Clare County Review & Marion Press Columns

Postcard from the Pines: Memorial Day – Still Marching

Main Street Marion Memorial Day 1923

Decoration Day, as Memorial Day was originally known, was established in May 1868. It was designated as the day to decorate graves and honor the memory of soldiers killed during the then very recent American Civil War. Today, we honor the memory of all soldiers who have given their lives and service in all the wars in which America has since participated. In big and small towns, America remembers. Before Marion was an official place in 1889, she remembered.
From her earliest days, Marion has honored those who served our country. Our veterans are always remembered. The Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War Union veterans group, began the memorial tradition and the local chapter of the GAR marched in honor of their fallen comrades and veterans lost in wars that followed; the Spanish-American War and WWI. By WWII our Civil War veterans were gone. Decoration Day, 1930 was the last attended by any Civil War veteran. There were only two still living, William N. Hall and George Frantz and Mr. Frantz was not able to attend. Although in feeble health himself, Mr. Hall proudly saluted his comrades.
There are approximately 25 Civil War and six Spanish-American War veterans buried at Greenwood and more in the area cemeteries. In just a couple years the Marion Press reported that… “In the absence of the GAR a number of the World War veterans were present and formed a squad at the graves of their fallen comrades. Earl Jones, veteran of the Spanish-American war, blew Taps on the trumpet. It was a most solemn and fitting ceremony.”
For much of her history, Marion’s parades have formed on east Main Street; early on, in front of Corwin’s Opera House (now the Post Office corner), today at the High School. Then as now, all veterans from all eras, many baring flags, lead the way. They are followed up by the Marion Band, providing the marching music. Behind them, members of various Village organizations, civic, church, and school clubs and any other citizens who wished to march in the traditional line up. Old photographs show that at times it appears that most people participated in the parade, leaving few to watch them pass.
Memorial Day parades have always stopped at the river where, ‘the waters were decorated in honor of the sailors and marines’. The military guard has always fired three times over the water. The parade then proceeded to the school and climbed into cars for the short drive to Greenwood Cemetery. Once there, the program continued with a tune or two by the band, a prayer by one of the local ministers, a military salute at the grave of a chosen soldier and Taps.
Not much has really changed in our local Memorial Day observances, except a shortened parade and where speeches are made. We still honor all veterans and do so at the Main Street Memorial. A remembrance wreath is still dropped in the river. Taps echo on Main Street.
By the time that the latest group of volunteers has remembered local veterans, they will have placed in the neighborhood of 300 American flags on veteran’s graves, in four local cemeteries. As always, we remember. Gone but never forgotten.
Marion mark Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, 2024, at the Veteran’s Memorial on Main Street at 10am.
This week’s photo is of the Memorial Day Parade at Marion in May, 1923. The parade, led by WWI veterans and the American flag, is westbound, at the corner of Main and Mill Streets. The businesses seen prominently are, left to right, White’s General Merchandise (Osceola Co. Meal Site), Conklin’s Marion Drug Store (Friend’sThrift), Strubel’s Hardware (Dynamic Physical Therapy) and a bakery now the tanning salon.
The vet’s are followed by a large number of girls carrying wreaths, destined for graves. Behind them, and as far as may be seen, are Marionites, marching down the middle of Main Street. Behind them are carloads of folks, headed for ceremonies at the cemetery. Few people are observing from the sidewalks.

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