Back in 2009, I wrote a short story called “Memorial Hill” (embedded at the bottom of this post), and today I took some pictures of the local sights that inspired it.
Guns and Music
Around Memorial Day in ’09, I was walking down the street and really did see two artillery pieces poking out from behind a classic Victorian building (the Cohoes Music Hall). Turned out there was an American Legion post behind the hall.
This is the music hall. Back in the day, it really was a bank. Down in the lower left, where that white stairwell is, an alley runs along the side, and that smaller building behind the hall is the start of the American Legion buildings.
There is no posted information anywhere around this moving memorial. I was able to look up Edward T. Ruane (who the post is named after) online. He was a son of Cohoes who was killed in action “over there” in late 1918. He received a Distinguished Service Cross for another action shortly before his death.
I never heard of him before, and know pretty much nothing about World War I. It makes you think of all the heroes and their sacrifices, forgotten to most of us but still alive in the memories of those close to them.
Just down the road a little way is a small park that mostly celebrates the Erie Canal, I think. Off to one side, a bronze soldier stands guard.
I was thinking of World War I again, but on closer examination, this is a memorial to the men of Cohoes who had gone off to the Spanish-American War. More soldiers, perhaps some heroes among them, and certainly more sacrifices. It really got me thinking.
In 2009, the plastic flowers were red, white and blue. In 2011, they are still plastic, and yellow. Local people remember, even if strangers and outsiders never know.
I looked for memorials to World War II, but the only one in town I have found so far is a sign up on the hill near an Eisenhower ash tree (these trees, found in little memorials throughout the country, are grown from seeds of a tree that grew near President Eisenhower’s home). It’s very low key…a reminder that World War I was really expected to be the “war that ends all wars.” World War II came along and spoiled that wonderful dream. There really wasn’t anything to get jubilant about afterwards, not in the same spirit as those previous two wars, anyway. Still, there were heroes and sacrifices.
And then came Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, small but bitter actions here and there, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraq. All this is just in and around my lifetime, but American history goes back two-plus centuries. There have been uncounted soldiers, heroes, sacrifices, and loved ones’ memories.
Well one thing led to another, and I wrote this short story. It is in the 2009 fiction collection on sale here in the store (select “Store” from Categories in the side bar; embed code no longer works, but link to the ScribD document for sale is active); however, I wanted to post a full version of it today, since I saw these things again while out on errands and was reminded of it. It’s embedded from Scribd.com, and you will need Flash to read it.
“The Cohoes Music Hall,” “Memorial in front of Edward T. Ruane Legion Post 476” and “Spanish-American war memorial, Cohoes, NY” by BJ Deming are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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