Happy Mayflower Day. Well, it was an idea, but one that never gained much support.
The United States on November 11 each year celebrates Veterans Day as a tribute to people who have served in the military. Veterans Day replaced Armistace Day, which marked the end of World War I.
That war was known as ‘the war to end all wars,’ but by 1940, much of the world was at war. Though the U.S. had not entered the war at the time, celebrating Armistice Day felt strange. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website says the editorial secretary of the American Bible Society that year recommended marking “Mayflower Day” on November 11.
The Mayflower ship landed on that day and the pilgrims aboard signed the Mayflower Compact, an agreement for a government that became a foundation for the U.S. Constitution.
The idea drew supporters, but not many. Armistice Day also drew less support, especially as the U.S. entered World War II.
Orange, like other towns, lost its heart for Armistice Day. In 1946, the Orange Retail Merchants Association voted to leave stores open on November 11, though the barbers still closed their shops. No schools closed, though the courthouse and city hall were closed. “In general, it appears that Armistice Day is getting to be a thing of the past,” the daily paper wrote.
Again, the U.S. entered a war. The Korean War lasted from 1950-53. President Dwight Eisenhower, himself a veteran, signed legislation making November 11 as a national holiday to honor all veterans, the U.S. Department of Defense website says.
The first Veterans Day was November 11, 1954, and Orange celebrated with a parade. The banks, post office, courthouse, and city hall were closed, though businesses were open.
The American Legion under Commander Sam Blanda organized the parade and set out more than 100 American flags in the downtown area.
The parade was set to begin at 3 p.m. and schools were letting out at 2:30 p.m. so students could watch. Bands from the city schools were marching.
Participants included the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, and Disabled American Veterans, along with their lady auxiliaries, plus, in those days of racial segregation, the Negro American Legion.
Also, the Sheriff’s Posse, Salvation Army, Red Cross, and Jaycees were joining the parade.
The route was from the courthouse east to Fifth Street, then north to Green Avenue and westward to Stark High School and West End Park.
The ceremonies included a “firing squad salute to the war dead,” then the lowering of the flag as “Taps” was played. The event ended with a ceremonial burning of flags being retired.
-Margaret Toal, KOGT-