Posts Tagged ‘Memorial Day’

Birthplace Bragging Rights

May 28, 2012

Waterloo, N.Y., claims the official title as birthplace of Memorial Day, but down South, a feud about the holiday’s origins still simmers.

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Nugent Hardware

May 27, 2012

Nugent HardwareWaterloo, New York© karen e. titus | all rights reserved© karen e. titus | all rights reserved

Waterloo, New York

This business hasn’t traveled far since opening in 1887 – it started two doors up the street from its current site, according to owner William B. Velte Jr. It moved to this spot in 1932.

Velte bought the store in 1965. Apart from a 28-month stint in the service, starting in 1950, he’s been a steady presence. “I love to fix screens and windows,” he says. Velte started working in the store in the winter of 1948, right out of high school, earning $26 a week. The first thing his boss told him: “If we have another Depression, you’re gonna have to take a cut in pay.”

Velte says the secret of his success is simple. “Work. 60 hours a week. I clean the streets, I clean the parking lot, I don’t take coffee breaks.”

Though he appears to sell everything in his store, it’s not quite the case. At one point his daughter (who began working at the store when she was a 4th grader) came by with a customer. She told her dad, “He’s looking for a propane fogger.”

Not even bothering to look up from the screen he was repairing, Velte replied, “That’s not us.”

Drummer, Memorial Day

May 27, 2011

Drummer, Memorial DayWaterloo, New York© karen e. titus | all rights reserved© karen e. titus | all rights reserved

Waterloo, New York

Cemetery, Memorial Day

May 6, 2011

Cemetery, Memorial DayWaterloo, NY© karen e. titus | all rights reserved© karen e. titus | all rights reserved

Waterloo, New York

Waterloo, N.Y., takes Memorial Day seriously, staking its claim as this holiday’s birthplace. In the summer of 1865, local druggist Henry C. Welles suggested honoring the Civil War’s dead by placing flowers on their graves. The following May, the village held its first official celebration, draping evergreens with black, flying flags to half mast, and parading to the three village cemeteries to decorate the graves of the fallen soldiers.

One resident was moved by a more pragmatic patriotism. Speaking from the diner she owns on Main Street, which was filled with American flags, she watched through the window as other town residents worked in a frenzy to prepare for the parade. “They’re expecting 30,000 people. Where’re they gonna put them? 20,000 people. No room. 10,000 people. Where’re they gonna put 10,000 people? They’re making a big mistake.”


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