Newton post of the American Legion, including ex-soldiers for all Middletown township, is co-operating with other posts of the Legion in New York state to raise funds for a state camp in the Adirondacks for ex-service men. The plans for the camp call for $2,500,00, most of which should be raised this year. With the completion of the project there will be available to all veterans of the state whose health require a rest in the mountains, a camp of their own with its ministry of good health. This will be a godsend to a number of men who sacrificed their health in war service for the country, but have never received the care or compensation that their condition required.
This campaign is the first money-making effort of the Valentine Newton post, and the post is proud that its first service is thus for others rather than for itself. Most of the American Legion members here find health enough in their own loved mountains. For the service of comrades less fortunate, a mountain camp will be a boon.
The method of the campaign, all over New York state, will be the selling of poppies. The poppy is the Legion memorial flower. A supply of high grade silk poppies, made by French disabled men and their dependents for the American Legion, has been ordered and are to be distributed to the members of the post Sunday evening, for sale throughout the community. Whatever profit is made is for the mountain camp.
On Memorial Day every good citizen will wear a poppy on his lapel, or on her dress or in her hair, as the case may be. The supply ordered will be sufficient to show the poppy red throughout the communities of Middletown. Because of the difficulty of equal distribution, there may be some disappointed, who would be glad to show interest in the campaign. All who make early request of some member of the post will have flowers to wear to show their
The minimum price of the poppies is ten cents. Whatever more is given will be turned in to increase the share of Middletown in the state project for the health of ex-soldiers.
Wear a poppy on Memorial Day!
Memorial Day weekend crowds were regarded as a reliable barometer of the summer’s coming success over the decades.
June 4 1926 – Catskills Mountains Were Visited By Thousands — Rain Sent Them Home Early
Thousands of city people and tourists sought recreation in tho Catskills over the Memorial Holiday. Ideal weather and an extra day by reason of Memorial Day being observed on Monday brought a record breaking crowd to the mountains.
All day Friday and Saturday the highways leading to the mountains were congested with traffic and although it is reported as the biggest Memorial Day crowd in years there were few accidents.
The trains over the West Shore and the Ulster & Delaware were filled to capacity and in several instances it was necessary to send out additional sections.
Many who were disappointed over the rain Monday which made traveling difficult found that it was ideal weather for trout fishing. Numerous fishermen who lined the streams in the western Catskills were rewarded by exceptionally large catches of trout. Although the boarding houses were filled to capacity during Saturday and Sunday, the people left early Monday and by nightfall the mountains were again deserted. Many report that the season was the most successful in several years and predict a good boarding season during the summer months.
Even in the booming 1920s, Memorial Day remained a somber day of remembrance; long celebrated on May 30, eventually the fourth Monday of the month was made an official holiday with government offices shut and non-essential businesses encouraged to close. Here in 1926, that tradition is still new enough to need clarification.
May 27, 1927 – Quiet Memorial Day Planned
Memorial day is scheduled for a quiet observance in Margaretville, Sunday evening the American Legion post as an organization will attend services at the Presbyterian church, and Rev; John S. Lull [take] for his sermon theme a thought appropriate for the occasion.
Memorial day at 10 o’clock the Legion post will march to the cemetery, the graves of all soldier dead will be decorated and their ritual observed. A number of family parties have planned outings and basket lunches to enjoy the day. At 2:30 there will be a ball game between the Windham nine and the Margaretville town team. The following business places will be closed for the day: S. Bluestone, N, L. Lattin, L. Bussy & Co., G. H. Patrick & Co., Inc. (emergency electric service answered), Swart Mercantile Co., Catskill Mountain News, Myers & Bell, R. M. Delameter (papers distributed on arrival), D. L. Stewart, Peoples National Bank, A & P Store, M. R. Garrison and Korn’s Apparel Shop. Etts’, Levy’s and Bishop’s markets will close at noon for the day.
June 7, 1929 – Andes celebrates Memorial Day
Boulder Dedicated In Presence of Large Gathering
Last Thursday Memorial day at Andes was perhaps the most successful that was ever held here. The weather man gave us a little scare in the morning by sending some rain but it cleared early in the forenoon and it was a perfect day for the occasion.
After the dinner was served at the M. E. church rooms the parade formed in front of the fire house, headed by the Andes Military Band, and made up of the Grand Army men, American Legion boys, schools and fire department. The line of march made its way to the cemetery where a short program was held and again the parade was formed and marched to the Memorial Park.
The colors were taken onto the platform that had been erected for the occasion, which held the speaker of the day and a few others and costumes were gotten for the day that represented all the wars from the Revolution down to the last war and were worn by some of the local people. The band or fife and drum corps would play what was appropriate for each and the person wearing such uniform would come from the rear, salute Uncle Sam and take his place on the platform. This was done until all were located. Dr. Frisbee gave a short description of where the boulder that was being dedicated was found and by whom and also how it was brought from its nest on the mountain to its present resting place.
There has never been a larger gathering on Memorial Day in Andes and that is saying a lot as we question if there is a village in Delaware county that is more patriotic than this village and this goes for the people outside as they are of the same spirit and make plans on getting here on that day. A lot of credit is due all that helped to make this such a success and we can’t help but mention Postmaster D. M. Dickson, who had put his whole heart in this for the past year and then sickness overtook him and he was taken to the hospital the day before. Harry Smith should be mentioned for his work as a fifer as it has been a long time since the people here have had the privilege of hearing this good old time music. To sum the whole thing up it was a whale of a success in every way.—Andes Cor.
The summer crowds are still coming, but by the 1940s, notice that something important has shifted . . . no mention of trains!
June 6, 1941 – Thousands Rush To Catskills For Decoration Day
Hotel, Boarding Houses Filled – Gay Throngs Are Everywhere for Three-Day Holiday
Memorial day traffic was the heaviest in many years. Hotels and boarding houses were filled and scores of them turned away guests for the reason they could accommodate no more. Fleischmanns hotels were not prepared for the rush which descended upon that village Thursday evening and Friday of last week. It seemed like old days all through the mountains.
The News asked various hotel men and businessmen about the crowd. The most conservative estimate was “the best crowd in 10 years.” Others put the thousands who came up at the most folks who had visited the Catskills in 20 years for the spring holiday.
The Kingston Freeman tells the following story of the Decoration day traffic in that city.
“It was the heaviest Memorial day morning traffic that I have seen in years,” said Chief of Police Charles Phinney.
The police department had made arrangements for handling a large influx of motor traffic, and through efficient policing no serious accidents were reported.
For two years the Catskills have been entertaining less and less people. The folks who were here over the holiday expressed the intention of returning for the summer months. If they do mountain resorts will return to the prosperity they knew in former seasons. The Decoration day crowds have always been considered the best gauge to measure the coming summer hotel and boarding house season.
Here’s a parade that sounds more like the ones we enjoy today: ice cream at the firehall instead of visits to the cemetery. By then, most towns (like Andes in 1929 and Shavertown in 1945) have erected Veteran’s Memorials or Honor Rolls where solemnities for all the town’s war dead can be held in the center of town or in a park, with “Taps,” prayers and military salutes.
June 5, 1942 – Decoration Day Busy One for Firemen
The Arkville firemen had a busy Decoration day. They joined the parade in Margaretville in the morning and had a parade in Arkville in the afternoon, led by the American Legion, followed by the central school band. The Arkville firemen were led by little Ann Wilber, dressed in a majorette suit, carrying a baton. The Roxbury and Arkville fire trucks were in the rear. The parade marched to the Firemen’s hall where the band was treated to ice cream. - Arkville Cor.
And from the same issue, this Andes patriot suffers in the line of duty.
Breaks Hip When Placing Memorial Day Flag
Mrs. William Clement was painfully injured Saturday morning while in the act of placing a flag on the porch. She had stepped on the top rail and, in some manner, slipped or lost her balance and fell to the porch floor. She was removed to the Delhi hospital where it was found that she had broken her hip. It will take some time to mend. Friends hope that she will fully recover and return to her home.
I guess by this juncture folks were wishing the trains still ran . . .
June 4, 1943 – Three Thousand Stranded In Catskills Monday
At least 3,000 New York city residents who spent the Memorial day weekend in the Catskill mountains were stranded there Monday night while other thousands of travelers battled for space on overcrowded transportation facilities throughout the state.
Mayor Luis De Hoyos, Monticello and Emil Motl, chairman of the Sullivan county board of supervisors, declared a state of emergency and appealed to the ODT to relax its order cutting bus travel by 20 per cent. The order was issued after many vacationers had arrived for the long weekend. Mayor Hoyos said all types of automotive equipment, including school buses, had been pressed into service by two bus lines, which stopped selling tickets to New York city on Friday and Saturday. Even many who arrived in the Catskills with return tickets were unable to get home. Many New York city taxicabs were reported to have taken fares in and out of mountain resorts.
June 8, 1945 – Shavertown Dedicates Honor Roll May 30
The dedication of the Shavertown honor roll took place Memorial day. The program included an address by Rev. A. Balden; invocation and benediction by Rev. A. H. Shultis of Rosendale, who made the honor roll; and dedication by Ivan Miller of Union Grove. Misses Betty Hoag, Gertrude DeSilva and Jean VanKleek, all of Shavertown and members of the Andes central school band, played three patriotic selections, and at the end Miss Van Kleek sounded taps. With the beauty of the river and mountains as a natural background, the honor roll adds to the appearance of the community. The flag and golden eagle at the top are hand-carved and make it impressive. The four red bars at the top signify the Four Freedoms, and thirteen stars down the center represent the thirteen original states. Much credit goes to Rev. Shultis for this beautiful piece of handiwork. Shavertown folks appreciate all who helped in any way—to raise money, prepare the grounds, erect the honor roll, or took part in the ceremony.
As always, I’m open to suggestions and amendments at firstname.lastname@example.org.