This recent Memorial Day, Susie and I did something we haven’t done for years. In a very real sense, we Turned Back the Hands of Time! Let me give you a little background….
In August of 1986, Susie, Billy, and I moved to our new (to us) house at 40 Fairfield Avenue in Mineola, NY. About 3 months later, our family of 3 morphed into a family of 5 when Billy’s sister and brother Krissi and Kenny were born. For the next 31 years, we called 40 Fairfield our home and the Village of Mineola the place where we lived. When Billy was in first grade, he along with several of his school friends wanted to join Cub Scouts, so off we went to Cub Pack 246 that met at Mineola’s First Presbyterian Church. Billy’s friend John’s Dad, Andy McInnes, volunteered to be Cubmaster, and as I remembered my great experiences being a Boy Scout, I volunteered to help in anyway I could, and I became the Pack Treasurer. Starting that first year, in May of 1987, Billy and I joined Pack 246 and marched in the Mineola Memorial Day Parade. For the next 28 years, with and/or without our sons Billy and Kenny, I continued to march in that parade…first with Cub Pack 246, and eventually with Mineola’s Boy Scout Troop 45.
Whatever happened on that year’s Memorial Day Weekend, marching in Mineola’s Parade was a given. In the early years, we’d go to see fireworks at Bar Beach in the Town of North Hempstead on Friday night, and then many times head down to the Jersey Shore for Saturday and Sunday, and then head back to Long Island for the parade. Starting in 2005, when we bought the house in Ocean City, NJ our routine changed. Now instead of Fireworks on Friday, we’d head down to Ocean City, and spend the weekend at our house with our Ocean City friends! Some weekends we had kids and their friends with us, and some weekends we were alone, but every year, we’d set an alarm for 5 AM on Monday, throw clothes on, and head up the Garden State Parkway, to Long Island and our parade.
In 1998, our good friend Steve Grosskopf became the Scoutmaster of Troop 45 (I talked him into taking the job), and starting that first May, we gathered at their house and he fed the boys breakfast with the help of his wife Pat and my wife Sue. Eventually the breakfast morphed into an after-parade gathering for the Scouts and the families of the Troop at their house, and we were always there! We’d arrive home about 9 AM, I’d change into my Scout uniform, Susie would get herself ready, and we’d head over to Pat and Steve’s house for the parade. After we all headed off to the start of the parade, Susie and Pat would settle on the house’s front porch, and watch the parade pass by, yelling their support for the Boy Scout contingent!
It was a tradition of long standing, that continued through 2015! Then something changed… I retired from WABC in January of 2016, and now since I was no longer working, there was no reason not to extend our celebration of Memorial Day at the shore. It was very strange for us, that something that had been a part of our family’s life since 1987 was no longer there. It only got stranger when we sold the Mineola house in 2017, and now we really had no connection with the village! We might not have been there for the parade, but it was still a part of me, and every Memorial Day, my Facebook posts were filled with pictures of the Scouts of Troop 45 carrying flags and marching in Mineola’s parade!
So since that first May in 2016, our Memorial Day Weekends have been centered in Ocean City, but we have fondly remembered our time in Mineola, our friends in Troop 45, and years and years of parade participation. For six years that was our MO, but not this year. This year, we grabbed that clock and turned back the hands of time, proving once again that you can go home!
What is different? Well, our friend Steve Grosskopf announced that he was in his last year of being the Scoutmaster of Troop 45. 24 years of work and dedication, and of making Troop 45 one of, if not the best Boy Scout Troop on Long Island, had not been easy, but Steve had done it, and now it was time for him to pass the torch to the next generation. A couple of weeks ago, I got a crazy idea, and one day I shared it with Susie. “You know, we were there for Steve’s first parade, what do you think about being there for his last?” Susie liked the idea, and for the next week or so we batted around the idea. We really wanted to be there for our dear friends Pat and Steve, but wondered if we’d feel out of place and would we know anybody? After all, the last time we’d been there for the parade was 7 years ago in 2015! On Sunday afternoon, I sent him this text message, “Just checking in with you…How are you doing? Are you all set for the parade?” His answer to that text took away any doubt we might have had. “All good thanks! I know this will be my last one, so it is bittersweet. Wish you guys were here having cocktails on the porch.” Game On!
On Sunday we picked out the clothes we were going to wear, made sure our overnight “to go” bag was fully packed, and filled the car with gas. A shower before and an early bed time, and we were ready to go! The alarm woke us at 5:15 Memorial Day morning, and by 6:25 we were backing out of the garage and on our way to the Garden State Parkway! The trip back to Mineola is just under a hundred and 20 miles, and since we were on the road early, traffic was not an issue. The parade was scheduled to start at 11 AM, and we were in great shape time wise. At about 9:15, we rolled down Westbury Avenue, and parked the car around the corner from their house!
Activity was already in full parade mode as we walked up to the house, with Scouts and Adult Leaders gathering flags, and preparing for the after-parade party. As we came around the corner, and walked up to the front of their house, Steve came off the front porch, looked at us, and said, “Oh My God…what are you two doing here?!” We exchanged hugs and told him, “We were here for your first one, no way we were missing your last one!” Mission Accomplished! Pat was equally surprised when she came downstairs, but thrilled that we were going to be there for the day! She insisted that we spend the night, and we gladly agreed.
As the 11 AM hour got near, Steve and the Troop moved over to the parade starting point around the corner, and Susie, Pat, and I settled in on their front porch. Something new for me this year…for the first time since we first marched in 1987, I was going to see the parade, and what better place to see it, than Patrice and Steve Grosskopf’s front porch, a location on which the 4 of us had spent many, many enjoyable hours over the past 20 years they’ve owned the house! Promptly at 11 AM, the parade set off from Mineola’s Wilson Park, rounded the corner of Union Street and Westbury Avenue, and sailed by our front row seats! Lots of memories and lots of folks we recognized from our 31 years in Mineola, and we enjoyed all the groups from the Boy Scouts to the Mineola High School Mustang Marching Band (which all 3 of our kids were members of), and from the Mineola Fire Dept to the Portuguese Dancers and their castanets, and everybody else!
The parade route is 1.8 miles through the village, ending at Mineola’s Memorial Park for a brief service of remembrance and placing of wreaths. Steve was the MC for the event (I wrote his speech), and from all accounts it was a brief but meaningful reminder what the day was all about. Just after 12 noon, the Troop started to arrive back at the Grosskopf’s house for what has become a Troop 45 Tradition over the years, the Troop’s Memorial Day Parade after-party! The men of the Troop immediately went to work grilling hamburgers, hot dogs and bratwurst, while the boys changed out of uniforms and into proper attire for the pool and games. Troop Families showed up, and a great time was had by all!
Susie and I looked at each other several times during the afternoon, and commented about how the 7 intervening years since we’d last been in Mineola for a Memorial Day seemed to melt away, and how easy it was to fall back into old routines. A lot of the people we knew over the years are not still involved, but the folks of Troop 45 are always like family..old or new. We were welcomed back and made to feel at home, and were so glad we were there for Pat and Steve, and Steve’s last Memorial Day as Scoutmaster. All in all, it was a great plan, and worked out perfectly! As TR used to say, “BULLY!!!!”