The day the bells rang out across the city

To­gether with fac­tory whis­tles, they sig­nalled the war was over

The Niagara Falls Review - - Arts & Life - DEN­NIS GAN­NON Spe­cial to The St. Catharines Stan­dard Den­nis Gan­non is a mem­ber of the His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety of St. Catharines. He can be reached at gan­nond2002@yahoo.com.

By this time in 1918, it was clear the First World War — the Great War, the blood­i­est war in hu­man his­tory to date — was about to end.

At the end of Septem­ber the Ger­man high com­mand had rec­og­nized no hope of vic­tory. Dis­cus­sions about this be­gan within the Ger­man gov­ern­ment, and soon Ger­man rep­re­sen­ta­tives be­gan dis­cus­sions with the Al­lied pow­ers (Bri­tain, France, the United States and Italy) to de­ter­mine the ba­sis on which peace could be achieved.

The war-weary pub­lic was ea­ger for news that the fight­ing would stop. A Nov. 7 re­port that a cease­fire had fi­nally been ar­ranged re­sulted in wide­spread pub­lic re­joic­ing. But that was a false alarm.

Four days later, in the early morn­ing hours of Nov. 11, 1918 — 100 years ago this week­end — a real armistice agree­ment was fi­nally signed. The event was an­nounced by the French au­thor­i­ties at ap­prox­i­mately 9 a.m. Paris time, and with sur­pris­ing speed the news reached all the way to St. Catharines.

Stan­dard ed­i­tor W. B. Bur­goyne learned of it at 4:05 a.m. lo­cal time, he im­me­di­ately passed the news on to Mayor James Wi­ley, the mayor or­dered that the bell in the court­house tower be rung, the whis­tles of the lo­cal fac­to­ries soon sounded out, and the church bells joined in spread­ing the news.

And then the fun be­gan. Peo­ple be­gan to flood into the streets of down­town, led by night-shift work­ers at the Steel & Metal Co. plant on Geneva Street, soon

fol­lowed by work­ers from McK­in­non In­dus­tries. Some­one con­trived an ef­figy of the hated Ger­man leader Kaiser Wil­helm II,

at­tached it to the rear bumper of an auto, and be­gan drag­ging it around town. It ended up be­ing burned in the street in front of The Stan­dard’s of­fices.

As peo­ple awoke to the news the crowds be­gan to fill the streets, car­ry­ing pa­tri­otic signs and wav­ing flags.

And that was the scene for the rest of the day. At 10 a.m. the big­gest pa­rade of the day stepped off from the mar­ket square and wound its way around the city cen­tre, east­ward al­most all the way to the Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal, and back again, end­ing in the broad square at the in­ter­sec­tion of St. Paul and On­tario streets.

One of our old pho­tos this week, taken from atop an On­tario Street build­ing over­look­ing that in­ter­sec­tion, shows a huge crowd gath­ered in front of an im­pro­vised stage, lis­ten­ing to speeches from the mayor, the mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, the lo­cal head of the IODE, and the pas­tor of St. Ge­orge’s Angli­can Church, along with pa­tri­otic mu­sic from the 19th Reg­i­ment Band.

Our other old photo gives a closer view of the crowd that day, milling about St. Paul Street just west of James, look­ing sky­ward as an air­plane cir­cled above them.

Lo­cal churches held ser­vices giv­ing thanks that peace had fi­nally come, and the staff at The Stan­dard pro­duced a se­ries of spe­cial edi­tions record­ing the events of that mem­o­rable day .

So, the fight­ing ended, the war­ring na­tions ham­mered out a for­mal peace set­tle­ment early in the fol­low­ing year, and the dead and wounded were re­turned home.

H.C. GOOD­MAN RON GOOD­MAN

As bells ring out, peo­ple be­gin to flood into down­town St. Catharines, led by night-shift work­ers at the Steel & Metal Co. plant on Geneva Street, soon fol­lowed by work­ers from McK­in­non In­dus­tries.

ST. CATHARINES MU­SEUM

The city crowds into the street, milling about St. Paul Street just west of James, look­ing sky­ward as an air­plane cir­cles above them.

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