Saturday, May 24, 2008

Apple #319: Memorial Day Potpourri

Memorial Day is this Monday, as most people probably know. And most people -- like me -- probably have the day off and will be doing something vacation-ish.

Here's the real story about Memorial Day:

Photo from the Democracy Cell Project

  • It was originally intended to honor those soldiers who had died during the Civil War.
  • Back in the 1860s it was called Decoration Day. Lots of towns sprinkled across the United States had various Decoration Days.
  • On May 5, 1868, General Logan (Union) placed flowers on the graves of Union soldiers, and that was supposed to be the beginning of a Memorial Day that everybody in the country celebrated on the same day. Specifically, here's what he proclaimed:
      • The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
  • It took a while even for the other Northern states to catch on, but by 1890 most of the Northern states were celebrating Memorial Day each May 30.
  • The Southern states, however, did not want to have their Memorial Day on May 30, so the various states kept on celebrating their various days of remembrance on whatever day had become their custom.
  • After World War I, the holiday was expanded to include remembrance of those soldiers who had died in The Great War, as it was called then. The date was also changed to the last Monday in May. And the Southern states signed on to celebrate their Memorial Day on the last Monday in May, too.
  • However, many Southern states continue to have an additional, separate day for remembering the Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War.
So the upshot is, you're supposed to celebrate Memorial Day, not by barbecuing and drinking beer with your friends, but by putting flags and flowers on the graves of war veterans.

But I'm thinking, there's nothing that says you can't put flowers on the graves and then go barbecue.

With that in mind, I'm going to give you some tidbits that are a little bit more upbeat. Because I'm going out of town for a few days, and I want you to be able to see something a little more lively in addition to the somber remembrance stuff. So here are some odd facts I've gathered here and there lately:


Photo from Purdue

  • To choose a good turnip, select ones that are no larger than 3 inches in diameter. The smaller, the tastier they'll be.
  • Choose the ones that are firm and heavy for their size.
  • If the greens are still attached, the leaves should be crisp and green.
  • You don't want turnips that are soft, spongy, scarred, bruised, wrinkled, or with tiny growth cuts on the outside. If a turnip sits in the bin too long, it'll get pulpy and fibrous and be no fun to eat. The good ones will have a crisp, snappy flavor.
  • Turnips will be best when they're in season, which is October through March.


You can get these 1950s vintage saddle shoes and other saddle shoes made more recently from Muffy's in Oregon.

  • Saddle shoes were born in the early 1900s when men and boys wore them as athletic shoes.
  • In the 1930s when people weren't exactly tripping the light fantastic, girls and women wanted shoes that were serviceable and roomy, so shoe manufacturers began making saddle shoes for them.
  • The fact that they were designed with comfort in mind also made them suitable for dancing. So you might notice that in a lot of pictures of the kids from the 1940s doing those wacky swing dances, the guys and gals are wearing their saddle shoes.
  • Technically, you could call them the two-toned Oxford, but the leather across the top of the shoe, which is of a different color than the body of the shoe, looks like the shoes have a saddle across the top, so saddle shoes it was.

Have a good Memorial Day weekend! I'll see you next week when I get back.

Sources, The History of Memorial Day
David Merchant, Memorial Day History
Infoplease, America's Wars: U.S. Casualties and Veterans
US Census Bureau, Population 1790 to 1990
Kentucky Proud Fruit and Vegetable Information About Turnips and Rutabagas
Vegan Coach, How to Cook a Turnip, The History of Foot Trouble
History of Clothing, Saddle Shoes: Conventions

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