By Rosalie Tirella

Downtown Spencer this morning: Lilac at the parade. photos: R.T.

You know me and Spencer parades. So there I was, today, at 9 a.m, with Jett and Lilac, on our little stretch of Main Street, outside our apartment building, waiting for the Spencer Memorial Day parade to roll by. I stood with about 75 other folks – kids, seniors, couples, young families with a baby or two and single men and women waiting for that Annual Spencer Memorial Day Parade to crest the hill by Town Hall and to make its way past us and our tiny clutch of businesses and WHITCO WHITCO and more WHITCO.

Waiting for the parade.

I stood outside our building feeling the sun on my face, watching my dogs nose their way into the families seated by us – on their shameless quest for doggy biscuit handouts – and thought: It’s all here, the homemade pageantry of rural America. Town life before cell phones, Facebook and Instagram and even the Internet. A workaday Main Street with townsfolk in sweatshirts and light jackets making their own fun – not paying for “entertainment,” most of which is borderline pornographic these days.

Part of the parade route.

There we were, Jett, Lilac and I on our Main Street, Rose chatting with folks as we watched the decked-out Jeeps and cars drive by with big American flags attached to front and back, crisp American flags whipping in the wind. …

Beep beep!

There were the young girls passing out small, cloth American flags to everyone as they walked the miles to the town cemetery with that spring in their step that only the young know. …

Handing out American flags.

There were the really little kids grabbing their flags and immediately waving them at everything. The older vets rode in cars down the parade route …

He served his country.

… the Boys Scouts troop and Cub Scouts were in uniform as they held their banners and flags, the Spencer firetrucks sparkled and the Spencer firemen wore their dress uniforms as they marched ahead of their just hosed-down trucks. …

Proud first responders – Spencer firefighters.

Waving to the crowd.

There was the usual gaggle of local pols …

… the representatives of all our US military branches – Navy really stood out – and, of course, the excellent David Prouty High School Marching Band playing the theme music of the US Navy, US Marines, US Army … rousing, soul-stirring music that we don’t hear often enough. Maybe hearing the music would bring us all back together again …

The David Prouty High School Marching Band

Budding musicians!

I think I drove by David Prouty High when the school had an outdoor fundraiser for new uniforms for their marching band. They must have raised the money because these marching band uniforms that the kids wore today were beautiful – school colors vibrant and those toppers with the orange plumes (or were they pom poms?) curling in the breeze! I wish they had stopped before our crowd to play a song for a bit longer, but they matched on, as all marching bands must!

Making the town proud🥁

There sat the older woman and her husband with their red sports car in the Price Chopper Plaza parking lot – she in one of those foldable canvas chairs you see at all the outdoor concerts and he in their cherry red sports car, reclining in his driver’s seat (leather, I’m guessing) and enjoying “the good life.” …

… They were among the first people to claim a spot this morning. “My son’s a fireman,” the woman said proudly. He was going to be in the parade.

The young couple with two babies pointed to me, taking pictures. They were stationed across the street and had taped an American flag to a pole. Another young couple with a two-year-old boy in a baseball cap talked dogs with me, and their little boy ran to the still cute Jett to pat his face. Jett gets all the attention because he’s still really good looking, but these days he’s … tentative. So he backed away from the little boy. I explained to the mother that Jett was 17 years old and maybe struggling a bit. I offered up the loveable Lilac who immediately shoved her bum under the mother’s hand for a butt massage. “It’s hard to let go,” the young mother said, watching my geriatric Jett. I agreed and immediately felt sad: Would this be Jett’s last parade????

Then there was the older couple who talked newspapering with me, the three of us growing nostalgic for the true small-town, local paper. The wife had worked for circulation at the Telegram and Gazette decades ago, when it had a real circulation, and you could tell she and her husband missed the local touch. …
I thought to myself: Forty years ago Spencer and every one of these towns in Central Mass would have had their own town newspaper, and you just bet the editor would have assigned a reporter to cover the town’s annual Memorial Day Parade. Now, in 2023, a poll shows about half the country doesn’t even know what Memorial Day commemorates. Today, it was just me, doing it like I did in the old days when I was a cub reporter starting out at the Spencer New Leader, circa 1986. “Covering” the Memorial Day Parade, taking pictures of a town event important to its people, a community tradition, an avenue for its young people to learn some history and to come to understand what it means to be a part of a community. I got to hear some music with some real flair this morning, too! Hopefully, some of the young musicians at David Prouty will go on to be in jazz bands or teach music or play funky porch concerts in years to come. For today, they’ll experience how a town comes together to remember, to honor, its fallen soldiers – many of whom died horrific deaths when they were just a few years older than the musicians in the Prouty marching band. They died for America before they got to make their own life music.
The scouts

The little guys held their banner up ok!

Go, Spencer youth!🇺🇸👏