Remembering When

by Jerry Person
Huntington Beach City Historian

Dedicated to the people of Huntington Beach about its rich past

Huntington Beach remembers Memorial Day of 1922


A cold granite stone sits somewhere here in America, its face worn and forgotten. On its weathered face one can barely make out the letters of his name, Pvt. Somebody, born, age 19, died in service to his country.

This stone is a reminder that long ago this boy grew up, his voice echoing in some town or city, possibly even here in Huntington Beach, his toes may have even dug into our warm sand while he laid on an old blanket, flirting and making plans for the future with a young lady that he grew up with. But for now he and his comrades are forgotten in time except on this one special day on the last Monday in May.

Because of that nasty coronavirus COVID-19 our remembrance ceremony will not be taking place in Huntington Beach's Pier Plaza. But that is no reason why we should forget that day or the loved ones who made that last full measure of devotion.

Memorial Day or as it was called for years "Decoration Day" came about just after the American civil war as a way to remember and honor those who fought in that war and was celebrated on May 30th.

This Memorial Day we will remember one that was celebrated in Huntington Beach in 1922a and how the people of Huntington Beach went about observing this reverent and impressive day.

This early Memorial Day would be celebrated on a Tuesday in 1922. The Christian church began early as they observed it on Sunday, May 28th. The church invited all our citizens to come and hear an early Memorial Day message from Rev. A.W. Cummings.

On Tuesday, May 30th, people from all over gathered in Huntington Beach, some lining the sidewalks of Main Street while others gathered at Sixth and Main to be part of the Memorial Day parade. The parade began at 9:30 a.m. for a march to the end of the pier where the waters of the Pacific would be sprinkled with a shower of roses.

That year members of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the veterans of the civil war would lead the parade. Carrying the flag of their nation, their legs stiffen with age, but with a spirit of that of a young man that they once were, they marched along Main Street to the cheers of the crowd.

Two of those Civil War veterans, John Hearn and E.C, Seymour, rode in a car driven by W.S. Tubach. Behind this automobile marched a 16-piece band followed by members of the Women’s Auxiliary, the Women’s Relief Corps, the Daughters of Veterans and the Daughters of the American Revolution. Behind the ladies came the veterans who served in the Spanish American War of 1898.

Members of the newly formed Huntington Beach American Legion Post moved out to march the route to the pier. These proud veterans of the Joseph Rodman Post had served their country in the big war of 1918, a mere four years earlier.

It was now time for members of our Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce to march followed by members of our local Boy Scout Troop #1 and this in turn was followed by the children from our grammar school led by Hortense Reith. The children marched in the parade carrying the roses that would be spread upon the waters of the blue Pacific Ocean.

Sitting straight and tall in the saddle astride a beautiful sorrel steed rode Thomas Talbert, who that year would serve as its Grand Marshal. Talbert was dressed in white and wearing a straw hat decorated with red, white and blue ribbons.

When the marchers arrived at the pier they formed a circle with the band in the center and while the public stood at attention the band played The Star Spangled Banner.

Rev. Luther A. Arthur gave a five-minute sermon as he recounted the heroism of those who gave their lives for our country and exhorting the young to revere those veterans and their flag. Something all good Americans should do today.

Now the band struck up “America” followed by a benediction delivered by Rev. A.W. Cummings.

It was now time for the children to step forward with the roses and as they began spreading them on the water the first part of the remembrance ended.

In the second part automobiles arrived at the pier to take some of the veterans to the Huntington Beach Cemetery (Good Shepard Cemetery) where Captain F.P. Candee of the GAR called on Chaplain Luther Arthur to invoke the Divine blessing.

The original Memorial Day order promulgated on May 30, 1868 by General John A. Logan was read this day by Adjutant E.C. Seymour and after this came a poem read by Theodore Metz.

As the ceremony grew to a close many of the veterans visited the graves of their fallen comrades to decorate those graves with flowers.

When the parade on the pier ended some 25 members of the Rodman post drove over to Fairhaven Cemetery in Santa Ana to decorate the grave of the only member of their post buried there. Members placed a flowered-wreath on the grave of Jack French, the son of former city marshal Eugene French, while each member stepped forward and laid their boutonnière beside it.

A few fitting words were offered by Commander A.C. MacDonald and as the members formed a line “Taps” was sounded by bugler Frank Reeves. While the last notes of the lone trumpet sounded, the veterans turned away from the grave with lumps in their throats.

May the same feelings that those men had in their throats be felt in the throats of those who will be remembering this year’s Memorial Day and I hope they will recall all those brave people this Memorial Day 2020 and what it is all about.

Let no veteran’s headstone in any cemetery across the nation be forgotten and covered with weeds.