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Friday, May 24, 2024

Bailey - The Soldier Who Lived in the Drum - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

According to Wikipedia, this weekend's Memorial Day holiday evolved in the years after the United States' Civil War.  Starting with the common practice of cemetery gravesite decorating, Confederate graves seem to be its origin, rapidly spreading to Union graves, then followed by the two World Wars.  Beyond flags and flowers, the day frequently includes parades, speeches, the Indianapolis race, and it was eventually moved from May 30 to the final Monday in May, creating a three day holiday considered the unofficial start of summer.

Original caption: "You bet I'm goin' to be a soldier, too, like my Uncle David, when I grow up."

"On Decoration Day" by John T. McCutcheon, Public domain between 1900 -1905, via Wikimedia Commons.  

I remember my mother calling Memorial Day by its older name of Decoration Day.  Such traditions exist in other countries.  I present a program about World War I from the viewpoint of a Michigan woman, Oleda Joure Christides, who was a bilingual phone operator at General Pershing's headquarters in World War I France.  

I think it's important to people all over the world to remember those who fought and died protecting their homeland and its values, whether an official day or not.  The stories of those battles deserve to be remembered.  It may be a time of community togetherness, but it should be more than just partying and sports.  The men and women who gave their lives or returned with the visible and invisible scars of war deserve this.  

My own family includes an uncle who survived the landing on D-Day in World War II.  As his older sister, my mother saw the difficulties he experienced readjusting to civilian life.  I'm not sure how much he shared with his wife and children.  Surely that was up to him.  For my own part I ought to see how much, if at all, "Unca Bill" told them.  The men and women of those years are fast disappearing.  History needs to save as much of their story as they are willing to tell.  It's called oral history and if you don't feel ready to ask about these experiences, go to your local library catalog and put in the subject of "oral history"  for a few suggestions.

While war is always something we hope will not return, it is worthwhile to know about the past and be prepared to defend ourselves and what we value.  I found an interesting tale aimed at children from that storyteller extraordinaire, Carolyn Sherwin Bailey.  It was originally printed in Stories for Sunday Telling and while she says the stores have all been used in a Sunday School setting, the headings show their general usefulness: Sunday Fairy Stories; Stories of Play (source of today's story); Holiday Stories (not including Memorial nor Decoration Day); and Stories of Everyday.  

(Orff Percussion Instrument Children's Toy Two-sided Snare Drum available at Walmart)

Obviously this story opening the "Stories of Play" is not limited to Memorial Day.  Similarly remembering our veterans should not be limited to any single day.

If you would like to see how schools in the early Twentieth Century celebrated Decoration Day, pages 346-350 of Common School Education and Teachers World, Volume 3 gives a look back.  Until time machines are perfected, Public Domain works are our best way to travel to the past.

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