The Idaho Statesman described the celebration in Boise City on Nov. 11, 1918, as one of unbounded joy. Ten thousand yelling, shooting, screeching, tooting, rooting, laughing, talking citizens of Boise paraded the streets Monday afternoon celebrating the end of the Great War. Few could have known that the world would never be the same again.
Gov. Moses Alexander proclaimed a holiday and called a mass meeting on the Capitol steps at 3 oclock where a parade was formed. The impromptu parade, said the paper, was declared to be the most enthusiastic of any ever held in Boise. Maj. J.B. Burns of the adjutant generals staff directed the movement of the procession. The Boise Company of the 3rd Idaho Regiment of the National Guard gave the military touch to the scene. Marching near the young men were the respected veterans of the G.A.R. The Grand Army of the Republic hall still stands across the street north of the Statehouse. Union veterans of the Civil War held meetings there until all of them had passed on.
After the parade, about 2,500 members of the crowd gathered again at the Capitol to hear speeches. While the crowd waited, the Y.M.C.A. boys led off with a few yells. A second later the boys of the G.A.R. attempted an old-time cheer. The pep was there, but the younger fellows had to help with the volume. Governor Alexander introduced the speakers, and led the crowd in giving three cheers for the United States. Not mentioned in the Statesmans account of the daylong celebration was whether alcohol had contributed to the joyful mood of the crowd. Gov. Alexander had signed Idahos Prohibition law in 1916, but its enforcement would prove nearly impossible for another quarter century.
Beautiful, characteristic November weather, with the sun shining in a clear sky and gentle breezes blowing just cold enough to generate zip in the crowd, added to the success of the celebration. Later that afternoon Boise Mayor Samuel H. Hays was carried to City Hall and asked to make a speech. It was brief: Ladies and gentlemen, this is a great and glorious day, and we cant be too happy on this occasion. After which the mayor beat a modest and hasty retreat. But the crowd was satisfied. Cheer after cheer was sent up for Mayor Hays. All of the speakers at the Capitol made much of the fact that the war had brought the world into a new era, reported the Statesman, but few could have foreseen all of the changes that would affect the lives of Idahoans.
During the war, many women had taken over the jobs of men drafted into the armed forces and would enjoy greater financial independence thereafter than they had known before. Men who had served in France had been exposed to a culture very different from their own. A popular song of 1919 would ask How ya gonna keep em down on the farm, after theyve seen Paree? Dr. and Mrs. D.N. Smith of Caldwell shared with Statesman readers a letter from their son Pvt. E. Gordon Smith expressing his admiration for the French people. It is wonderful how they make use of every opportunity to beautify whatever they touch. Their fences, their wells, sheds and roadsides, all have some little beautifying touch that make them truly French. It seems to me they are also the most courageous people I have ever seen. While it seems that nearly everyone I meet carries a black band on his arm or wears a veil over her head showing the loss of some loved one, yet they go about their work with the most cheerful countenance and manner, but one would be truly blind who could not see that at heart France is bleeding.
Also in the news in November 1918 was the prediction by English airplane-maker Handley Page that America will become within reach of England in a day and a half and the time will come when an Englishman in New York will see his London paper the morning after its publication. He also predicted daily passenger and mail service between cities all over Europe and the Near East, in planes that could fly 400 miles without refueling. That prediction came true in a very short time, and in many cases in planes Handley Pages company had built.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.