Sunday, September 3, 2017

Ashland Residents Commemorate ABA on the Saturday Night Before Labor Day

With the annual Labor Day weekend ABA parade tradition cancelled, a handful of Ashland residents gathered to honor the memory of the Ashland Boys Association.

Years ago, the Saturday evening of the Labor Day weekend would typically be the busiest night out of the entire year in Ashland.

On this night, the Ashland Boys Association would hold it's annual parade.  The homecoming parade would see current and former residents of the borough line Walnut and Centre Streets in the borough for the nearly 2 hour parade.

The parade would be filled with local organizations, high school bands, and even mummer's bands from all around.

Unfortunately like many other traditions in the area, the parade declined over the years until recently when due to money or other issues, the parade was unable to be held, including the 2017 parade.

With a light drizzle falling, a small group of Ashland residents who still wanted to commemorate the history of the Ashland Boys Association met Saturday evening.

A little more than a dozen residents met at the Ashland Boys Historical Marker located in front of the Mother's Memorial at 8:00pm.

Organizer Adam J. Bernodin III, played the National Anthem to start the small ceremony, while Kate Urbanowicz, 9, and Adam Scott held the American Flag.

Two Ashland residents, Joyce Ann Kenney and Chuck Scott,  dressed as mummer's also held a maroon ABA flag while Lee Greenwood's God Bless the USA played.

To end the ceremony, those in attendance bowed their heads to the west for a moment of silence.

Bernodin has held the small ceremony at the historical marker since it was dedicated in 2013.

Organizers hope to hold a larger ceremony in the future.

Origins of the ABA Parade by Adam J. Bernodin III

The Philadelphia contingent coming home to Ashland off the train evolved into the annual Mummers Parade. In 1910, the first known celebration started on Saturday night at 8:00PM when the members of the Philadelphia Branch of the Ashland Boys' Association arrived in special train over the Reading Railroad.

There were three coaches attached to Engine No. 97 and the train that carried two hundred jolly Philadelphia Ashland Boys and their families. This was the tenth anniversary of the association and was one of the most successful celebrations in the history of the Ashland Boys' Association.

Ashland was a proud community greeting the Philadelphia contingent with a celebration. The following organizations were in line to greet the Philadelphia Branch of ABA in an informal parade: Ashland Boys Band, Philadelphia Branch of A.B.A., German Catholic Knights, Centralia Band, American Hose Company, Knights of Golden Eagle, Emmett Band, Washington Fire Company, Woodman of the World, Improved Order of Redman, Washington Light Infantry, the German Catholic Knights, a splendidly drilled organization formed the letters "A.B.A." in perfect accord and thrilled the spectators. The Ashland community all had roman candles and torches in their hands to greet the informal processions as it grew bigger.

Ashland was the only town to respond in this unique way of sentiment and pride while walking all the returnees home. The independent Ashland A.B.A. Mummers Club finally formed in 1928 according to the Ashland Daily News and at this point, everything was an organized parade. Curley Lentz from Ashland Boys' Association of Philadelphia faithfully carried an Olympic torch in the mummer’s parade. This was the symbol of the Philadelphia contingent and he carried the torch until he couldn't walk anymore. The parade was an anthracite coal region showcase that brought thousands of non-Ashland residents into Ashland for almost a century. The Saturday night before Labor Day will always be remembered in the hearts and minds of Ashland residents.

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