In a way, doing an article on Long Meddowe Days is like writing a book report on the Encyclopedia Britannica. The number of events, sites, and contributors is so great as to render it almost impossible to give adequate coverage of all aspects of this remarkable confluence. This being Memorial Day weekend, I will focus primarily upon the service that was held Sunday honoring our veterans and our town. I will start with a brief history of Long Meddowe Days, and also include a profile of Longmeadow's Eldest Veteran.
In an attempt to capture the myriad of sights and events that transpired over the course of Long Meddowe Days 2003, I have assembled a series of nearly one hundred photographs, which are presented to you as a slideshow, thanks to the wizardry of Webmaster Jim Moran. It begins with our Town Parade, and then proceeds chronologically through the events of the weekend. Being only one guy and one camera, I could only be in one place at a time. I missed the Tim Paige Road Race, and I apologize for that. I also, regretfully, missed the cemetery tour as well as the fine group of Longmeadow musicians called "Scattered". Not every booth or concession made the cut, either. Additionally, the Historical Society did not allow picture taking at the Storr's House, citing security risks.
Nonetheless, I think you will enjoy the show! I couldn't have done it without you! After next week, this article will be placed in the Longmeadow Chronicle Archives, where it will remain viewable for Eternity.
Peter Santos, Founder of Long Meddowe Days in its present form, tells me that the first Longmeadow Centennial of 1883 was the model for today's grandiose event. Peter assembled a committee of twenty or so to perform the daunting task of putting together an event of epic proportions that would serve to commemorate and celebrate Longmeadow's Bicentennial, which was still several years away.
Due to the enormity of the task, it was decided that the first Long Meddowe Days would be held in 1979, and another in 1981; to serve as "dress rehearsals" for the Bicentennial event of 1983. Both were smashing successes, attracting crowds of around 20,000. They were moneymakers as well, Peter added.
"By a vote of the Town of Longmeadow, passed at its annual meeting in the Spring of 1883, the maximum sum allowed by the Statutes of Massachusetts - one-tenth of one percent of the grand list - was appropriated for celebrating the first Centennial Anniversary of the town's incorporation, and for publishing the proceedings of the occasion. The Celebration took place upon the 17th of October - the exact date of the signing of the Act of Town Incorporation in 1783."
The published proceeding of the celebration turned out to be a treasured volume of over 400 pages, which stands today as an invaluable source of Longmeadow historical data. It is my source for these quotes, which will put you right there at the event.
The first-hand accounting of that day in 1883 begins "The morning of the long-anticipated day broke with roseate hues and a crisp and frosty air, upon a village green already prepared for the day's festivities. Upon the exact site of the old Meeting House, and just in front of the present one remodeled upon the ancient frame [site of our present-day flagpole], had been pitched a triple-masted audience marquee, with a smaller one adjoining it for collation conveniences."
"One of the most noticeable and interesting features of the scene was the large number of aged men and women seated upon the platform, who, with glowing faces and youth renewed, sat through the protracted exercises of both morning and afternoon, to the equal pleasure of all who, with loving respect, greeted their venerable presence."
"The natural dampness and possible chill of the earth-floor within the tent had been guarded against by sufficient carpeting of soft, sweet hay; the skillful intermingling and arrangement of hundreds of settees and hundreds more of chairs in radiating sections, afforded convenient and restful seating for all; while the glow of the sun upon the canvas was just enough for cheery light and genial warmth. Thus, upon the hour, the place, and the multitude seemed to rest the glow and the gladness of a perfect festal day."
The day's events consisted almost entirely of prayers, hymns and various addresses delivered by Rev. Wolcott and Rev. Storrs. That evening, these were followed by a dozen lengthy after-dinner speeches delivered by a variety of prominent citizens and invited guests. The Concluding Exercises consisted of the multitude "Gathering more closely together, at the suggestion of the President, and clasping hands with each other as they conveniently could, the audience and the band united in the good old parting hymn and tune of 'Auld Lang Syne'. The Doxology in long meter was then sung, after which the Benediction was pronounced by Rev. Mr. Harding, and the centennial services were ended."
Upon this model, our present-day celebration was to be based. Although the original was held in October on the exact date of the signing of the Act of Town Incorporation, today's Long Meddowe Days is held the week before Memorial Day. Thus, without conflicting with personal family activities, a degree of solemnity is lent to the occasion. The rest, as they say, is history. Whatever vestiges remain from its original model are represented, in large part, in our present-day Memorial Service.
Our present-day Memorial Service has its origins in a custom that goes back to 1870, thirteen years prior to the Centennial Celebration, when a small group of citizens met on Longmeadow Green for a brief Memorial Service to honor our fallen comrades who had fought and died for Our Country. This year's service was emceed by Peter Santos, and consisted of invocations, prayers, and several speeches by veterans, town citizens, and state and local elected officials. Suitable choral accompaniment was provided by the Williams-Glenbrook Middle School Choir, under the baton of Director Michael Smith. The presentation and laying of the Memorial Wreath was performed by Lloyd Waite and Donald A. Gaffney, Chairperson. This was followed by a Memorial Salute by Capt. Elliot Levy's 9th Mass Battery. A stirring rendition of Taps, executed by Lisa Braun & Amy Paysnick preceded the final "To The Colors", executed by Robert H. Marshall & Ernest L. Blake.
It was encouraging to see the turnout for this solemn ceremony. The few folding chairs set out were quickly filled, and the remaining crowd watched raptly from a distance. I have a feeling that the ceremony would have been SRO even if four times the amount of seating had been provided.
Following the ceremony, I assembled our more venerable veterans for a group portrait. It was a unique opportunity I could not resist. The game warriors, most of whom could still don their original uniforms, were glad to indulge me while I shot from various angles. There was a lot of joking and good fellowship evident following the Pomp and Circumstance of the stately service. The gents were really relaxing and enjoying the moment. This photograph shall serve well to preserve that moment not just for them, but also for future generations to come.
One of the veterans is Doctor David Cohen. He is a retired dentist. At 95 years of age, he is probably Longmeadow's Eldest Veteran. I had the opportunity to visit with him later that week at his Longmeadow residence. I'd like to share his unique story with you.
Doctor Cohen, along with his daughter Lois, lives at the home he had built in 1938 off Western Drive. His wife of fifty-five years passed away several years ago. The home is quite tidy, and the walls of the doctor's study are covered with family photos and mementos of a family man and a dentist's long career. The décor is very substantial yet homey, filled with objects older but very well cared for. Although his hands are crippled and disfigured from the ravages of arthritis, his white moustache is absolutely perfectly trimmed. A sign of a meticulous mind and attention to detail. Although he moves slowly, it is methodically and with purpose. His speech is also unrushed and well thought out.
I gave him a copy of the group photograph, and the recollections started to come forth. The print never left his hands the entire time. Born August 17, 1907. Doctor Cohen was the son of a grocery store owner in Norfolk, Virginia. At the advice of his physician, the elder Cohen moved the family north to escape the deleterious effects of the damp southern weather. The family briefly lived with Dr. Cohen's uncle, Max Lavitt, who owned a tobacco farm in Ellington, CT. After graduating from Tufts Dental School, Dr. & Mrs. Cohen first lived on Belmont Avenue near his in-laws before building the Longmeadow home.
Doctor Cohen was well into his thirties when World War II broke out. He served from 1941-1946 in the medical detachment of the Coastal Artillery. In his entire hitch, he never left stateside. He was stationed on an island in Boston Harbor named Warren Island. It was quite an historic place, with an ancient jail that dates back to the Civil War, and was armed with four sixteen-inch guns. Doctor Cohen tried to become a paratrooper, but his age was a factor. Also, his Commanding Officer Lowe liked him and "wouldn't let him go." Several times during the interview, Doctor Cohen remarked almost wistfully "I never did anything that was very heroic". We discussed the difference between "hero" and "celebrity" as set forth in Joseph Campbell's "The Power of Myth." His determination and need to do something heroic was to come to fruition, but not until later in life.
After a long and productive career as a dentist, during which Doctor Cohen was able to provide substantially for his family, he arrived at that point most people look forward to as a time of relaxation and reflection. Not so for our good Doctor. Since birth, only child Lois has required ongoing help and medical attention, due to a birth injury, says Doctor Cohen. To compound matters, as his wife's health deteriorated Doctor Cohen found himself once again playing the role of caregiver to his two ladies. Today, well into his nineties, Doctor Cohen still does the cooking, cleaning and laundry on a daily basis. Only every other week does he have a woman come in for a few hours "to do the heavy work."
While money is not a factor, Doctor Cohen prefers to perform
these labors of love himself. Judging by his present state of
health, I think the Doctor will be at it for quite a while. We
discussed the Hebrew concept of [pardon my phonetic spelling]
"seh dah kah"
The heroism and valor that Doctor Cohen felt he missed during the war while sidelined performing dentistry has come his way in full measure, in a quiet and personal way. The daily sacrifices of a good husband, father and now caregiver have earned Doctor David Cohen many times over the rank of hero. As Neil Young so aptly put it "Long May You Run."
Even before I met Doctor Cohen, he caught my eye during Captain F. Carey Miller's sensitive reading of "They Gave Their Lives". During his moments of reflection and meditation, I was able to capture the moment. It is a portrait in feeling I share with you all.