"Highlights of History" for Gilford Steamer’s May 27, 2004

Gilford Observes Memorial Day

Observing Memorial Day has been a long-standing tradition in Gilford.

The elementary school’s close proximity to Pine Grove Cemetery has enabled students to walk there for an annual Memorial Day service, replete with appropriate music provided by the young musicians.

The annual parade from Town Hall to Pine Grove Cemetery is an. intergenerational experience, again with the local schools providing the appropriate music.

From a young age, Gilford’s children participate in honoring members of our country’s armed forces who have given their lives for their country.

Historically, Memorial Day originated when Southern women scattered spring flowers on the graves of soldiers during the War between the States. Using this symbolic gesture of "decorating" the graves of the dead, those Southern women honored the Northern dead as well as their own dead -- and the seeds of Memorial Day were planted.

Feeling the effects of war is not limited to the soldiers alone. Truly, the effects of war are far reaching.

As Gilford folks came together in the 1990s to gather information essential to the creation of Gilford’s most current history book, The Gunstock Parish: A History of Gilford, New Hampshire, the potential value of oral histories as sources of information was realized. Therefore, special attention was given to help would-be local historians become proficient in conducting oral histories. These efforts have garnered an abundance of local oral histories that we often turn to in our on-going attempts to better understand Gilford’s history in the making.

Adair Mulligan states in The Gunstock Parish, "Each time war plucked Gilford men away, Gilford woman did double duty on the home front, tending their families, farms, and spirits." That is understandable.

It is from the oral histories that we discern the impact on the children, the schools, and the family members at home. Interviews with Ernie Bolduc, Arthur Tilton, Pete LaBonte, and Milo Bacon, among others, help paint the picture of school students during World War II learning to conserve materials, collecting used paper (bringing 504, a ton), planting Victory gardens, participating in drives to purchase war bonds and stamps, and collecting milkweed pods and hanging them on a fence in mesh potato bags for use in making Mae West life preserver vests.

Gilford’s Town Reports indicate that the school trained students in "life-preservation squads," and organized "morale squads." Children were finger-printed and practiced air-raid drills.

It became the job of teachers to ration sugar, gasoline, and fuel oil to the community, while women helped to make bandages at the Grange Hall and at the stone barn on Governor’s Island.

As Adair Mulligan states, "An air-craft warning service was started and in Gilford Village, as elsewhere, heavy curtains went down and lights were out by 9:00 P.M. In the newly-electrified barns, cows heard the cheerful sounds of Benny Goodman and his orchestra interrupted by the latest news from the front."

In the mid-1940s, the town acted to recognize those who had served, and charged the newly formed Thompson-Ames Historical Society with assembly of service records. A bronze plaque mounted on a granite stone was established as a memorial to the men and women who served their country in World Wars I and II and was placed on the raised lawn in front of the historical society’s building and the war records were placed on file in the historical society’s collections. Later, in 1950, the monument was removed to a small triangular traffic island in front of the town’s original Town Hall.

In Gilford, "Those Who Served" number 33 in the Revolutionary War, 206 in the Civil War (including those from Meredith Bridge and Lake Village), 15 in World War I, 76 in World War II, 27 in the Korean Conflict, 76 in the Vietnam Conflict, 24 in Operation Desert Shield, and, unfortunately, we’re still counting in this time in history, as we participate in another Memorial Day.