Monday, May 26, 2008

Lenni, Pennsylvania, Memorial Day, 1974

Not long after I began spending most of my down-time making pictures in the tiny town of Lenni, PA, I learned that the annual Memorial Day Parade would be a really big deal. It turned out that the VFW Posts, the civic clubs, boy and girl Scouts, and high school marching bands from several larger towns all gathered for the Lenni parade. I never could find out how the tradition began, but it had been going on as long as anyone seemed to remember.

Flags were everywhere the morning of the parade. Big flags on a few houses, clusters of little flags on others. People handed flags out to the kids as they arrived to watch the parade.

This was the only occasion during all the time I spent in Lenni when the calm, quiet peacefulness that made it seem like a throwback to easier and gentler times was replaced by a real sense of tension. It was 1974, so the Vietnam War wasn't just a vivid recent memory, it was more like an open wound. The bands played and kids joined in from the sidewalk to march informally with the parade. But the VFW members all looked on-edge, as if expecting trouble. I wondered if, in recent years, before the end of the war, the parade had been targeted for anti-war protests. I couldn't seem to get a firm answer from anyone.