It was 1973 and the day had arrived. Dressed in my blue shirt and my yellow neckerchief, I anxiously waited with my friends and comrades of Pack 162 near the front door of the Clyde Post Office. Not only were the Cub Scouts marching in the annual Memorial Day Parade . . . the Boy Scouts of Troop 172 were there also and a whole lot of other people. There was electricity in the air and I couldn’t hold my excitement! Scattered all around the downtown square were groups of different ages, all eager for the festivities to begin. Members of the Clyde Volunteer Fire Department were dressed out in front of the Fire House and old men in military uniforms stood tall with flags and banners. People lined the street in front of places like Bramer’s Store and Bud’s Barber Shop. They held small flags of red, white, and blue and the mood was very upbeat. The Clyde-Savannah Golden Eagles Marching Band was in attendance and one could hear the sounds of drums, trombones, trumpets, and French horns finding their place in the music that was about to start.
The Village of Clyde is in Upstate New York and is nestled halfway between Rochester and Syracuse. In 1973 it boasted a population of nearly 3,000 souls. It’s rich with history of wars of yesterday like many small towns in America and growing up there gave a young person like me a huge respect for those men and women who served in our armed forces. Fifty years before the Revolutionary War Clyde was an outpost on the fur trade route. It was named after the River Clyde in Scotland and became a village in 1811. It became a major commerce area after the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. The Canal passed straight through the village as did the railroad that opened in 1850. Clyde was a “wood and water stop” for the steam engines of the day and it was where Abraham Lincoln stopped on his way to his presidential inauguration in 1861. During the American Civil War (1861-1865), men from Clyde served in B Company of the 111th New York Volunteer Infantry. The 111th New York was present at, among others, the Battle of Gettysburg, the Battle of the Wilderness, the Battle of Cold Harbor, and the Appomattox Campaign. During the Battle of Gettysburg, the 111th took the second highest casualties as a regiment of the entire battle. Throughout the war, the regiment took a total of 1803 casualties, of which 158 were killed in action, 557 were wounded and 1088 were missing in action. Many sons of Clyde were lost in World War I (1914-1918) also and in World War II (1939-1945). Grave markers in both village cemeteries reflect these early years and soldiers are remembered to this day by the annual parade.
The parade started promptly at ten o’clock and there we went, marching south on Glasgow Street and over the bridge. The Cub Scouts were grouped behind the Veterans of Foreign Wars and we young boys were privy to the respect given to those old men from others along the parade route. Old men saluted the veterans and young men removed their hats. Older women held their hand to their chest and young mothers corralled their children briefly as the old soldiers passed by. There was a cadence shouted out by one of the veterans and we tried to keep up with “Left, right, left.” As it turned out, we didn’t have the patience for it and our attempts were short-lasted. By the time we reached St. John’s Catholic Cemetery, southwest of the village, our young legs were tired and our brows were wet. We turned the parade around and marched to Maple Grove Cemetery on the southeast side and my march quickened as I saw people from my own neighborhood on both sides of the street. Attention and respect was given to those graves as well and then the parade turned again to return to the downtown square where we started an hour before. One final stop was made in the middle of the bridge where the old men threw flowers into the canal as a final remembrance. It seems like yesterday.
Memorial Day is a time to remember those who served and died for this great country of ours. It’s a time to remember our brothers at arms, our grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, sons, and daughters and others who continue to serve. For me, it’s a time to reflect on what I have now and how it all started in my young life a million years ago. Thanks to all of you who have had a hand in helping to establish and maintain freedom in this world. Happy Memorial Day!