May 31, 1962
Yardley holds a Memorial Day Parade every May 31st. It is a special day for everyone. This year, Jim, Jackie and the Chalmers kids planned to march in the parade.
“I have red, white and blue crepe paper streamers for you to decorate your bikes,” Jackie told her twins, Jimmy and Billy. The boys were to join the pack of children on decorated bikes at the end of the parade.
“I’m going to weave some crepe paper through the spokes of my bike, maybe Daddy will help me,” Billy said, proud of his plan.
Jim Chalmers overheard Billy and said, “That’s what we’ll do boys.” The crepe paper streamers were wrapped around the handlebars, too.
“Daddy, can we try something new?” Jimmy asked.
“What’s that?” Billy asked.
“Tommy Beltz showed me how to take baseball cards and attach them with clothespins to the bicycle spokes. They make neat clicking sounds,” said Jimmy.
“Where are you going to get baseball cards?” Asked Billy.
“Well, you have a lot of them,” Jimmy said.
“My baseball cards are very special. You can’t have them,” Billy insisted.
Jim Chalmers liked the idea of the baseball cards. He attempted to settle the issue, “Billy, it is an honor to participate in the parade. So many men and women fought very hard in The War (meaning World War II). We won the war but some didn’t come home. It will be patriotic to use your baseball cards,” Jim urged.
“Daddy, were you a soldier?” Jimmy asked.
“No,” Jim Chalmers replied. “I was a sailor.”
“Did you ride in a boat?” Billy said, listening attentively now.
“I was 18-years-old, about ten years older than you two. Your Grandfather Chalmers persuaded the Navy to give me enough time to graduate from high school. I joined on Valentine’s Day. I spent most of my service in submarines,” Jim said, serious now.
“Daddy were you scared?” Jimmy thought he might be scared himself.
“At first I was boys,” Jim admitted. “Our President said, ‘we have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ I was proud to be a brave US Navy sailor.”
“Will you wear your sailor suit in the parade?” Becky asked, joining in the conversation.
“Yes, Becky. I still fit into my Navy uniform,” Jim said.
“I want to be a sailor too when I grow up,” Becky was proud of her daddy.
“You can’t be a sailor, you’re a girl,” Billy said. (Becky helped with the clothespins and baseball cards making Billy angry with his sister.)
“You wait Billy, I can be a lady sailor, or maybe I can be the captain of a ship,” Becky said.
“There were all kinds of soldiers and sailors, Billy. There were nurses and lady airplane makers. Mothers kept the homes in America safe and happy. All Americans fought together in World War II,” Jim explained.
“I’m marching with the Brownies this year,” Becky said, she was glad to be included in the parade. “Mommy’s decorating a wagon to pull baby Susie in, too.”
May 31st was a gorgeous, sunny day in Yardley. Jim and Jackie, pulled the wagon with the baby in it. They walked to Main Street near the Old Grist Mill where the parade started. Becky and her sister-friend, Sharon were to carry a banner in front of their Brownie troop.
Billy was still unhappy about the use of his baseball cards. He stewed silently, even though the cards made a wonderful clicking sound.
The parade began.
The mayor of Yardley led the parade in a shiny new convertible. Soldiers, veterans now, squeezed into old uniforms marching behind the mayor. Colonel Belleview led the veteran troops.
Billy was getting very warm, boiling now; it wasn’t only the baseball cards that were taken from his collection that made him hot.
There was a band, horses, and a few floats. Women in uniform marched from the local American Legion post. Finally, at the end of the parade a large group of children with decorated bikes brought up the rear.
“Billy, you’re riding too slow,” Tommy Beltz said. “Jimmy, let’s go to the front of the kids on bikes.” Tommy and Jimmy left Billy behind.
Billy lost his temper completely. He peddled furiously along the side of the parade. Billy passed Tommy and Jimmy. The crepe paper streamers came loose and flew behind him. The baseball cards attached to the spokes of his bike clicked madly. Billy passed the Brownies.
“Slow down,” Becky shouted. “The War is over, we won.”
Now he was side by side with the veterans. Jim Chalmers saw Billy but couldn’t stop him as Jim was part of the color guard and holding the flag. Billy was approaching Colonel Belleview. The colonel was not going to let one wayward little boy disrupt the parade. He reached out for Billy and his bike, lifted them off the street and set him down in the grass.
“Where are you going in such a hurry soldier?” The colonel bellowed. “You’ll grow up fast enough to join us.” Colonel Belleview was perhaps the most highly regarded citizen of Yardley.
In tears, Billy sat on the grass abandoning his bike which was now under a pile of unraveled red, white, and blue crepe paper. Becky’s Brownie troop caught up to Billy. Becky passed the Brownie banner to another girl and walked over to her younger brother. He was sobbing now.
“Don’t cry, Billy,” she said. “I saved you all your favorite baseball cards.”
“You did?” Billy stopped crying.
Jackie and the baby caught up too. Suspecting something unusual, Jackie put her hand on Billy’s forehead.
Excerpt from Goats and Ginger Ale Floats, Becky and Friends
By Diane Campbell Green, Illustrations by Linda E. Jones
Published by DCG Books, 2021
Available only at www.dcgbooks.com