Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

Monday, May 31, is Memorial Day, or as my grandmother called it, Decoration Day. That designation emanated from the order of Gen. John Logan in 1868 that appointed May 30th a day “for the purpose of strewing with flowers the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion (the Civil War).” In the middle of every May, I would accompany her to Lakeview Cemetery where around all our deceased relatives graves the decorative bushes were trimmed and tidied and geraniums planted.

As former Gov. William O’Neill used to say, “Who doesn’t like a parade?” And here in East Hampton, we always celebrated Memorial Day with a Parade. Excited kids, streamers and American Flags affixed to bicycles, a Poppy Queen, VFW and American Legion Color Guards, the High School Band, our Town's elected leaders, Fife and Drum Corp., Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cubs and Brownies, and fire engines, organized in formation at the Congregational Church, stepping off at 9:15 sharp!

At Lakeview Cemetery prayers for the honored deceased veterans, an honor guard firing blanks in salute and trumpeters blowing the haunting, echoing, “taps” as all stood in silence and remembrance. Marchers would then continue on to the Congregational Church lawn and the Veterans Memorial.

More prayers, a salute to our Nations Flag and speeches. Following the reading of each veteran’s name laid to rest during the year, a snare drum would paralyze each in attendence as we remembered.

The High School band played stirring pieces such as the Star Spangled Banner or Battle Hymn of the Republic and students would recite “In Flanders Fields” and Lincoln’s unforgettable tribute that began, “Four score and seven years ago….” To this day my eyes tear up whenever I hear these words.

Monday, our National Holiday, is a time to drink in the importance remembering those who served so valiantly for all that we have. I invite you to join the parade.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

In Honor of Our Veterans

On May 31st, like thousands of other communities around our Nation, East Hampton will celebrate Memorial Day, in honor of those who so valiantly gave their lives for the freedom and liberty we all enjoy, but often take for granted. Probably very few have ever noticed or studied our first Veterans Memorial. It sits in the Village Center on the corner of the Congregational Church lawn. The annual Memorial Day Parade culminates their and a tradional service occurs, remembering those veterans who passed away during the year. Typically High School Students make presentations such as The Gettysburg Address and the poem In Flanders Fields with a guest speaker.

The Memorial's origins in the Village Center stem from a public meeting held at Carriers’s Casino attended by over 800 people on the first Armistice Day (Nov. 11, 1920) recognizing the end of World War I, after the organization of the local American Legion Post No. 64. Carl Price, author of Yankee Township, delivered an address about The Town in Seven Wars, and his “remarks were concluded with a taunting reproach for East Hampton's failure to erect a memorial to the men and women who had represented the town so valiantly in the several wars.” Present was Henry T. Sellew, Civil War Veteran, then over 80, who left the meeting “in high dudgeon, vowing that he would not rest content until such a monument had been erected, even if he had to go get the stone himself.” “This he did literally, with the assistance of Mayo S. Purple; and sixteen oxen bore the huge glacial bolder from Marlborough, where on the church green it was set up.”

Dedicated on Labor Day 1921, Thomas J. Bannigan, Vice Commander of the National American Legion and Governor Everett J. Lake unveiled the monument, which disclosed a rough monolith typical of the New England hillsides, and bearing bronze tablets inscribed “TO THE MEMORY OF THE PATRIOT MEN OF CHATHAM WHO BRAVELY BORE THEIR PART IN THE WAR OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION; THE WAR OF 182; THE CIVIL WAR; AND WW I,” with their names thereon inscribed.

Friday, May 7, 2010

"Play Ball" - The Arrival of Spring

“Play Ball” from bellowing voice of Umpire Martin "Bub" Daly signaled my official arrival of spring growing up in East Hampton. Little League season commenced.

East Hampton has had a famed and glorious baseball past, renowned in Middlesex County League play back to the 1880s. Its teams produced remarkable competitors who provided entertainment within our community and comradery between the players where factory workers or mechanics played along side the mill owners. Our baseball tradtions continue today involving nearly 500 boys and girls in this great American pastime. Saturday May 1st marked opening day at Seamster Park, named after my old friend Andrew Seamster, a man who had been deeply involved with youth baseball.

Most noticeable and evident Saturday was the lack of media attention. Here, enthusiastic kids involved in wholesome sport, with parents, grandparents and siblings rooting them on, didn’t even get a blip on the live eye evening news. If a drive by shooting had occurred or some kid was apprehended dealing drugs, news crews from Channel 8, 3, 30 and 61 would be competing to be first and live with the report. Such a poor commentary on what is really important and newsworthy!

But back to 1957 - remembering my first season – playing for the Cardinals. With my neighbor and best friend Bruce Tolhurst, we’d either bike or walk from our houses on East High Street just up from Thatcher's Drug Store, to Berwick Field or as known to the real oldtimers, Drury Field - now the location of Chatham Apartments behind St. Patrick’s Church. Governor William O'Neill Drive into the Senior Housing Complex was a mere walking path to our town's one little league field.

Our team's Manager, Ed Bazar or his eldest son Eddie, the Assistant Coach, would warm us up, hitting sharp grounders and deep fly balls before the games commenced. On that team were David and Tom Bazar, Bill Dennehy, Joey Kagerer, Alan and David Battit, Don Booth, Steve Clark, Bruce True, David Fortin, Frank Connolley, Harry McKinney, David Heckart and Batboy Jim McKinney, competing against the likes of the Dodgers, Giants, Reds and Cubs. Those summer evenings remind me of a time of innocence when the biggest trauma facing us was whether or not we would get a hit, or maybe get hit!

Maybe a prelude of my political career to come, I think they used my nick name in the caption above. Little League pitchers don't always have the most commanding control. I probably got on base more that year from being "beaned" than from hits.

I encourage you want to relive a little of that era. Some evening or Saturday morning, take in a game at Seamster Park next to Memorial School. With bleachers, announcer booths and food stand, it is a far cry from the wood plank benches of 1957. The surroundings have changed – these are among the premiere Little League fields in Connecticut – but the joy of the game has not.