“On this Memorial Day, it is right for us to remember the living and the dead for whom the call of their country has meant pain and sacrifice. A grateful nation is in their debt.” — Lyndon Johnson, 1966
On a spring day in 1865, in Waterloo, NY, a druggist named Henry C. Welles watched as a lone widow walked to a cemetery and placed flowers on the grave of her deceased Civil War soldier husband.
Determined to make sure that those who had given their lives for their country would not be forgotten, Welles worked with Gen. John B. Murray to plan the first Memorial Day in Waterloo in 1866, according to the town’s website.
The tradition, originally known as Decoration Day, continued and on May 26, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson named Waterloo as the official Birthplace of Memorial Day.
Memorial Day, which falls on May 29 this year, was declared a national holiday in 1971.
On the Road
Memorial Day is also considered the unofficial start of summer, as people pack their bags, fire up their barbecues and get ready for some good times, as roughly 90% of all civilian workers received a paid holiday on Memorial Day.
Roughly 42.3 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home over the long holiday weekend, according to the American Automobile Association, up 7% from a year ago.
Americans traveling by car will rise by 6% to 37.1 million, an increase of over 2 million from last year.
Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said that this is expected to be the third busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000, when the association started tracking holiday travel.
“More Americans are planning trips and booking them earlier, despite inflation,” she said in a statement. “This summer travel season could be one for the record books, especially at airports.”
As of May 23, the average price per gallon of gasoline was $3.543, the AAA said.
Nearly 3.4 million travelers are expected to fly to their destinations, up 11% over last year, according to AAA.
Most major retailers, including grocery stores, restaurants and retail stores, remain open on Memorial Day, but some businesses and institutions will be closed or have limited hours on the holiday.
What’s Closed On Memorial Day
Federal, state and city governments will be closed on Memorial Day, as will the stock market, and state and federal courts.
The U.S. Postal Service will be closed and not deliver mail on the holiday. The Federal Reserve System will be closed, along with most banks. ATMs and online banking will remain open.
Most major retailers, including grocery stores, restaurants and retail stores will be open, but there are some notable exceptions.
Most FedEx services, with the exception of FedEx Custom Critical, will not be operating on Memorial Day.