The tradition of Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, runs deep in Perkasie Borough, and newly discovered film footage shows perhaps its most poignant event: the first parade after World War II.
Perkasie had observed some type of Memorial Day ceremony since May 30, 1892, when Civil War veterans led the event. On that day, Perkasie honored the sacrifices made by all veterans, and it also celebrated the opening of is new Arch Street school and the debut of Menlo Park.
By 1905, the local tradition became more formalized, with the parade starting on Market Street in Perkasie, heading to local schools were all the students joined the parade, which then visited local cemeteries. The parade concluded at the large auditorium at the Perkasie Park Camp-Meeting, where a local veteran, and later a student honored with the privilege, recited Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The memorial service included group renditions of “America” and the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
During the early 1920s, the local Hartzell-Crouthamel American Legion post took over the parade’s organization, and with the exception of a four-year period during World War 11, the ceremony’s format remained the same. During the war, large church services were held in Perkasie and Sellersville instead.
On Thursday, May 30, 1946, Perkasie resumed its Memorial Day tradition. Church services were held in advance that Sunday, with special accommodations for the Gold Star mothers in attendance.
The parade started at the Fraternity Temple on Sixth Street, went to South Perkasie, returned on Walnut Street, marched passed the Arch Street School on Fifth Street, and went north to Perkasie Park for the outdoor service.
“With hundreds of young men and women of this community having been discharged from the Armed Services during the past year, Memorial Day programs this year will have added significance,” said the Perkasie News-Herald. The newspaper moved its publication date that day to avoid a conflict with the holiday, and noted it would be the largest parade in Perkasie’s history. A local student, Jem Moyer, received the honor of reading the Gettysburg Address. The Sell-Perk High School band and the VFW Drum and Budge corps led the procession.
Across from the Arch Street School, local businessman George Beidler filmed part of the film with his new color 8mm camera. The Beidler family owned the fine home across from the Arch Street School and also the clothing factory on the same block.
The footage shows the Arch Street School, both bands, scores of veterans, and school children taking part in the parade.
In 1950, the Perkasie parade format changed to a procession within town and a ceremony at the Legion hall on Sixth Street. Separate ceremonies were held at churches and at gravesides, with the parade in Perkasie and Sellersville involving the local Legion posts. The parade has continued in some version of that format since the 1950s.
A special thanks to Jane Strohm for the film shot by her grandfather, George Beidler.