A couple of former Peabody High School classmates, bordering on being older than me and dirt put together, had a conversation Sunday about the annual Memorial Day dinner. One of the two now lives in a different community and the other is a local woman who is generally a font of knowledge about local history, events, and people. The out-of-towner wondered who started the annual Memorial Day dinner and why.
He said he had attended many of the gatherings after the Memorial Day service at Prairie Lawn Cemetery. He always appreciated being able to come back to his hometown, pay homage to members of his family buried here as well as members of our military, and visit with friends and family. He also appreciated being able to get a generous meal and often take advantage of class gatherings.
When the local woman who talked to him about this was filling me in on the details, she said, “He said he has been coming here for a long, long time and he just wondered who started serving the dinner and bringing so many people together, and why?”
So there you have it — the mystery of the week. I have to admit, I have no idea how the event started. When we arrived in 1970, it already was an established tradition, hosted by the sophomore class as a fundraiser to help pay for the prom when the class hosted that event as PHS juniors. The local woman involved in the above conversation had a daughter whose class hosted the dinner in 1963 so she knows it was part of the routine that far back.
The out-of-town visitor would like for the community to commend the folks who first got the Memorial Day Dinner started. He would like to know the names of the moms, dads, and school sponsors in charge and he would like to know why they started it. That sounds like a reasonable request to me. He has proposed that any members of the original planning committee to be seated together at this year’s dinner for recognition.
So be it. Given that there is some news value and human interest to this mystery, the Peabody Gazette-Bulletin would be happy to get on board and write up the story if anyone has a hint or two about the origin of the dinner. We might even dig deep into the petty cash account and buy a couple of balloons for the table where the founders will sit.
There you go — an original query about a long and worthwhile tradition in our community. If someone comes up with an answer, I will let you know.
— SUSAN MARSHALL