Modesto area wel­comed the end of World War I a cen­tury ago Sun­day

The Modesto Bee (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY JOHN HOL­LAND jhol­land@mod­bee.com

Ex­actly 100 years ago Sun­day, an ef­figy of Kaiser Wil­helm burned on a Modesto street.

Thus did some of the towns­folk cel­e­brate the end of World War I, as re­ported by the Modesto Evening News.

Ger­many sur­ren­dered to the United States and its al­lies on Nov. 11, 1918, near Com­piègne, France. The ar­mistice ended a four-year strug­gle that killed an es­ti­mated 8.5 mil­lion ser­vice mem­bers. The Amer­i­can forces lost 116,516 af­ter en­ter­ing the war in 1917, in­clud­ing 49 from Stanis­laus County listed on a me­mo­rial out­side to­day’s court­house on I Street.

The lo­cal Elks lodge cre­ated the ef­figy of Wil­helm, the em­peror of Ger­many, who had ab­di­cated two days ear­lier. It was placed in a cof­fin and pa­raded to 11th and I streets. A mock trial re­sulted in burn­ing from a 30-foot-tall scaf­fold.

Other Modestans were more sub­dued in wel­com­ing the news, but they clearly were glad that it was over over there.

“All night long the crowd walked the streets in a delir­ium of joy at the tri­umph of the al­lies,” the Evening News re­ported “... There was a riot of color and sound and hi­lar­ity, and it all em­anated from the heart filled with real joy.”

The ini­tial story that day

de­scribed it all.

“It was 11:19 last night when the flash came over the United Press spe­cial wire in the News of­fice that the ar­mistice had been signed. It was of­fi­cial.

“The News had an ex­tra on the street in a few min­utes con­tain­ing the full story of the last act that brought the world war to a close. Mean­time the glad tidings were phoned to Fire Chief Wal­lace at the Modesto fire de­part­ment and the big of­fi­cial whis­tle at the city hall was set blast­ing the big news.

“Min­gling with the first news were twenty-five shots fired from the News of­fice in cel­e­bra­tion and as a sig­nal. ...”

Nov. 11 be­came known as Ar­mistice Day , in honor of the Amer­i­can and al­lied forces. Con­gress changed the name to Vet­er­ans Day in 1954 to in­clude peo­ple who served in World War II and sub­se­quent con­flicts.

Modesto will hold its lat­est ver­sion of the cel­e­bra­tion with a pa­rade start­ing at 9 a.m. Sun­day at 10th and O streets. It will pro­ceed to Graceada Park, where a cer­e­mony and other at­trac­tions are planned.

On­line news was decades in the fu­ture when the ar­mistice was re­ported by the Evening News. But the pa­per did boast about how fast it got word of the war’s end, thanks to its United Press tele­graph line. The ar­mistice took ef­fect at 11 a.m. in the French time zone. Modesto is nine hours be­hind, so the news hit the streets in an “ex­tra” in the dead of night.

Modesto in 1918 had about 9,000 res­i­dents and a di­verse farm­ing econ­omy sup­ported by new canals, can­ner­ies and rail­roads. That same Nov. 11 pa­per listed the prices farm­ers could get for sev­eral types of dry beans. An ad for the Modesto Ho­tel promised “no shiv- ery morn­ings” thanks to its steam-heat sys­tem. Shop­pers could get bar­racuda for 17 cents a pound at the Modesto Fish Mar­ket.

That also was the year of an in­fluenza pan­demic that killed an es­ti­mated 50 mil­lion peo­ple around the world. The Evening News of Nov. 11 ad­ver­tised a cure from the Poo On Chi­nese Herb Co. on Tenth Street.

The Evening News would merge in 1925 with the Her­ald. The com­bined pa­per is now The Modesto Bee.

The ar­mistice of 1918 re­quired Ger­many to give up ships, planes and other mil­i­tary as­sets and to pay repa­ra­tions. “Con­quered na­tion stripped of power to make war again,” said the head­line on a wire story in the Evening News.

We know how that went. Ger­many launched World War II in 1939, and it spread to the Ja­panese empire. The court­house me­mo­rial bears the names of an ad­di­tional 270 peo­ple from Stanis­laus County who died.

The front page of the Modesto Evening News for Mon­day, Nov. 11, 1918, re­ports the ar­mistice be­ing signed, end­ing World War I.

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