Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hudson and the Great War

My attention seems drawn to World War I. First, there was the discovery of the letter from the Canadian Army chaplain, assuring his father that Malcolm Gifford, Jr., had died a hero's death in the Second Battle of Passchendaele. Then there was Perry Cooney's revelation that his great uncle and namesake, David Perry, had died fighting with the ANZAC forces in the First Battle of Passchendaele. Coincidentally, I happen to be watching the second season of Downton Abbey on DVD, most of which takes place during the First World War. In Episode Six, a character is introduced--an officer in the Canadian Army--whose face was severely burned and disfigured in the Second Battle of Passchendaele. 

Recently, a box of treasures was entrusted to me, and yesterday, while exploring its contents, I discovered a commemorative book from the Welcome Home Celebration for World War Veterans that took place here in Hudson on September 8 and 9, 1919. Included in the book are photographs of the men from Hudson who died in that war--there were twenty-four. Among the pictures is this one of Malcolm Gifford, Jr., in the uniform of the Canadian Field Artillery. 

The Welcome Home Celebration started with a banquet on Monday evening, September 8, which was followed by a "Block Party" with "dancing on street pavement." This event took place at Union and South Fourth streets. 

The following day, there was what was billed as a "Monster Street Parade of eleven divisions which will consist of World War Veterans, Civil and Spanish American War Veterans, Red Cross, Fraternal Organizations, 10th Regiment, New York State National Guard, School Children, Floats, Hudson Fire Department and Visiting Fire Companies." This description of the parade allowed me to determine, with some certainty, that these two vintage photographs were taken during this "Monster Street Parade" in 1919. 

The parade followed a very circuitous route through the city--uphill, downhill, and uphill again. It started at the State Armory at Fifth and State streets, and the book describes the line of march from there: "Up State to 6th, over 6th to Gifford Place to Columbia to Green, out Green to Frederick, through Frederick to Columbia to Eighth, through Eighth to Warren, down Warren to 6th, over 6th to Union, down Union to West Court, over West Court to Allen, down Allen to 3rd, over 3rd to Warren, down Warren to Front, down Front to New York Central station where the column will countermarch to Warren, up Warren to Park Place where the column will disband without form." The two vintage photographs of the parade were taken in the 400 block of Union Street. The photographer was standing on the north side of the street, probably in front of 428 Union, which is where I stood this morning to take this picture. The house across the street that appears farthest to the right in both vintage pictures is 439 Union Street.

Amazingly, after marching from the armory, up to the hospital, then down to the train station, and back up to Park Place, the parade wasn't over yet--at least not for the bands and the schoolchildren. The description of events continues: "At the conclusion of the street parade all of the bands in the parade will assemble and form one band of 300 pieces at Public Square and march from the point down Warren Street thence over South Fourth Street to Washington Park, where the massed band will give a concert and where a chorus composed of the school children of the city will sing."

The Welcome Home Celebration continued in the evening with "Vaudeville and Entertainment at the Playhouse for the World War Veterans and their guests" and concluded with a "Victory Ball" at the State Armory.

Update: Although I was right about the location of the two vintage parade pictures, I was wrong about the parade. This was not the "Monster Street Parade" that took place on September 8, 1919, during the Welcome Home Celebration after World War I. It was a parade that took place on April 26, 1918, as part of the Third Liberty Loan campaign. See "The Great War: April 23, 1918." 


  1. I love boxes of treasures like that.
    Lucky you and us.
    Just by reading about that Monster Pararde, I'm exhausted.
    Great stories,Gossips.

  2. "with a Victory Ball at the State Armory"

    What a great grand place and space for such a party!

    Love Armorys that host things like this or ... Garden Shows, Boat Shows, Car Shows, Antiques Shows ...

  3. Me too Vincent,for those kind of things,instead of training boys to be soldiers.
    It must have been so beautiful that night.Just the era of clothing everyone would have been wearing and dancing to an orchestra in that space.The emotions must have run so high.
    That was such a brutal War.The little City of Hudson,NY, is far far away from the Western Front.The relief felt by the families and friends of the boys that made it back home and the horrible grief for the boys that never would.
    My son is getting married next week.I am so grateful,he was never subjected to War.
    I Hate War.
    I will think of this scene at the
    Armory Victory Ball, at my son and his new wife's reception.
    My grandfather was an ambulance driver in the Red Cross in Europe ,in WWI.He had a camera,oddly enough, and took photos.So strange to see the Italian country side in these little sepia photographs,so beautiful,except there are explosions in the back round.The men look quite dashing in their uniforms,until you see them blown to bits.