Memorial Day

by Ed Meyer

posted on May 27, 2015 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, | No Comments >>

If you surveyed 100 folks what they day was about, I would bet dollars to donuts many could not answer correctly. Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Over two dozen cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. Now, we can all use a little history lesson from time-to-time, but that’s not the case here.


The track had been the place for my family to gather for many moons. My Mom would make a big picnic lunch and we would meet my grandparents River Downs. I always tell the same story, but sometimes there is more to the meaning. As a child we would make our way out to the cemetery and Mom and Dad would plant flowers for his family. His father, grandfather, grandmother, and over time the list grew. We would play and goof around like kids, and didn’t take part in the gardening. We did this yearly ritual the day before, and the next day we would watch the ponies under the old maple tree. Years later I’ve worked most Memorial Day celebrations, and missed countless cookouts, parties, and the parades that travelled the streets of the little town I was raised. But now I took part in arranging festivities, calling the local honor guard, and finding the lone bugler who would play the National Anthem. He must have been nearing 80-years-old, and after a few beers would play a few lively tunes from his time. I’ve watched as military men and woman stood stoically in uniform as the color guard would march into the grounds. Families would stand together, and all would look to the waving flag at half mast. I always felt connected to the day, and there is not enough honored celebration that could do justice for the sacrifices made by many. I watched over the crowd as we had a moment of silence at 3:00 pm on Monday afternoon. The silence was deafening, but was greeted with great applause and cheers as we stood together on this day to remember what is important.


I make my way down to the race book as a I leave everyday. Sometimes I make a bet or two, and mostly it’s to say hello to some friendly faces. – Over in the corner was “Little Pete.” Now, Little Pete is probably about 70, and he comes everyday with his best friend and father “Big Pete.” They are a real pair these guys. I’ve been seeing them at the track since I was a kid. But on this day, “Big Pete” was missing. I strolled over and spoke about the races. We talked about winners and losers, but you could have heard a pin drop when I asked about “Big Pete.” – “Dad doesn’t come to the races on Memorial Day, Ed. He drives over to Spring Grove cemetery and watches the Civil War Infantry group conduct patriotic ceremonies. He then visits the grave sites of two pals from his youth.” – “That sounds like a wonderful way to remember what is important.” – “Oh, he loves this day. He takes a cooler of beer and sits at the graves of his friends. He talks about the war, and feels close to them again. But he’s just fine. He wants me to bring him a program for tomorrow, and I’ll pick him up around 5:30.”


I walked out to my car with another Memorial Day spent at the races. I saw the faces of old friends and many new ones, but the day is always special. Some spend it with family and friends, and others observe military activities to mark the day. As a country it is the unofficial start of summer, and before we go on to make more memories, it is a good time to look back. Look back and remember those who sacrificed, so that we may continue our way of life. As my car pulled out of the parking lot I smiled and thought of “Big Pete.” At his age he still remembers and honors the past in his own special way. I guess I’ll see him at the races tomorrow.