In the late evening hours of August 25, 1953, a motorcade carrying Corporal John H. F. Teal pulled into Hartford’s North End, where a small crowd of family and friends were eagerly gathered to welcome him home. Teal had just been returned to the United States after spending 32 months in a Korean prison camp. As the city’s first returning P.O.W. from the never-officially-declared war that had been labeled the Korean “conflict,” his homecoming attracted plenty of attention. Festivities were originally scheduled for August 25th, but were moved ahead one day because Teal’s motorcade had been delayed on its journey from Worcester, Massachusetts.
Hartford pulled out all the stops in welcoming Corporal Teal back home. An all-day block party with a live orchestra, community dance, and huge lunch buffet took place in the city’s North End. The young veteran was also honored with a ride in a patriotic motorcade to City Hall amid hundreds of onlookers and well-wishers.
Newspaper accounts described Teal as tall, handsome, and soft-spoken, and evidently a bit overwhelmed by the attention showered upon him by everyone from friends and family to state dignitaries and complete strangers. Hartford Councilman John J Mahon Jr. presented Teal with the key to the city amid a short, patriotic speech at City Hall. Mahon told Teal: “As you can see by the spirit of the people here today, Hartford’s heart has gone out to you. The City Council has already been notified that there is a good position available to you in local industry, and we are sure that other citizens in the town will demonstrate their affection for you in equally important ways.”
Mahon’s words were quite prophetic: By the end of the week, a collection among residents from Hartford’s North End had been started to procure funds toward buying the corporal and his family a new home. A local clothier had also offered Teal a brand new suit in any style of his choosing, free of charge, to wear to his new civilian job. Hartford’s patriotism and community spirit was on full display, today in Connecticut history.