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The Poppies of Flanders Fields

May 25th, 2012 · No Comments · Children, City Library, Foundation, Friends of the West Manchester Community Library, Main Branch, Teens, Trustees, West Branch

“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row…”

When I was a little girl there was a Memorial Day tradition that I shared with my grandparents. You see, my grandfather was a veteran of World War II and both my grandparents were members of their local American Legion Post, the Earl B. Clark Post (42). Since we visited with our grandparents just about every weekend we were often at their house during some part of Memorial Day weekend. So on Memorial Day weekend we would “earn our keep” by going around selling the American Legion’s rememrance poppies. Grammy would take up her post behind the steering wheel and my brother and I would hop in the car (arguing over who got the much coveted front seat) and be driven around the neighborhood, and surrounding neighborhoods, traveling door to door selling poppies. I never really knew what the significance was of those paper flowers, only that the money made by selling them went to help veterans who were worse off than my grandpa. I knew they were special to veterans, that the lady on the corner of Bow Lake Road would always buy a whole bouquet of them from us, and that we would get an ice cream cone when we were done.

The American Legion and Auxiliary began selling poppies to raise funds for veterans and their families in 1921. The first remembrance poppies were made of silk by French widows and orphans (near Flanders) following World War I. In 1922, American veterans made paper poppies in Minnesota hospitals. The crepe paper was selected because “it provided the maximum of work for the disabled veteran with the minimum expenditures for materials.” The poppy was selected because of a famous war poem written about poppies that were growing wild in a field and cemetery in Flanders, Belgium.

My grandparents have passed on now, but every Memorial Day I look for someone selling those remembrance poppies and I buy some. And I remember.


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