They call it the “unofficial start of summer,” but to anyone who has ever served in the Armed Forces or knows someone who has, Memorial Day means much more than just barbecues and fun in the sun.
You’ll see its meaning across our neighborhood this weekend, when communities mark Memorial Day with parades around town and solemn ceremonies and public memorials honoring those who, as President Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address, “gave their last full measure of devotion” in defense of our freedom.
Memorial Day is a particularly special time for the neighborhoods of Ridgewood and Glendale. Every year, the two neighborhoods come together as one to commemorate Memorial Day with a parade hosted by the Allied Veterans Committee of Ridgewood and Glendale.
The parade, which will be held for the 80th time on Monday, May 28, has a wonderful history of its own that editor Robert Pozarycki documented in the May 16, 2013, issue of the Ridgewood Times. We are proud to bring you excerpts of that article, and we invite you to come out and enjoy this year’s parade:
In the aftermath of the First World War, the Ridgewood and Glendale memorials — located at the respective corners of Myrtle and Cypress avenues and Myrtle and Cooper avenues — were erected to honor residents in both communities who served and died in “the war to end all wars.”
According to local historian Maryellen Borello, the Glendale monument was funded by the citizens of the community, while the Ridgewood memorial was paid for through fundraising efforts by the Gold Star Mothers, the organization of mothers who lost sons in combat.
In the years that followed up until 1938, each community held separate Memorial Day commemorations, including parades and placing flags on the gravestones of soldiers at local burial grounds such as Cypress Hills National Cemetery, Borello stated.
The reasons for why veterans in Ridgewood and Glendale decided to join together for a Memorial Day parade were not made immediately clear. However, from the first joint march in 1938 through the 1980s, the Ridgewood-Glendale parade was a lengthy affair that included stops at many tributes to fallen soldiers in both communities.
Borello noted the parade generally started at the former home of the Garity Post at the corner of Fairview Avenue and Woodbine Street in Ridgewood, then proceed eastward to Prokop Square, located at the corner of Fresh Pond Road and Cypress Hills Street. The march then continued into Glendale, heading down Cypress Hills Street, Central Avenue and 71st Street to the Glendale Memorial Triangle.
After a brief ceremony at the Glendale Triangle, the march then moved west along Myrtle Avenue to the Ridgewood Memorial Triangle.
During the 1980s, Borello stated, the parade was shortened to its present route on Myrtle Avenue between Cypress and Cooper avenues. The starting point of the parade alternates each year: Glendale in odd-numbered years, Ridgewood in even-numbered years.
Some Memorial Day history
The first Memorial Day was commemorated nationally on May 30, 1868, three years after the conclusion of the Civil War. It was initially proclaimed by Gen. John Logan, then-commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, as a day to remember those who fought and died in the war between North and South. Flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
Five years later, New York became the first state to officially recognize Memorial Day as a holiday. Upon the conclusion of World War I, Memorial Day was changed to honor not just those who died in the Civil War, but all Americans who gave their lives in defense of the United States in any war past, present or future.
For decades, Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30, regardless of what day of the week on which it fell. In 1971, the official observance of Memorial Day was moved to the last Monday of May as a result of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968.
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Share your history with us by emailing [email protected] (subject: Our Neighborhood: The Way it Was) or write to The Old Timer, ℅ Ridgewood Times, 38-15 Bell Blvd., Bayside, NY 11361. Any mailed pictures will be carefully returned to you upon request.