Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day - 60 years ago.

How times have changed.  Sixty years ago when I was a youngster (11 years old) or younger or a little bit older, Memorial Day was a holiday when everything, and I mean everything, including most gas stations, was closed.

It was a time when we all went to the flagpole in front of the police station/town hall/library to honor those who had returned from World War II, those who hadn't, and during that time we were in a police action (?) in Korea.

There was no parade, that I recall, because I only remember the gigantic 4th of July parade.  It was a day for family -- repeat family -- picnics.

The day started early for mom and us children.  Dad was usually on his way to Tri-state Bible Conference, if not he just stayed home and studied.  But mom and the children were going to Aunt Annie's for the annual Memorial Day family picnic (4th of July was usually at our house). 

We looked forward to this day for weeks.  We were going all the way to Springfield, PA (about a 45 minute drive) and we were going in a car!  Since our regular modes of transportation were bike or bus, going anywhere in a car, no matter how sick we got, was a treat.

There was no Memorial Day weekend, unless Memorial Day actually fell on a Saturday or Sunday or Monday.  If Memorial Day fell on Sunday, the holiday was celebrated on Monday.  A day off from school.  And it was a reminder that we would be out of school in two weeks. 

Memorial Day -- May 30.  Always May 30 -- once every decade or so on a Sunday, celebrated on Monday.

Today?  Everything is open, there are a few small town parades, and many family picnics. 
Here where we live today, there is a flag raising ceremony to honor those who have served (we still have a couple of WWII vets as neighbors), lots of Viet Nam vets, and a few Iraq/Afghanistan vets living in our small community (where everybody knows your name).  And a time to pay homage to those service people who have passed on. Then we pile into the community center for coffee and donuts.  That's how we celebrate today. 

My family is usually scattered on Memorial Day weekend, unless we plan a year in advance that we're having a picnic at one of the many parks nearby.  We especially like the airport playing area (small airport) for the children and there is a lot of shade there for the adults, as well as enough older children to watch out for the younger children.  But, as I said we have to plan a year in advance. 

This year is an off-year.  Next year we will be celebrating at the park.  Mama and papa will provide the KFC, the girls (ladies) will provide the potato salad, chips, olives and pickles, desserts, and drinks.  We'll meet and greet around three in the afternoon and party until around seven, which is when the grandparents and younger grandchildren poop out, and we'll all go home. 

I have loved Memorial Day since I was a child.  I don't know what our children remember or what my grandchildren will remember of our family MD celebration, but I hope they have the fond memories I have.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I wish I had a picture of mom's lilac bush (tree) in full bloom.  I said that wrong.  She had two purple bushes the size of trees, and one white lilac which didn't grow as well as the purple ones and was only about six feet tall. 

Oh, how I miss the sweet, sweet smell of those bushes, and the cut flowers through our tiny home. 

Mom also had a huge lavender bush just by the back porch on the west side of the steps.  I had a really big bush.  It's gone now.  It didn't survive the winter and the landscape hackers where we live now.

All I remember of spring was mom's forsythia bush which was a yearly chore for her to cut back.  It grew like a weed.  Then there were the honey suckle bushes which were backed up against the chicken coops.  The chicken coops no longer exist, nor does the honeysuckle. 

Next we all looked forward to the lily-of-the-valley which mom had planted against the east wall of the house and it multiplied.  She was very careful when she worked with the lily-of-the-valley because it was the home of black widow spiders.  There is no longer a lily-of-the-valley along the east wall of the house, which makes me sad.

Then came the roses, and mom loved roses (her name was Rose) and she planted a new one every year.

Every spring she would look through the seed and plant catalogs and decide which rose she wanted.  I remember the Peace rose, the Sterling Silver Rose, the Crimson Glory rose, and yes her Mrs. Minaver rose (love that movie).  I remember the year she ordered the Sterling Silver rose.  It was a new rose and she wasn't sure about ordering it.  It was a toss-up between that rose and another climbing rose.  Sterling Silver won out.  And it was beautiful.  I remember when it bloomed and mom nurtured that one bloom until we all (the all-inclusive Italian family) saw it and agreed it was, in fact, the color of silver. 

Being the little one I was, I thought it looked like lavender.

Most of her roses are gone now.  Some are still there and give off their wonderful smell late in the spring and if fortunate, another blooming late in the summer.. 
Last, but not least, was mom's irises.  In May she went to a garden near Springfield, PA which has dozens of iris plants.  Even I enjoyed walking through that garden and looking at the plants.  I dug up a couple of her iris plants and planted them along my back fence at the home in which we live prior to moving to our final home.  They are still there, putting forth many  more blooms than I ever got from them.  Of course they are over 20 years old at this point.

Thanks mom for the memories!