Beginning in early September, 2012, the Great Bend Tribune started running “Out of the Morgue,” a local history column highlighting nationally historical events from the given week, as well as what was happening in Great Bend for perspective, thus the weekly editorial note, “Each week we’ll take a step back into the history of Great Bend through the eyes of reporters past. We’ll reacquaint you with what went into creating the Great Bend of today, and do our best to update you on what “the rest of the story” turned out to be. We hope you will enjoy this “best of” edition, our second in the eight-year series.
It’s been 102 years since the end of WWI. This week, some of the headline stories from the Nov. 11 and Nov. 12 Great Bend Tribune. Imagine you were there!
In 1918, this week was a busy one. Germany was scrambling to negotiate an armistice with the Allies, and the Associated Press jumped the gun on reporting it’s signing with a premature report on Nov. 7. There was still much negotiating left to do, plus there was a revolution happening within the German government to boot.
It would not be until Nov. 11 that the Armistice was signed, and that evening, the Great Bend Tribune, in 50-point type, declared WORLD WAR ENDS.
Related subheads included: ARMISTICE SIGNED AT 5:00 THIS MORNING; THE FIGHTING CEASED AT 6 O’CLOCK; The Allied Troops Will Not Until Further Orders Go Beyond the Line Reached at Date and Hour.
“World war ended this morning at 6 a.m., Washington time. The Armistice was signed by German representatives at midnight. This announcement was made at the state department today.
“Terms are said to include retirement of Germans from France, Belguim, Alsace and Loraine, disarmament and demobilization of German army, delivery of part of German high seas fleet and certain number of German submarines to American and Allied naval forces.”
The front page included a proclamation from Great Bend Mayor O.W. Dawson that read:
“This morning comes the news of our stupendous, glorious victory. The enemy has been defeated, they have signed an armistice that spells unconditional surrender, the victory has been won by the brave boys of our nation and our Allies. Peace is at hand.
“In the light of this great event freeing the world from the greatest cataclysm of blook in the history of mankind, I hereby declare this day a holiday in the City of Great Bend. Let all who can do so, close their places of business and join with one accord in a great patriotic celebration, giving praise to the Almighty and thanksgiving for the peace, long and enduring that may now bless the nations of the world.
“And today, the opening day of the big War Work Drive, what could be more fitting than that all join in putting Great Bend and Barton County “over the top” in this great enterprise, and thereby show our appreciation of our glory-covered boys -- our heroes.”
A patriotic parade and demonstration was planned and announced the same day. Everybody was invited to join in “the Great World War Jubilee.”
“There will be a general assembly on foot at one o’clock around the Court House Square which will be cleared of automobiles. Everybody should assemble and march round and round under the leadership of the Home Guards and the Band.
“At two o’clock everybody with an automobile is invited to join the grand procession of victory which will leave Great Bend for Ellinwood, Claflin, Hoisington, Galatia, Olmitz, Albert, Pawnee Rock and winding up at Great Bend with a tremendous demonstration this evening in which the entire county is urged to participate.
“In the county wide automobile parade, this following order will be observed:
First – The Barton County War Council
Second – The Great Bend Municipal Band
Third – The Great Bend and Pawnee Rock Home Guards
Fourth – The Great Bend Fire Company
Fifth – THE GREAT AMERICAN PEOPLE”
The Nov. 12, 1918 Tribune reported over 500 automobiles made the 62-mile round trip and “people went wild with joy.”
“One day that will be remembered in Great Bend and Barton county will be Monday, Nov. 11, 1918. When the news was flashed over the wires that the war was over.
“People peacefully sleeping were suddenly aroused at four o’clock in the morning by the blowing of whistles, ringing of bells, and firing of guns, and soon from all parts of town came the inhabitatnts to join in the celebration -- and such a celebration it was.
“A Big bonfire was started on Main Street in front of the courthouse and the gathering increased in numbers until people and automobiles were running about like a stirred up ant hill. The band was out at this early hour, and in cars drove over the city playng their popular song, “To Hell with Kaiser Bill.” In toxicated? Well, the stores were closed and everybody simply “knocked off” for the day.
“At one o’clock headed by the Red Cross band, girls band, House Guards and G.A.R., the crowd marched around the square cheering and every other way of giving vent to their ecstacy. Then the autmobiles lined up and the procession started for towns over the county.
“Ellinwood was the first place to go to and there they were met by the citizens who joined in the jubilee, and processesion to other towns. Everything was laid aside in all of the towns to help clebrate. At the Saints Peter and Paul church the school children were lined up to greet the cheering automobile loads as they went by and help swell the echo. At Claflin again the same reception was had. Redwing came next and then Hoisington. Here the Hoisington band joined the Great Bend band in leading the procession and the increasing crowd swelled the enthusiasm to a high pitch. It was a galla day for Barton County. There were some 500 or more cars in the procession and on the trip home when darkness had overtaken all, the long line of lights from the automobiles looked like a long serpent decked and bejeweled -- a beautiful sight.
“In the evening the band again played while the crowd continued its revelry. An impromptu stand was placed in the yard where speeches were later given by Mayor Dawson, Judge E.C. Cole and F.V. Russell – stirring speeches, the kind that got under the skin and made you want to cheer as you never had before; and the people did.
“It was a night of nights for lung testing and everyone did a good job of it -- you simply felt good to be in such environment. Following the speeches the Kaiser and Crown Prince were hung in effigy and later shot down to be burned and so closed the day of days which will so long be remembered by Americans and the peoples of the world. The house Guards also took part during the speaking when they mounted the court house steps and fired a number of salutes.”
Despite all the good cheer at the war’s end, casualty lists were still a daily occurance for days to come. Still, reports of those who had ultimately perished following the battle in September at the Argonne Forest were coming in. But young men of draft age could take heart. It was announced that Friday, Nov. 15, “the call for registrants had been cancelled and none of those who have been called to report need answer.”
War Work Drive
The war work drive mentioned in Dawson’s proclamation was an effort that had been planned to last three weeks in November, had the war continued, but would now be concentrated into less than a week, to raise $250,000,000 for morale boosting efforts provided by members of several service groups: the Y.M.C.A., the Y.W.C.A., the Knights of Columbus, the Jewish Welfare Board, the Salvation Army. These groups assembled care packages that included chocolate bars, cigarettes, writing paper and pens, cookies, and other comfort items. They traveled overseas to provide comfort and entertainment for the troops, organize shows and games of sport during down time, helping to keep morale high. It was that high morale many credited for helping the U.S. Soldiers to be the force that sent the German army scrambling. Others might point to the German’s lack and low morale as part of what defeated them.