It’s Memorial Day and it’s raining in Central Florida. It’s a few minutes before high noon and I’m listening to the local radio station as I am writing this blog. I listen to the local AM radio station a lot these days as I write. I call into their request line about three times a day and tell the DJ that what they really need is a half-hour radio show where some guy reminisces about growing up in a small town during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Persistence is in the Mabey genes. Actually, it’s closer to being stubborn as a mule.
Anyway, back to Memorial Day. I must have helped my dad build at least a dozen floats or more for the big Memorial Day Parade back in my old hometown in New Jersey. For over two decades, Dad served as the Vice President of the town’s historical society. The big parade was always held on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, right after everyone ate lunch.
We had about six or seven true-blue members in the historical society. We had about 40 people on our roster, but only about three or four people would come out to do the nuts and bolts work of building the annual float. I remember that building the float was a blast.
Art Smith was the local artist in our town. He was an incredibly talented artist. About a dozen of his best paintings of the Morris Canal were proudly displayed in the town’s historical museum. I remember how humble Art was about is paintings. He took the compliments he received in stride. He got a lot of compliments on his paintings.
Frequently Art would dress up as Uncle Sam and would be the star of the Memorial Day float. The kids just loved him. I remember how he used to carry a lot of hard candy in his pockets and would give the candies to the children. One time, I told Art that it might not be a good idea to be giving candy out to small children in this modern world. He got really mad at me and said something like, “what’s this world coming to? Uncle Sam’s giving out candy to the children. It’s a sad state of affairs when everything is looked on with suspicion.”
Deep down I knew Art was right, that it is a sad state of affairs when and old man could no longer dress up as Uncle Sam and give out candy to the children who crowded around him after the parade. Still, it’s the world we live in now.
Art passed away a couple of years ago. He was a kind and dear old man. Oh, he’d yell at you if you disagreed with him about something or how a display should be layed out in the historical museum. Then, five minutes later he’d come back to you and say something like, “I heard it’s gonna rain tomorrow.” That was Art’s way of apologizing. I still miss dear old Art.
I’ve included a photo of Art and Dad with one of the Memorial Day floats that they had built. Art is the one sitting on the float dressed up like Uncle Sam. Dad is standing behind the float with the peace sign. I think my beloved father was sending a message to us. If you look close enough at Art’s costume, you’ll see that his pants pocket is filled with candy. Art never took to worrying about what people thought. I miss them both.
Peace, love and harmony,