More Memories: 1981 Memorial Day Parade

In December 1980, Tom Leyden bought a video camera.

He was one of the first Westporters to tape kids’ sports, school shows and other events.

An early effort — taken from the Assumption Church steps — was the 1981 Memorial Day parade.

Leyden’s son had just won a trivia contest on WMMM’s morning show. The prize: a chance to ride with host John LaBarca, in the back of a groovy convertible.

Leyden captured that moment — and the rest of the parade too.

It’s all here: former Governor John D. Lodge and all the town bigwigs; the Staples High School, and Long Lots, Coleytown and Bedford Junior High bands; WWPT sports broadcasters, Little Leaguers, Scouts, Indian Guides, the Westport Historical Society — even Big Bird.

There are many gems. Right at the beginning, for instance, we see Bill Cribari — the man the Saugatuck River bridge is named after — strutting proudly along.

Westport’s Memorial Day parade is timeless. After 37 years, so much in this video looks familiar.

Except for one thing: Everyone actually watches the parade.

There’s not one cell phone to be seen.


20 responses to “More Memories: 1981 Memorial Day Parade

  1. Adam Vengrow

    Very awesome to watch

  2. On one hand, doesn’t seen so long ago, on the other hand it looks like another era. Old videos even more than old photos always make me aware of how fragile time is. Thanks for posting.

  3. Peter Blau

    Where’s Blutarsky and the Deathmobile?

  4. Dan, thanks so much for passing this along and thank you Mr. Leyden for sharing.

    The 1981 parade was a real big deal in the Ryan house. The previous summer we had returned from living in Paris for three years and while that was certainly pretty cool duty, we did yearn for Westport and the Memorial Day Parade was something we definitely missed. I can recall feeling that parade was, in a way, confirmation that we were indeed back in town and the good ole USA.

    While I do not think we had any marchers from the family were in the parade that day, we certainly did in the years that followed with our daughters marching alongside me with the softball players and later in marching bands. Things have now come full circle and tomorrow I will be with one of my grandsons and his Little League team (the Brewers) while another grandson will be with the Boy Scouts and another marching with Bedford’s Band…..rain, rain stay away!

    • That’s a great story, Bill. when you come right down to it, Westport is really just a small town, playing our part in the circle of life.

  5. Kathleen Dehler

    Thanks so much for sharing this. Such wonderful memories of sitting on the steps of Assumption Church watching this fabulous parade. I saw many an old friend in this video!!! My eyes filled up with tears remembering those glorious days living in Westport.

  6. Mary Cookman Schmerker Staples '58

    Brought up many wonderful memories. Thank you for sharing this and thank you Dan for posting.

  7. Tom Feeley Sr

    Thanks Tom🇺🇸

  8. Mary Maynard

    Watching this video makes up for my having to sit at LaGuardia today. Thank you — it gave me the lump in my throat that comes with the parade.

  9. Valerie Held

    Great memories. Still remember the thrill of this parade. Especially loved the pancake breakfast after the parade at Bedford or at a friend’s home. Thanks to all our veterans for keeping us safe and our country soaring!

    • Elsie Cameron

      yes another great parade, marred I believe only by a small number of veterans
      offering bibles to spectators, including my impressionable young
      kids. This was totally out of order. what has religion got to do with memorial day?
      i imagine if a Muslim veteran, for example, had
      been handing out korans, he would’ve been
      whisked away in the blink of an eye

      let’s keep religion out of this. and many more
      areas too!

      • I thought it was odd to see the Bibles being handed out too (by young kids — I didn’t see any veterans doing it).

        But I also think it’s odd that there were 2 religious organizations with floats in the parade (St. Paul’s Christian pre-school and Assumption Church). Why not others? Why any? I’m just asking.

        However, this is a free country. That’s precisely.what Memorial Day is about: The men and women who have died protecting our right to do things like hand out Bibles. Or Korans. Or to say to those handing them out, “No, thanks.”

        I’d rather have that option — to say “no” — than to live in a country where religion is forced upon citizens. Or banned.

        And speaking of religion, I appreciated Rev. Alison Patton’s wide-ranging reference (in her invocation at Veterans Green) to “the many forms of god” (or something like that). It was inclusive and welcoming for all believers, and those who don’t believe.

        • Nancy Hunter

          So, it really is okay to say no to singing the anthem, to standing and putting a hand on heart. Amen.

          • Bob Stalling

            Of course it is Nancy….though if you are representing something other than yourself while doing it, and that something is paying you while you are doing it, then that something should have a say whether they want you doing it.

            Just something to think about.

  10. Sharon Paulsen

    I was a Bedford Jr. High marching band member back then!

    Although, watching this video, I question my memory as to whether I was in the band in 1981, or perhaps the next year.

    Oh heck … great memories, either way.

    I love seeing our “fashion” of the day … sorry if I offend here, but I am chuckling, remembering the men in “short shorts” and “tube socks” and “running” sneakers, with no shirts.

    Makes me remember the cheesy 80’s movie about the vagabond bike racing team. Was a fun film, actually. Title escapes me, however.

    Too funny, because now the guyzzz wear “long” shorts, hanging down to their calves. Ah, to be a male … so little fashion choices, so much time in between.

    To be a female however … oh, we don’t have time to discuss those trends, just now. Anyway, it will change next season, LOL.

  11. John Knofla

    Great memories. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Let me be one of many to comment: “OMG, there I am!”

  13. Ellen Landowne

    Such fun to see myself marching with the Girl Scouts in 1981!
    Thanks, Dan!
    Ellen Landowne