Retro Reads: A look at how Fredericksburg marked Armistice Day | Lifestyles


Celebrants flood New York City streets on Armistice Day in 1918.

Many people know that before Nov. 11 was Veterans Day, it was Armistice Day, the day that marked the end of hostilities in World War I. It wasn’t until after World War II that the name was officially changed to honor all who served in the military.

If we could travel in our way-back machine to Fredericksburg on the first Armistice Day in 1918, we’d see groups of people standing outside the Daily Star’s office when the bulletins were posted announcing the war’s end. The Star itself said, “The telegrams were read with great interest and rejoicing by hundreds of persons. Some would pass on after reading the news, others would gather…”

It might seem a bit of an understated reaction for the end of a war. That’s because Fredericksburg—and the rest of the nation—had already done its celebrating four days earlier when a rumor was circulated, unfounded as it turned out, that the armistice had been signed.

The news came about 1:30 p.m. Church bells began ringing continuously and factory whistles blew. People ran into the streets with “wild enthusiasm,” tossing shreds of ripped paper everywhere. A huge automobile parade was immediately organized for 4 p.m. According to The Free Lance, “Many cars decorated with flags and bunting paraded the streets filled with rejoicing people, both old and young, with flags, horns, bells, etc.” People stayed out celebrating until after dark, their excitement at being out probably galvanized by the fact that the deadly second wave of the influenza pandemic was finally dissipating and restrictions on indoor meetings had just been lifted. “The community had almost exhausted itself in a frenzy of joy,” reported the Star. They woke up the next morning to deep, but fortunately short-lived, disappointment.

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