City cel­e­brated Ar­mistice as a ‘tri­umph for democ­racy’

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - GORD HEN­DER­SON g_hen­der­son61@yahoo.ca

Be­fore dawn, 100 years ago Sun­day, the howls of steam whis­tles on ships in the Detroit River, soon joined by scores of fac­tory horns, sent Wind­sor area res­i­dents tum­bling out of their beds and into the streets to join the big­gest, loud­est party this re­gion has ever seen.

The an­nounce­ment of an Ar­mistice, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, end­ing the Great War, the trag­i­cally mis­named “War to End all Wars,” un­leashed waves of eu­pho­ria among bor­der area res­i­dents ex­hausted by four years of bloody sac­ri­fice of their Cana­dian “boys” over­seas and re­lent­less belt-tight­en­ing on the home front. “From 4 a.m. Mon­day the din has never ceased,” re­ported the Bor­der Ci­ties Star, fore­run­ner of The Wind­sor Star. “Mighty bed­lam. Noise, noise and still more noise. Words can­not paint the pic­ture of the scene — Wind­sor and her four sis­ters (Ford City, Walk­erville, Sand­wich and Ojib­way) on this sa­cred Mon­day — that spells au­toc­racy’s fi­nal doom and the great­est cel­e­bra­tion of joy that has roused th­ese bor­der ci­ties,” the pa­per pro­claimed. It de­scribed how “tens of thou­sands,” in a bor­der area with a pop­u­la­tion of only 35,000, swarmed down­town streets shout­ing, cheer­ing and wield­ing pots, pans and other noise­mak­ers.

A ser­vice of thanks­giv­ing at the down­town Ar­mouries was fol­lowed by a mas­sive pa­rade, led by the Bor­der Ci­ties Kil­ties Band and re­turned vet­er­ans from the bat­tles in France and Bel­gium, down Ouel­lette Av­enue to Sand­wich Street (River­side Drive) and out to the east end and then back to the west end. Em­ploy­ees of Toledo Scale Co., now a med­i­cal cen­tre at Howard and Memo­rial, marched out of the plant in uni­son and joined the “peace pa­rade” with a ban­ner that an­nounced “We made the scale that weighed the shell that blew the Kaiser all to hell.”

Im­promptu floats bore car­i­ca­tures of “the Kaiser and his Fallen Pi­rate Crew.” Brass bands, in­clud­ing the Sal­va­tion Army and Pol­ish bands, played pa­tri­otic tunes while the throngs roared their ap­proval. But this was only round two of a mas­sive party that be­gan on the Sat­ur­day, Nov. 9, when word came that the Ger­man Army was col­laps­ing and ar­mistice terms had been reached.

That prompted what the news­pa­per de­scribed as “a car­ni­val of mer­ry­mak­ing,” a “pa­rade that made the pave­ments of Wind­sor groan,” and “the big­gest, wildest cel­e­bra­tion this side of the river has ever wit­nessed.”

The Sat­ur­day fes­tiv­i­ties in­cluded a huge bon­fire on Ouel­lette Av­enue next to a gal­lows from which dan­gled ef­fi­gies of the Ger­man Kaiser, two field mar­shals and an ad­mi­ral. They were pounded with bricks and rocks and then burned to ashes while the crowd war­bled God Save the King, Rule Bri­tan­nia and the French an­them, the Mar­seilles.

The news­pa­per noted that a truck­load of beer went miss­ing when its driver made a wrong turn into a thirsty crowd. It also frowned that “slack­ers were out in grand style to cel­e­brate — prob­a­bly that they will not be called up for ser­vice.” Hov­er­ing over the fes­tiv­i­ties was news of a pan­demic, the Span­ish In­fluenza, spread­ing across “the civ­i­lized world” that would even­tu­ally claim as many lives as the Great War. The Star re­ported 49 new cases and warned that On­tario’s death rate had dou­bled. An ad for “Riga” purga­tive wa­ter, along­side pitches for “Turnbull’s un­shrink­able wool un­der­wear” and the 10-cent “smart” bur­lesque mati­nee at the Cadillac, re­as­sured read­ers “the surest way to pre­vent it (in­fluenza) is to keep your bow­els ac­tive.”

The fol­low­ing day, with the fun and games over, the news­pa­per re­ported the war’s stag­ger­ing cost: a na­tion of fewer than eight mil­lion had suf­fered ca­su­al­ties, dead, wounded and miss­ing, to­talling 211,358, equiv­a­lent to more than a mil­lion in to­day’s Canada. The pain and sor­row hit homes in ev­ery cor­ner of this largely ru­ral coun­try. Yet there was im­mense, na­tion-build­ing pride in what Canada, par­tic­u­larly the four in­fantry di­vi­sions of the elite Cana­dian Corps which played a piv­otal role in achiev­ing vic­tory on the West­ern Front, had ac­com­plished.

As the Bor­der Ci­ties Star pro­claimed: “Canada’s record in this war has given her a place in the sun of na­tions. Canada is a na­tion in ev­ery sense of the word. This great war and her brave sons made her so.”


Crowds cel­e­brate the sign­ing of the Ar­mistice, sig­nalling the end of the First World War, in Wind­sor on Nov. 11, 1918.


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