, Newburyport, MA


November 16, 2012

Good enough for Norman Rockwell


I took one next to Ralph Ayers, who had also arrived with a walking aid because he’s recovering from a tumble. Those who know how active Ralph has been in and for Newburyport will appreciate what slowing down means for him.

We go back to a very long time ago to the heart of old Ward 5 when I would scratch for a penny to buy a Squirrel Nut Bar from his family’s store at the corner of Kent and Monroe.

There’s historic precedence for gathering before the Newburyport City Hall to give voice to history, and there was a significant attendance — largely of families with children — spread in a kind of semicircle from the corners of Pleasant and Green streets to Brown Square.

Many a speech has been made from City Hall steps since the 19th century, and sound travels well from there.

I was particularly touched by Mayor Donna Holaday’s reading of the names and brief histories of veterans who had died between Memorial Day and Veterans Day this year.

I found it to be a surprising number, but then recalled that there are only something over 200,000 of those of us remaining of the 13,000,000 who took part in the second of our world wars, and the monthly rate of deaths hastens to its ending. Add to those the veterans of subsequent wars, and the numbers keep growing.

We stood to salute our nation’s anthem and sat to listen to the speeches. When all was said and done, parade resumed to its ending at the Veterans Cemetery.

The settings have changed over time, but the participation has been ever thus.

I recall standing with my mother and baby brother, Harley, (who would, one day, complete his 35th mission over Germany) to watch a Memorial Day parade in which veterans of our Civil War were waving from passing automobiles.

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