The Way It Was – The funeral


Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.

In the summer of 1944, I got a job working at Oakdale Cemetery. I was one of several boys who did the mowing and upkeep of the place. They needed quite a few boys, because we had no power mowers. In fact, we had no power equipment at all … not even a pickup truck. I think officials were probably trying to conserve as much gasoline as possible to help the war effort.
A man named Curt Amerine dug the graves by hand. He wasn’t very big, but I don’t think you would want to get in an arm wrestling contest with that guy. He was really strong. He could dig a grave, with incredibly straight sides, in only hours.
Instead of a pickup truck, we had a wooden wagon that was pulled by an old white horse named Jack. Curt usually drove the horse, but once he saw how much I liked to do that, he let me drive it almost every day. I think that was the best part of the job. Jack was a really good horse.
All the boys worked in the same general area as we mowed. Because there were several of us doing the mowing, there was usually quite a bit of noisy chatter back-and-forth among us.
For that reason, whenever there was a funeral, we stopped working and hid ourselves in the shrubs and behind gravestones, quite a distance from the gravesite. We remained there, in hiding, until the service was over and the mourners had departed.
Those graveside services were all pretty similar, except one that I will always remember. I think the deceased was a World War I veteran and the casket was covered by an American Flag. The pallbearers were not in uniform, but they were wearing American Legion hats. Near the end of the service, two of them folded up the flag and gave it to family members who were seated nearby.
Throughout the service, all of us boys talked softly among ourselves in our hiding places. Then, near the end of the service, from the top of a hill maybe 50 yards away, we heard a bugle play the sad sweet notes of “Taps.”
The soft chatter among us boys stopped immediately. There wasn’t a peep to be heard. We just sat there and listened to those haunting notes. I don’t think any of us had ever experienced anything like that before. It was really sobering.
Today, I seldom visit Oakdale Cemetery without thinking of that day nearly 80 years ago, when a military veteran was laid to rest. It was something very special for me and for the other boys.
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