MERIDEN — Sixty-one years ago, residents were celebrating the city’s 150th anniversary with a large parade.
The June 25, 1956 front page of the Meriden Record included several stories detailing the events with headlines like “50,000 Persons Cheer Great Sesqui Parade”, “Biggest in City’s History”, “Lead Band Got ‘Lost’ On Way Here” and “Better Than The Centennial, Opines 89-Year-Old Irishman”.
The three-hour parade featured music, local organizations, clowns, police officers, firefighters and “grim-faced soldiers” marching from Bradley Avenue and West Main Street to City Park, according to the Meriden Record.
One group, however, marched a littler farther.
“The Yalesville Fife and Drum Corps, led by their Scottish Bagpipe Player, Jack Cullan, marched down Broad Street and Ann Street to 16 Wilbur Avenue. There at the home of William Fitzgerald, they paraded up the porch, through the living room, dining room, kitchen and out the back door.”
The 89-year-old Irishman wanted to hear some “honest to goodness Irish music,” according to the Record. The band was happy to grant his wish with a surprise visit through Fitzgerald’s house, much to Fitzgerald’s delight.
Fitzgerald and other spectators agreed the parade made for quite a celebration. A parade organizer said a mixup in travel arrangements with the First Army Band from Fort Jay, New York caused a bit of panic near the start of the parade. The band was supposed to meet up with state police for an escort at the state line to take the parkway to Meriden, but the driver got mixed up and didn’t take the parkway. Just as organizer Charles Livingstone was about to change the line-up, the band pulled up, quickly ate a meal and began marching.
With the band in place, the parade went off on time in spectacular fashion to the cheers of revelers along the route, who cheered on each unit.
“The centennial in 1906 wasn’t as good as the sesquicentennial this year. It was the parade that did it. It was the best parade I’ve ever seen,” Fitzgerald said.