Chapter 26

Annual 4th of July Ceremonies

      The Independence Day ceremonies to honor the Signers of the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July, sponsored by the Sons of the American Revolution, had grown to large proportions. It had been carried on for 22 years to 1972 and the Second Company had taken part in it for the last 10 years. The Field Music Unit had joined in the celebration the past several years. Mayor Guida, of New Haven, in his address at Roger Sherman's grave said that the ceremony had grown to be the most important annual patriotic event in the Elm City.

      The New Year's Eve Day party, 1973, to honor Major and Mrs. Schoeck, was a success beyond expectation as 95 more people attended than were expected.

      On January 20, the Second Company went to Washington to take part in the Inauguration of Richard M. Nixon as President of the United States. Transportation was by bus (described as a rough trip down and back with no sleep for most members). Accommodations at Georgetown University were excellent and a special mess was set up. Captain Salvatore Esposito, Adjutant, was in charge of personnel in the absence of Major Schoeck who had departed earlier in the week in order to attend pre-inaugural briefings in Washington. High ranking officers accompanying the troops were the Assistant Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. Gaetano Russo and former Major Commandant, Brig. Gen. Carl Swanson. Major Schoeck, the senior Commandant in Connecticut, took command of both the First Company from Hartford, and the Second Company. The ovation for the 275 men in the Nutmeg contingent, as they passed the reviewing stand, was the most enthusiastic heard in years.

      On March 2, many of the members and their ladies attended a Testimonial Dinner honoring Major A. R. Teta, on his 80th birthday, held in the Ambassador Restaurant. Also, in March, Major Schoeck was principal speaker at the regular monthly meeting of the General David Humphreys Branch, Sons of the American Revolution. He spoke on the history of the Second Company, the coming 200th Anniversary, and on some of the events and celebrations planned. It was during this period that Colonel Davidson received greetings from the Command on becoming a Senior Citizen. Colonel Davidson then presented Major Schoeck with a $1000 check to be donated to the 200th Anniversary, from the proceeds of a trip to Puerto Rico. And it was at this time that a new Centennial flag was given by Corporal Marshall Cole and his wife, being the second Centennial banner that the Coles had donated.

      In April, the Rifle Team won the Connecticut Armed Forces Match held in Hartford. A short time later, Major Schoeck announced the appointment of Corp. William Schmitt to his Staff and that Schmitt would be in charge of the Rifle Team.

      Immediately following the Memorial Day Parade, the Second Company participated in the dedication of the Coliseum which had been named ass a tribute to the Veterans of New Haven.

      In August, Major Teta, reported on the band playing at Seaside Sanatorium and said the band's performance for the residents "was better than the finest medication they could have received."

      Also, in August, Major Schoeck, with eight volunteer riflemen, went aboard the EAGLE, a three-masted bark which had been taken as a war reparation from the Germans in World War II, and converted into a training ship for U.S. Coast Guardsmen. They had been invited by the Sons of the American Revolution to participate in a ceremony in Long Island Sound in which a wreath was thrown upon the water to honor Thomas Lynch, Jr., one of the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence, who had sailed for France in 1779. The vessel was never heard from again.

      As the EAGLE sailed out of New London Harbor, Major Schoeck and his men could look across the Thames and view the huge monument placed by the State of Connecticut to honor the defenders of Fort Griswold, in 1781. This was their first commander's most ignoble deed. Benedict Arnold, following his defection to the enemy, had been given command of the British forces which burned New London and massacred the defenders of the fort in Groton.

      At the regular monthly meeting, in May, 1974, Major Schoeck announced that the House and Senate of Connecticut had passed a bill appropriating $15,000 for the Second Company's 200th Anniversary. Some time later he also announced that the Second Company should have available $35,000 for the 200th Anniversary Budget.

      In May, 1974, Powder House Day was observed in cooperation with the New Haven Bicentennial Committee which wanted this event to be the initial activity pertaining to the 200th Anniversary of the Nation, though this was not due for two years hence, in 1976. A Highlander group with musicians participated along with the Second Company, and as it was the first time Powder House day was celebrated on a Sunday, many more citizens came to view the event.

      Following the Annual Visitation to the Southbury Training School, Governor Meskill received a letter from a mother of one of the boys in the school. It read: "This past Sunday Open House was held at the School and the Governor's Foot Guard from New Haven marched and put on a concert. The Foot Guardsmen went to the Boy's Village and Girl's Village and wheeled down the students who were unable to walk. I was impressed with these men. I am sure they are all busy people who have many things to do on a beautiful Sunday in May but they took the time to do something for these special people. You can be very proud of them."

      It was at this time that the Rifle Team of the Second Company distinguished itself in several matches. It won the Connecticut Armed Forces Match held in Hartford and in another match, won the Governor Thomas J. Meskill Trophy in the Organized Militia (Governor's Foot and Horse Guards) Indoor Smallbore Rifle Match, in the National Guard Armory, Hartford.

      In April, a combined drill with the First Company, was conducted in Hartford, and in October, the First Company came to New Haven in a combined drill with the Second Company.

      The Second Company went to East Greenwich, R.I., October 18 and 19, 1974 to take part in the 200th Anniversary Parade of the Kentish Guards.

      And it was at the annual encampment in Niantic, in October, that the Second Company bid farewell to its Commander-in-Chief, Governor Meskill, with a Grand Review. The Governor had indicated that he would not be a candidate for office in the coming elections.

      As the 1970's began to unfold, some startling events occurred which would affect every American.

      They were the resignation of the Vice President, Spiro Agnew, the uncovering of Watergate resulting in the resignation of President Richard Nixon and the prosecution of many high government officials. President Gerald Ford and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller were named without being elected by the people, the first time such an incident as this having taken place in the Nation.

      And as the 70's progressed the nation's economy became badly shaken and hundreds of thousands throughout the land joined the ranks of the unemployed. The Stock Market, one of the indicators of our growth and prosperity, was lower than it had been in many years.

      Inflation, most apparent the last six months of 1974 and the first part of 1975, gave most Americans the jitters. Government officials agreed that the situation had to be remedied but disagreed on the method that should be employed in accomplishing this.

      To add to all this a fuel crisis arose. In 1973 long lines of cars waited at gas stations for fuel which cost had greatly increased. Home heating oil also was much higher. In 1974 gasoline become more plentiful but Americans were warned to conserve and not go beyond a 55-mile limit or else they would suffer for it in the future.

      Into this period of uncertainty, confusion, and National crisis, the Second Company arrived at the time in which it was to formulate plans for celebrating the 200 years of its existence. It could be said that it was not the "best of times" and probably more than a few Guardsmen thought it was the "worst of times."

Chapter 27