By Elaine Rassel
On November 11 we celebrate Armistice Day now known as Veterans Day. The MMCRU High School has a program at 10 o’clock on November 10 and ending at the 11th hour. The following stories are of how the signing of the Armistice in 1918 was celebrated in our communities and other countries. It was to be the end of the greatest war the United States was ever involved in and was also to be the end of all wars.
November 14, 1918—“Make Merry Over End Of Great War”. Marcus staged a peace celebration on Monday which will never be forgotten by any of the participants.
Early in the morning, the bells of the city began to ring thus heralding the gladsome news that the greatest war of all time was over and the principles for which the allies had laid down their lives were not in vain.
All businessmen of the city declared the day to be a holiday and all places were closed. It was impossible to keep either young America or the older ones from celebrating and the entire day was devoted to giving vent to feelings of great joy.
In the afternoon a parade was formed. Remnants of Marcus’ band got together and headed the parade followed by Uncle Sam and Miss Columbia driving a team. The national characters were impersonated by Glenn Sylvester and Miss Irene Nagle. A truck carrying three captured tyrants: Wilhelm, Von Hindenburg and the Crown Prince, guarded over by representatives of the army and navy, namely Private George Greff of Camp Gordon and Floyd H. Hamilton of the U.S. Navy next appeared.
Young women and children with noisy horns followed. Guy N. Tomlinson of Cherokee delivered an inspiring patriotic speech and then followed the ceremony of hanging the three characters that had been a menace to civilization. The beautiful words of our national anthem were then struck up and every head bowed. The ceremonies took place beneath the new flag pole which was erected by generous Marcus businessmen at a cost of $200. Upon this pole there fluttered to the breeze, the Stars and Stripes, the Marcus service flag and the flags of our allies.
The crowning event of the happy day in history was held in the evening when a monster bon fire was built at the corner near the News office and the three traitors burned. Trucks were kept busy gathering material to keep the monster fire brightly burning. Speeches were made, songs sung and a hilarious time was enjoyed. So bubbling over with joy were the participants that they even threw their hats into the blaze.
The celebrators turned homeward about midnight, tired but genuinely happy.
November 14, 1918—“Big Barbecue at Peace Celebration”. Meriden is not a very large place in population but when it comes to patriotism and being true blue, it takes no back seat for any town of its size.
Early Monday morning, when the good news was passed along the line that the armistice had been signed, patriotic people of the town got busy and at sunrise, flags were flown, bells were rung and kept ringing from time to time throughout the day and far into the night. A committee got together and planned for a demonstration for the evening which was carried out to perfection. The fatted calf was killed and preparations were made for a good old-fashioned barbecue which was held in the evening. It meant hard work for some but what did the toilers care when they stopped to think that it was a celebration of one of the greatest victories the world ever knew. In the evening, a large crowd gathered at the scene of activities which was Main street that was decorated for the occasion. Dell Sechler was in charge of this.
A parade was one of the features led by the women and school children with various musical instruments from a big base drum to tin pans found in the alley and at the close of this parade, the image of the worst traitor on earth, a fugitive from justice, Wilhelm Hohenzollern, was burned in effigy amid the applause of the crowd. W.H. Runnings then took the platform in lieu of Mayor W.H. Lamont who was confined to his bed by an attack of the flu. He introduced Rev. Turner, the speaker of the evening, who in a short speech but full of patriotism, enthused the crowd. After that came the eating of the ox which was carved by Chef Alva Waldron and his assistant, C. Brower, manager of Farmers Elevator and others. A bevy of young ladies served sandwiches and coffee to the waiting crowd. There was plenty to go around; you could have all you wished to eat and if anyone went home hungry from Meriden’s first barbecue, it was their own fault.
Among others who assisted in making the affair a success were Lloyd Sangwin, president of the bank; Albert Hund of Liberty; J.E. Wiese who furnished the lights; Wixon Bros. who provided the tank and other cooking utensils. All business for the day was suspended and all work and the success of the affair was due to those who got busy and did with their might what their hands found to do with joy in their hearts of victory won.
November 14, 1918—“Stage Indoor Event at Cleghorn Tuesday”. Well, Cleghorn celebrated the peace victory on Tuesday evening. On Monday our citizens seemed to be trying to absorb the full meaning of the good news quietly. Some of the boys manufactured a dummy to represent the ex-Kaiser, hitched a horse to a wagon and with various articles for making a noise, which only small boys can “dig up,” paraded the streets. The “ex-Kaiser” was afterwards hung to a wire that expanded the street. But on Tuesday evening the Nafzinger garage was cleared, seated and decorated, making a very good place to accommodate those who desired to listen to the program which consisted of readings, music and a rousing speech by Rev. A.B. Thutt of Cherokee. The workroom of the garage was used as a kitchen where coffee and wienie sandwiches were made and served to the crowd after the program.
Marcus lads assisted in the hilarities on the street and cleaned up the alleys pretty well of all combustible material which went to feed the bonfire. The ladies’ band from Meriden, assisted by a few musicians of Cleghorn, was very energetic in their efforts to make a noise and was much appreciated by some of the young gentlemen. Everybody rejoiced.
It now looks now as though we would get from under the restraint imposed by the flu quarantine about the last of the week and that we will have church and Sunday School on Sunday and school the next week. There are no cases of the disease in this vicinity that we have heard of and it seems as though it will be safe with due care to resume normal activities along these lines again. (If only they could have known that they were not immune from the deadly flu.)
November 14, 1918—“Cherokee Went Wild, Just Simply Wild”. According to Cherokee newspapers, for twenty-four hours following the news that the war with Germany was over, the city went wild, simply wild! It was declared to be the noisiest celebration the city has ever experienced. Just as soon as the news came over the wire, shortly after two o’clock in the morning, whistles began to blow and they were kept blowing continuously for almost twenty-four hours. Crowds immediately began to form. On Monday afternoon, a formal celebration was held. Schools and business houses closed for the day. Quimby was represented by fifty automobiles.
“The Times” describes the event as—“Among those in line were the band, a drum corps, veterans of the G.A.R., Company 1, Sons of Veterans, nearly 1,000 school children, Red Cross nurses in uniform, four cars of surgical dressings’ workers in uniform, a float for the Belgian relief workers, women representing food conservation and each carrying an ear of corn, Sisk & James with a musical float, and the fire department. The food administration appeared in the parade with a live goat and a banner bearing the words, “Food Got The Kaiser’s Goat.”
“One of the cleverest features was the representation of the Kaiser’s funeral. Port Sleezer officiated as driver of a span of mules hitched to a black hearse and by his side sat Undertaker Appleyard, and in front walked Rev. A.B. Thutt, prayer book in hand, and following him came the sexton with shovel. In the hearse could be seen a skeleton representing the last of the Kaiser. Behind, walked a man in deep mourning, wiping away his tears with a huge handkerchief, and bearing across his back, the word, “Nobody” indicating that the Kaiser is mourned by “nobody”.
The celebration continued last night with a big pavement dance and another dance at the armory. The streets were prettily decorated with red, white and blue lights and great crowds of people were in attendance.”
December 5, 1918—“Hears of Peace While in England”. When the people of this sane America went wild, simply wild, over the signing of the armistice by Germany, everyone must have wondered what the boys “over there” were doing.
C.C. Lindsay, manager of the Cooperative Store, is among the first dads in Marcus to hear what his soldier son was doing at that moment. Harold was in Eastleigh, England, on the memorable November 11 and he tells of the triumphant moment of joy and pathos joy at the end of bloodshed and its attending sorrow and pathos at the sight of the countenances of mothers who had sacrificed sons in the cause of humanity.
Harold describes the scenes in a graphic manner in the following lines: November 11—Dear Folks: I have just come to camp after a wild trip to Eastleigh and Southampton, in which the entire camp took part in and paraded the streets with the band playing and flags waving. We were celebrating the signing of the armistice and I think we surely did celebrate in fine shape. The entire population was out and the streets were fairly jammed with people. I was never in such a mob in my life. During chow, it was announced that the armistice was signed and we could have until two o’clock to do as we pleased.
“Well there was a sham battle with potatoes and bread for about five minutes and then everybody piled out, lined up and with the band in the lead, started up the road to Eastleigh. After parading the streets of that town, we went back to camp, and when we got there, they told us we could have the rest of the day to do as we pleased and until midnight to get back into camp. We lined up again and marched to Southampton and gave them a real example of Yankee enthusiasm.
“The streets of Southampton were packed so thick with people that it took Larson and me nearly half an hour to get two blocks. When we got to the American Y.M.C.A., we planted ourselves there and stayed until we could take a back alley and catch a street car back to camp. I believe I walked ten miles today and I surely am tired.
“I will never forget this day as long as I live, for as wee went along the streets and looked into the faces of the English women, we could pick out those who had lost sons, husband and fathers in the fighting. Although the people were rejoicing, it was a different spirit than what we have.
“Right now there are opinions about how soon we will get home, but I am almost positive, that it won’t be for some time to come. So don’t get anxious as our work begins after the others are gone. Some of the boys will go back right away but our division will stay and take care of supplies that have to be sent back and to check up on them, so you can see we will have to be here for some time.” Your son, Harold.
December 19, 1918—“Glad Hand Out For The Soldiers”. A warm clasp of the hand and a few cheery words in way of greeting is accorded every returning soldier to Marcus. The Red Cross is represented at every train and all the soldiers are assured of a hearty welcome.
The committee and day which each serves follows: Sunday, J.W. Nield—Monday, Mrs. Thomas Herbert—Tuesday, Mrs. R.M. Paine—Wednesday, Miss Mae Hamilton—Thursday, Rev. G.R. Gilbert—Friday, Mrs. F.F. McConnell—and Saturday, C.R. McConnell. The Red Cross is keeping a record of all soldiers who return as a matter of history.
The idea of meeting all the trains was suggested by Mr. McConnell. His son was the first Marcus soldier to arrive home after being mustered out and he arrived unannounced. A meeting of the Red Cross was held on Friday afternoon and the above plan approved.
The first day that the Red Cross sent a representative to the morning flier, three Remsen soldiers came to stay over until the nine o’clock train. The soldiers were Arthur J. Scott, Theodore Krekow and John Hewicker of the S.A.T.C. of Coe College. The soldiers were breakfasted by the Red Cross. Other soldiers returning home this week were Sergeant Delbert McGee of Camp Cody who arrived Monday afternoon, Carl Wetterer of Jefferson Barracks, Ray Niemann of Dubuque, Captain A. Nafzinger of Fort Riley, Kansas and Emmett Fenton of Dubuque.
By Elaine Rassel