World War I in Lawrence: Residents rush downtown to celebrate the armistice

Editor’s note: Local writer Sarah St. John compiles reports of what it was like to be in Lawrence during World War I.

Before sunrise today, the long-awaited news of the armistice reached Lawrence. According to an extra edition of the Journal-World, Santa Fe Railway night operator Ralph Tripp received the glad tidings by wire at 2 a.m. and immediately contacted the newspaper’s publisher. “By the splendid cooperation of the telephone operators, the Journal-World was receiving the news and calling to gather its employees at the same moment.” Mayor Kreeck, reportedly a deep sleeper, was also awakened and quickly issued a notice proclaiming the day as a holiday, “that every one may celebrate this glorious victory of right and justice. Let all business cease for the day and all schools and offices close.” Gatherings were immediately planned for the afternoon at McCook Field and for the evening at the Bowersock Theater. In the meantime, residents rushed downtown for an impromptu celebration. Bells and whistles sounded all over the city, the fire department raced up and down the streets with its sirens blasting, and those with automobiles fitted them up with boilers and washtubs to drag down the streets, adding to the joyous clamor. At Haskell Institute, work was suspended as students joined the celebration; the Haskell band “boarded a street car and paraded the streets of the business section for an hour.”

A later edition of the Journal-World reminded readers that military efforts would continue as the United States was to “play an important part in disarming and guarding the enemy, and until this work is completed, even the movement of troops to France will be continued, although on a greatly reduced scale.” Accordingly, the eighteen men of the final Douglas County draft quota departed Lawrence this morning. “The call was issued last week and as no rescinding order for the call had been received the men obeyed the orders like soldiers, even though they knew the war was ended. They marched to the station cheering perhaps more than any other selected men who have left here.”


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