Flowers, parades, memories

Flowers decorated the graves of dead soldiers who fought in the Civil War. It was a beautiful, lovely tribute to those who paid the ultimate price. Our national holiday was initially called ‘Decoration Day,’ named for the local flowers that were placed at those Southern burial sites. Today, the holiday is known as Memorial Day. There are many stories about how Memorial Day got started. Many of our relatives were there. But somehow, some of our stories are missing from American history texts. Click here for a link to my past post about the African American origins of Memorial Day.


US Color Troops, Civil War
US Color Troops, Civil War

They served in the Civil War and even before that, historic documents prove. One of my relatives may be in the Book of Negroes, a story featured in a recent PBS series, about Negro soldiers who fought on the British side during the American Revolution. My white ancestors served in the Civil War. I think I found at least one of my black ancestors who served in the US Colored Troops. I am still digging to find the records of those brave souls. Click here for highlights from the Book of Negroes.


But today I am taking a break from my genealogy research. While working in my flower garden, memories about Memorial Day parades came to mind. I recalled hearing drums and bugles and running towards the sounds. I saw uniformed men and women of all ethnic backgrounds marching and saluting in formation on the parkway.

Final internment of my brother John A. Smith

Do you remember Memorial Day parades? My reflections were from childhood. Images of pageantry, uniforms, marching bands, military women and young soldiers filtered into my mind. I especially remembered the old white soldiers from the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars proudly wearing their medals. I especially loved the old Black soldiers (and Latinos too) — the Harlem Hellfighters-369th Infantry Regiment, Buffalo Soldiers, Tuskegee Airmen, and the Montford Point Marines.


Throngs from the neighborhood would squeeze together to lean over the wooden barriers to see the action. There were black regiments and famous marching bands too. You could hear their drums and trumpets charging ahead from blocks away. They would step and strut with style! It was showtime. The crowd went crazy and joyful tears flowed. The black soldiers were the stars back then! Today, our military parades are different. America is different.


Montford Point Marines
Montford Point Marines

My husband said he marched in Memorial Day parades as a teen with the segregated Boy Scouts. He said his troop marched up Hillside Avenue in Queens during the 40s or some time after WWll. My memories were from 1950s Brooklyn on Eastern Parkway. I think I was with my brother Sidney and our dad.

Lots of folks claim they started Memorial Day —African Americans, Southern white women, folks from Boalsburg, Pa, Waterloo, NY and Carbondale, Ill. They all may be right! I wonder what you think. Click here for the US government’s version of Memorial Day’s history. Yes, May is a great month for flowers, parades and memories.

2 thoughts on “Flowers, parades, memories

    1. Thank you Patricia for your kind words. I’m always amazing where our Colored soldiers turn up! True, the Civil War US Colored Troops arrived out your way after the war. But during WW ll, a group of Colored troops that trained in South were sent out to North Pacific. Maybe some of them settled there later. They were nicknamed: ‘Triple Nickles’ and ‘Smokejumpers.’ They were part of an all-Colored (Negro) airborne unit in WW ll- 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion.Here’s link A Tuskegee Airman told us about them. It’s still oral history!

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