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Tracing Tracy Territory

As war ends, Tracy goes wild

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“TRACY CELEBRATES DAWN OF PEACE”

That headline in the Tracy Press heralded Tracyites’ response a century ago to the news that Armistice had been proclaimed Nov. 11, ending World War I — “the war to end all wars.”

Actually, Tracy residents got a rolling start in their celebrating, since they had heard three days earlier that an armistice was in the offing to end the fighting between Allied and German forces on the Western Front in France.

That news touched off an impromptu parade along Central Avenue north to “the highway” — that is, 11th Street.

Tracy Press Editor and Publisher Henry Hull reported:

“It mattered not to the people that the report (of an armistice) was wholly correct or not. They realized that it is only a matter of a few days that the armistice will be signed and the Great War closed.”

Those “few days” numbered only three. In the early morning hours of Nov. 11, 1918, news came by telegraph that the armistice had been signed in a railroad car in France.

Henry Hull again: “In the middle of the night, when the whistles began blowing, the bells ringing and the fire siren burst forth its rasping, nerve-racking bellow, the one thought that ran through the minds of the citizens was ‘THE WAR IS OVER.’”

Preparations were immediately set in motion for a big Armistice Day celebration that evening. The Press editor continued:

“At 7:30, the band headed one of the most unique and boisterous parades Tracy had ever seen. They were followed by Mose Lewis as Uncle Sam, driving a decrepit white horse with iron crosses painted on its sides drawing an old wagon containing the ‘coffin’ and the life-like figure of the (German) Kaiser.”

Boy Scouts and Red Cross Canteen workers followed the hearse, trailed by a long line of “yelling, shouting, singing humanity, waving the flags of the victorious Allies.”

At City Hall (today’s Fire Administration Building at Central Avenue and Ninth Street), the coffin and dummy were set afire in a funeral pyre. After a few remarks by Mayor Nelson Dwelly and Prof. George Wadsworth, principal of West Side Union High School, the celebrating continued.

“While the flames lit up the night, the wildest scenes were enacted by the big gathering,” Hull noted. “The band went wild, men danced and women yelled and waved their flags. A small boy with firecrackers added to the din.”

After the singing of “America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the program ended, but after receiving a cash contribution, the band played on, and the celebrating continued into the night.

Later in the Press, Hull proclaimed: “The war is over. The Kaiser is deposed. Democracy has won. But we have one more enemy to whip — influenza.”

More next week about Tracy’s battle against what was called the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic.

Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at shm@tracypress.com.

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