In honor of Memorial Day, I’ve decided to share with you an excerpt from my book VALLEY MEMORIES: A Nostalgic Look At Growing Up in the Lower Naugatuck Valley.
Here’s the excerpt from the chapter titled May Memories.
Another special May memory is of the Derby-Shelton Memorial Day Parade. On parade day my dad and I would walk the block and a half from our house to the parade route at the point where it turned from Howe Avenue onto Kneen Street (Shelton). My dad would scope out the most likely spot for getting a good view and always tried to position us near the corner where the parade participants would be turning from lower Kneen Street onto Coram Avenue, just above Somo’s Market. Once we had found a good position my dad would buy a balloon for me and tie it to my wrist (when I was really young). Both of us would hold small U.S. flags to wave as the parade passed by.
It seemed that all of the houses on our street emptied out onto the parade route each year to pay homage to the military veterans as well as those who gave their lives in the wars. Latecomers to the parade route were hard-pressed to find a good vantage point. After waiting for what seemed an eternity we would hear the drums of a marching band, most often The Connecticut Hurricanes, which heralded the approach of the parade. Each unit of the parade – military unit, drill team, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, auxiliary unit, veterans unit – was greeted by loud applause and cheers. Most years the parade would filter by us in about forty-five minutes. We all stood watching the parade until the final unit, usually a fire truck with a flag flying from its rear, was out of sight. By then it would be close to noon and most years the temperature had turned warm enough for folks to shed sweaters and jackets. Slowly the crowd would disperse and we would find our way back to our respective homes. I especially liked that time of year because the yards we passed were so gaily decorated for the holiday. Folks had planted their annuals in beds of red, white, and blue/purple blossoms. Our own yard was no exception and to this day I still put out pots of red geraniums for Memorial Day as did my mom. By the time my dad and I returned home from our leisurely walk, mom was ready to serve us our holiday lunch: fried chicken, potato salad, maybe a macaroni salad, and either a chocolate cake (dad’s favorite) or a strawberry shortcake.
The remainder of that delightful holiday was quite often spent at Indian Well State Park. My Uncle Stan had a small motorboat that he brought down to the river. My cousins and I took turns accompanying Uncle Stan as he carefully maneuvered up and down the Housatonic River. I remember how we were always admonished to wear our life jackets and remain seated at all times. When we were done riding the waves we children were allowed to help set up the food that our mothers had brought along while my dad and Uncle Stan guided the Ri-An-Bo (that was the boat’s name) out of the water and onto its trailer. Later there would be a game of softball or volleyball. Not surprising that we all returned home weary but happy from our Memorial Day celebrations – and in my case always sporting a sunburn!
Wishing you all a wonderful Memorial Day in remembrance of those who fell in the line of duty. Thank you to their families who lost so much.