Little Old Canarsie: The Next Generation - Memorial Day Memories
Hats off to Grand Marshal Father Edward Kane and the organizers of the 2013 Canarsie Memorial Day Parade. The parade has been a long tradition in Canarsie going back to the days when the community was a village in the Independent Town of Flatlands. When I was growing up during the years known as the “Baby Boomer” era, it was a big thing to be able to march in the parade. Along with our veterans of war, there were also church marching bands for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and, in my case, Sea Scouts.
The Sea Scouts were like the Boy Scouts except we wore sailor uniforms. My father served during World War II in the Navy and, when I was eight years old, I felt so proud to put on that uniform. I started going to meetings in 1959 in the brand new John Wilson I.S. 211. Starting in September, every Friday night we would march around the cafeteria and learn to tie all different kinds of sailor knots. The year would culminate with the big march on May 30th. This was before holidays were moved around for the convenience of long weekends.
If my memory serves me right, the parade stepped off in front of the American Legion Hall at East 92nd Street and Conklin Avenue. It headed west to Remsen Avenue and at Canarsie Cemetery. Once at the cemetery, we would all line up and stand at attention as the sounds of a 21-gun salute filled the air. The ceremony took place around the area known as Veterans Circle, where the fallen heroes of the Civil, Spanish-American, the World Wars and Korean War were laid to rest. After a few speeches, the march continued around the cemetery and out onto Avenue K to East 93rd Street for the return to the American Legion Hall for ice cream and cake. Some years, the parade came out of the cemetery, went south on Remsen Avenue to Seaview Avenue, to Canarsie Road and then returned via East 92nd Street.
In the late 1960s, America was being torn apart over the war in Vietnam. In Canarsie, passions ran deep on both sides of the controversy, but for one day we came together united to honor those who died in the name of freedom and gave us the right to voice our opinions.
The headstones in Canarsie Cemetery bear the names of German, Irish, English, Jewish, Jamaican, Haitian, Trinidadian, Asian and other origins. There are symbols of the Jewish, Catholic and Protestant faiths. From the Revolution and every war that has followed to Iraq and Afghanistan, brave sons and daughters of Canarsie have given the ultimate sacrifice for the rights we all enjoy today. As in the past and in the present and for years to come, all who call Canarsie home say a prayer of thanks.