A hectic Armistice Day in Stratford
Stratford Central’s Remembrance Day ceremony recalls what Nov. 11, 1918, was like locally
While staff from Stratford’s daily newspaper will be busy Sunday capturing local Remembrance Day coverage, it will be nothing like what their counterparts were tasked with doing 100 years earlier.
As word began filtering out of Europe on Nov. 11, 1918, that the First World War had mercifully concluded, the Stratford Daily Herald published an early-morning edition featuring a screaming all-caps headline declaring an armistice had been signed. Yet it was merely the first of several editions the local paper put out that day, according to a pair of Stratford Central high school students who researched the topic for a Remembrance Day ceremony at their school Friday morning.
Evan Fortin, who gleaned the facts and produced a presentation along with fellow student Daisy Gruchy and history teacher Graham Leitch, read out the details inside a packed gymnasium.
“The Herald released two extra editions throughout the day in an attempt to satisfy Stratford’s desire for more news from the Western Front,” he said. “Eventually the paper released a statement saying there will be no other edition of the Herald today, the operating staff has been on duty since shortly after 4 (a.m.) this morning and, like truly loyal and patriotic citizens, they now want to join the general celebration.”
Fortin recapped how the hectic day began.
“Shortly after 4 a.m. local time, the Grand Trunk shops, which we now know as the Cooper site, blew a loud whistle for several minutes to wake the town. The Herald reported, ‘For once in their lives the people of Stratford know what the city looks like at 4 (a.m.),’” he said. “According to the Herald, many people had emerged from their houses half-dressed or in their pyjamas, children began parading through the streets banging pots and pans in order to wake anyone still in bed.”
Within an hour, around 3,000 people had gathered at city hall and the festivities, such as impromptu concerts and church services, continued throughout the day, Fortin said.
A mid-afternoon parade was “the largest in the city’s history,” Fortin added.
The 75-minute assembly also featured music teacher Paula Ortelli conducting the school’s symphonic band, concluding with a collaborative performance alongside the Stratford Police Pipes and Drums. Students Alivia Judge and Ben McTavish read letters by First World War Huron County solider Tom Penrose, and the school’s Dance Central club performed an interpretive dance. email@example.com
Above: Stratford Central music teacher Paula Ortelli conducts the school’s symphonic band while historic war photos are shown during a Remembrance Day ceremony on Friday.Left: A 100-year-old clipping from the Stratford Daily Herald proclaiming the end of the First World War is shown during a Remembrance Day ceremony at Stratford Central on Friday.