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Long ago: Memorial Day September 12, 2012

Posted by Jenny in history, memoir.
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This is taken from a memoir entitled “When I Was a Girl” by my grandmother, Sybil Crowninshield Kennedy Bennett. The series starts here and alternates every other post.

It had been a long time since the Civil War, forty years or so, the Spanish War had been of short duration, yet there was a real continuing patriotic feeling behind the holidays. Memorial Day came on May 30. At this time the soldiers’ graves were all decorated with bouquets placed by the schoolchildren, marching from the schoolhouse to the cemetery, carrying bouquets of hawthorn, peonies, and any spring flowers, but always garnished, one might say, by ribbon grass, an ornamental striped grass which grew in most gardens.

The Old Soldiers [they were called this rather than Veterans] rode in carriages to and through the cemetery, stopping while they placed a new American flag on each soldier’s grave each year. We knew very well where the soldiers’ graves were in the cemetery, who they were and who were their relatives.

After the flags and bouquets were placed, there was an invocation and a patriotic oration, outdoors by the cemetery gate. People stood or sat on the grass during it listening quietly. The stillness was unbroken by any sounds except a dog barking or cattle lowing. There were no automobiles.

Uncle John Savery, a Civil War major and the husband of my mother’s cousin, Laura Wallace Savery, came out from Auburn to speak more often than any other I can remember. He was a dentist by trade, I use the word advisedly, an orator by avocation, and a major by station, a large wuff-wuff old Englishman, a relative and visitor to our house, but not much loved by my father [who was Irish, which may or may not have anything to do with it], who called him a “conceited old Englishman.”

This day and the Fourth of July, both national holidays for display of patriotism, were really celebrated by people as Americans and patriots.