Veterans Day

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the “War to End all Wars” came to an end. Five hours after signing the final armistice to halt the hostilities between Allied countries and Germany, Bulgaria and the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires, four-plus years of fighting finally ceased.

The news reached the Rogue Valley at midnight. Within minutes, reported the Medford Mail Tribune on November 12, the streets were full of local celebrants. Within a half-hour, over a thousand joyous residents were outside, armed with “every known kind of noise maker,” including tin cans, pots and even guns.

Local firefighters kicked off the festivities with a long blast of their fire whistle. A Standard-Pacific train laid on its whistle for so long that it had to “steam up” before it could leave town. Once on its way, the train’s crew hit the whistle non-stop, “waking up farmers all along the line.”

Back in town, locals took to their automobiles. “Some had tin cans tied on behind them,” said the Mail Tribune, “and when making 30 miles an hour these contrivances made so much noise that the ‘natives’ for miles around were wakened out of a sound peaceful sleep.”

It was a wild scene, reported the Mail Tribune, but it really kicked into high gear when, at 2 AM a “live bunch from Jacksonville, headed by Louis Ulrich and Peter Fieke, arrived on the scene and proceeded to show some of the real Jacksonville spirit that has been so much in evidence during the many war drives.” The Jacksonville group immediately blocked Main Street with their cars and began a “war dance” which was apparently so infectious that everyone else on the street immediately joined in, continuing the “war dance” until well after 3 AM. “People on the streets fairly went mad,” said the Mail Tribune.

Somehow, despite waking up to a Main Street “covered with shot gun wads” and youthful locals who carried the celebration until morning, Medford was able to stage “the greatest celebration in the history of the valley” the following day. All businesses closed, draping their facades with flags in anticipation of the first Armistice Day Parade. People came from “far and near” to see Medford Mayor Pop Gates, riding in an automobile from his C.E. Gates Auto Company, kick off the processional at 1:30 PM, followed by the Juvenile Band, the state militia and the boy scouts, and “hundreds of automobiles loaded down with merry makers.”

They paraded up and down Main Street for hours and then splintered off, the line of “merry makers” continuing up to Central Point and then down to Ashland, picking up revelers along the way. At one point, the sun broke through the clouds, blessing the festivities called “the end of war for many generations” by the Mail Tribune. “Such a celebration will never again be witnessed by any living person,” the paper reported hopefully the following day.

Unfortunately, the Armistice Day parade of 1918 did not signify the end of war. Our own Jacksonville Cemetery and the flags placed on the 402 graves of veterans each Memorial Day reminds us of that. The markers, which remain in place until just after Veteran’s Day, honor local soldiers who fought in World War I and prior conflicts, but also from the wars that came afterward — World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War.

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