City Went Wild, for a Great War Ended
Armistice Day, 1918
Watertown Daily Times, 11 11 1952
Watertown went wild. And so did the rest of the nation and practically the whole world. It was on Nov. 11, 1918, at 11 o'clock in the forenoon, that hostilities ceased in World War I, bringing to an end the first great global conflict in history.
On that day Watertown witnessed what has been without question the wildest celebration in its history. An impromptu parade, band music, jammed sidewalks and streets, flags, bunting, firecrackers and free drinks all combined to make it such a hilarious occasion that those who lived through it have never forgotten it. Nor are they likely to do so.
The end of the war sent men's hopes for world peace soaring everywhere. But subsequent events in history dashed that hope and again in 1939 a war broke out in Europe which blasted into World War II. Even today world statesmen and diplomats talk ominously of another war--World War III.
Period of Confusion
Thirty-four years ago this month, November began in a mire of confusion, contradiction and expectancy and tension. The war which began in 1914 was closing and everyone who followed the march of events knew it, but no one knew just how or where the end would come.
The period is best told in the headlines that greeted readers those confusing days.
"Unofficial Report of Armistice Signing."
Friday, Nov. 8:
"Armistice Not Signed but Envoys Receive the Terms This Afternoon."
Saturday, Nov. 9:
"German Emperor Abdicates Throne."
Monday, Nov. 11:
"President Wilson Announces That Armistice Has Been Signed; Reads Terms at Special Session of Congress."
Days of false hopes, confusion, doubt, rumors, joy and sorrow. They were exactly 34 years ago.
Something was going to happen, but no one knew what. It was almost certain that the war was nearing the end, but just when, no one knew.
Then things began to move swiftly. Those in high command of the German army, faltering in their loyalty to the emperor, sent out feelers for peace.
The news of those attempts leaked out and immediately spread the false notion that a truce had been signed. News agencies flashed the word that aroused the world to fever heat. "Armistice Signed," screamed the headlines in the papers subscribing to leading wire services. That was on Nov. 7.
The city started celebrating, only to awaken the next morning to learn that the war had not ended, that it was still on but that it could, from all accounts, not last much longer. Watertown waited. The nation waited. The world waited. Each day the news appeared a little more confusing, but down in their hearts men knew that something big was about to happen. And it did. On Nov. 11, 1918.
The day before on Nov. 10, the German Kaiser abdicated and fled to Holland where he lived and was to die in exile.
On Nov. 11 word came that firing would cease at 11 a.m. and Watertown was ready. It began a celebration that lasted far into the night and never before or since has this city seen such wild revelry and so much noise and celebrating. The end of World War II was mild by comparison as far as celebrations went. The end of World War I really set a pattern that may never again be equaled locally.
City Pays Respects to Fallen Heroes of the World War
Thousands of People Take Part in Armistice Celebration
Parade One of the Biggest in City’s History
Watertown Daily Times, 11 11 1921
Watertown came out in full force to celebrate Armistice day yesterday, if one is to judge by the splendid showing which the citizens made in the mammoth parade which filed through Main street in honor of the fallen heroes who died in the World war. The turnout was much larger than most people expected. It was one of the finest demonstrations in the history of Watertown and was witnessed by hundreds of people who lined the down town streets long before the time set for the parade. All organizations in the city were represented in the parade.
The Watertown police department led the parade giving a very impressive bearing to the line of march.
Next came the Watertown city band and an auto with Mayor Wertheimer. Members of the city council, city officials and the fire and police department followed in cars.
Junior citizens as Red Cross nurses occupied several automobiles in the procession.
Next came the American Legion and ex-service men, escorted by troop “D” 105th Cavalry, Wisconsin National Guard. They were followed by the G. A. R. in autos, the Watertown chapter of Red Cross, the Woman’s Relief Corps and the ladies’ Auxiliary of the American Legion.
Among the Women’s clubs which followed were the Catholic Woman’s club, the Euterpe club, Saturday club, the Delphian club, the Clover club, the Woman’s Progressive society and the Royal Neighbors. Next came the Catholic Knights of Wisconsin, and the Knights of Columbus.
The third division of the parade was headed by the Northwestern college band and cadets, followed by the Northwestern students. These were followed by Watertown labor unions, the W. C. T. U., United Commercial Travelers, and the city’s fraternal organizations. The High school students were well represented and hundreds of school children took part in the parade. They were from every school in the city and their line in the parade was over a mile long. It was a remarkable showing and could not fail to thrill the hearts of the hundreds of people who watched the parade as it filed through Main Street in solemn procession.
The Boy Scouts brought up the rear in a very dignified way.
Many Beautiful Floats
The parade yesterday contained many beautiful floats which represented the true spirit of the day. The floats were carefully planned and represented a great deal of work for those in charge. Woman’s part in the war depicted in one float a nurse and two wounded soldiers being the principals. The float showing Flanders field with its poppies among innumerable white crosses, attracted favorable comment all along the line of march. Besides being typical of the spirit of the day it brought a silent message to all who saw it. The float prepared by the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Knights was very pretty. It represented Liberty enthroned upon the world surrounded by Soldiers and Sailors of America.
The Delphian Club brought out clearly the advancement of woman in the educational and political life, and the many other beautiful floats made the parade one of the finest and best which Watertown has seen.
The people of the city showed their respect for the heroes who have died, by the many flags which were hung about the city.
Flanders poppies were seen upon the coats of hundreds of men and women who paid their respect to the world’s greatest war. Those in charge of the arrangements for the day’s celebration are to be congratulated for the success of their efforts. With the cooperation of the citizens they have made it a day which is a credit not only to the city but to the nation as well.
History of Watertown, Wisconsin