Waterloo is officially the birthplace of Memorial Day, and at the National Memorial Day Museum in the village, you can see the proclamation signed by President Lyndon Johnson making it so.
The museum, open Monday - Saturday 10 - 5, is an Erie Canal-era house on the village Main Street..
At least 70 Waterloo-area soldiers died in the Civil War, and the first room to visit in the museum is the mourning room. Black crepe is draped over the mantelpiece picture, and the parlor clock, stopped at the hour of death, is also draped in black. Curtains are black crepe. A wreath of flowers is made of hair from the loved one. And, there's a mannequin with a woman's mourning dress, all black, which museum director Cyndi Park- Sheils says women wore, for up to a year.
Other rooms in the period-furnished home's first floor include memorabilia and local history, but the Civil War is not the only war remembered here.
On the second floor, there's an exhibit on the Korean War. Park-Shields says there are temporary exhibits on all our conflicts, at various times, to pay tribute to all the veterans and fallen who've done military service.
"Other people have asked, why is Waterloo different and it's really in the hearts of our community members here, she says. ."When you're raised here, you remember. Those who've fallen, you remember the veterans." And, it's obvious there's a commitment. We saw a car with M-Day 'designer' license plates. Homes are decked out in flags and bunting for the week, and on the east side of the village, a business has hundreds of Americn flags around its parking lot.
The museum gets about 15-hundred visitors a year, and one of them told us it was a worthwhile visit. "Especially our younger generation is losing the cost of what we enjoy today," says Stephen Little of Chittenango, who spent part of Memorial Day Weekend in Waterloo with his wife Becky. " It's important for parents and grandparents to make sure that they see this."
Waterloo has had a long weekend of Memorial Day commemorations, and this year's observances are not over yet: On Thursday, May 30th, the traditional Memorial Day, there will be cemetery remembrances and a parade starting at 6pm
(read related story on Waterloo's Memorial Day observances at http://www.cnycentral.com/news/story.aspx?id=902649