Memorial Day Parade

Memorial Day observances have long included parades in large and small Nebraska towns. Frisby L. Rasp, a young commercial business student studying at the Omaha Business College, in 1888 witnessed a Memorial Day parade in Omaha [Nebraska History, Summer 1990]. Impressed with the spectacle of so many uniformed participants (parade floats were rare), he wrote to his parents at Gresham:

“I got my dinner at one o’clock, and directly after the procession began to form. The first I saw were 5 companies of soldiers from the fort [Fort Omaha], headed by a band. They made a grand sight, stepping as one man, and their sholders rose and fell as a wave on water. Their muskets with bayonets were nice. Soon they all began to gather, and when they were complete there was a procession over a mile long.

“I saw the whole thing twice. It was composed of soldiers, Police forces, Post office letter carriers, Knights of Pithias, bands, fire companies, Governor [John M.] Thayer and his staff, hook and ladder companies, Odd fellows, Masonic members, young men’s Christian Association, and school girls, two loads of them, all dressed in white. It was the prettiest sight I ever saw. . .

“Such beautiful uniforms I never saw. The crowd was something wonderful. You would not think there was so many people in Nebraska let alone Omaha. [The city then had about 125,000 people.] I wouldn’t have missed it for any thing. The papers I send you will give a better description than I can. The crowd was as thick as it could stand on both sides of the line of march and it took 3 hours to go so you can have an idea what it was.”

The next morning he wrote again: “I would have give a dollar if you could have seen the parade. It was the finest thing I ever saw. You can’t imagine anything too nice for it.” Young Frisby added to reassure his parents, “I am well and getting along fine with my books.”

After graduating from the Omaha Business College, Rasp worked in Omaha as a bookkeeper for several years. He later attended Bryan Normal and Business University in Stromsburg and then York College. In 1897 he was ordained at Wayland, Nebraska, as a minister of the Christian Church, moving in 1900 to a farm near Gresham. He died there in 1948.

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