World War I in Lawrence: Soldiers parade downtown before departure
Editor’s note: Local writer Sarah St. John compiles reports of what it was like to be in Lawrence 100 years ago during World War I.
In the summer of 1918, after nearly two months of focused work, the men attending the first Army Training Camp on the University of Kansas campus were nearly finished their schooling and were packing up for their next assignment.
The men had arrived in Lawrence on June 15 to begin “intensive training … along special mechanical lines.” KU instructors had led the classes, while a staff of officers had given drilling instruction.
Before their August departure, the soldiers made a public appearance in downtown Lawrence: “Parading down Massachusetts street in platoon columns, the 250 men … and two companies of United States and Kansas Guards gave the town a military aspect this afternoon.”
Mayor George L. Kreeck had issued an order banning motor cars and other vehicles from parking on the west side of Massachusetts between 1:35 and 2:15 p.m., as the men planned to demonstrate infantry drill and manual of arms.
Mayor Kreeck also suggested that downtown businesses decorate their buildings with flags and bunting. Each soldier had invited family members and local friends; between four and five hundred visitors were expected to visit Lawrence for the parade and the other events of the “big ‘home folks’ party” arranged by the training camp.
A buffet lunch was served in Robinson Gymnasium at 5:30 that day, more military demonstrations were exhibited at McCook Field that evening, and the main feature, a dance at the Fraternal Aid Union building at 9 p.m., was “the main feature of the entertainment, and was well patrolled by the men. More than one hundred girls who were invited for the occasion danced with the soldiers…. Light refreshments and punch were served.”