World War I Ends
Remembrances of the late Mrs. Mattie Dellinger, 2006
By Larry Hume, VFW Post 8904
World War I was known at the time as “The Great War”. Fighting ceased when an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month and was regarded as the end of the war to end all wars. The following year in 1919 the first observance of Armistice Day was observed. The concept was for a day with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m. Armistice day was made a legal holiday on May 13, 1938 but in 1954 congress at the urging of veterans organizations amended the Act of 1938 by replacing the word “Armistice” with the word “Veterans”. Today Veterans Day celebrates the lives of all veterans, especially those still living.
Miss Mattie gave me a handwritten account of what she remembered from her childhood on November 11, 1918. She said that “Miss Kate Kimbro recalled that her mother and daddy carried her down town to join the crowd of cheering people when the news of peace reached Center. She remembered seeing Uncle Emmett and his wife, Aunt Jennie Armstrong in front of Rogers Drug Store happily telling the crowd that their son Norflete Armstrong would be coming home soon. However Norflete was killed that very day, one of the last soldiers to be killed. They received the sad news later.”
Miss Mattie said “her memories of that day included being woke up early by my mother telling me that the war was over and to get up and get dressed and we’d go to town. The peace treaty was signed at 11 am, November 11th, 1918 and it was 2:30 a.m. our time when the news was received in Center by telephone. The telegraph office at the depot was not open at that time of day.
The happy news soon spread and by daylight everybody knew something was happening. Church bells were ringing, guns were shooting, fire crackers shot, and whistles at the saw mill, lumber yard and the ice plant were blowing. As I can recall what I really felt about the news that day was there would be no more crying and dead people – and we wouldn’t have to eat corn bread for breakfast.
My mother’s two brothers were in training at camp Travis, where ever that was and she had cried a lot about them especially when they left Center and when she’d get letters from them. The war was over before they saw combat.
We children went to the depot with our parents when the men were sent by train to training camps or when their bodies were returned. That was always a sad time and lots of crying as folks hugged and clung on to their enlisted family members as they left for camp. The men would get on the train run to the windows and the women hung on to their hands as the train slowly pulled out. The train whistles blew and kept blowing so mournfully for miles down the track.
Norman G. Crocker, a Shelby County boy and student at Texas A & M was the first local soldier to be killed in the war with Germany. The Center American legion post was named for him. He was born in 1890 and his death is listed as February 5, 1918. Norman was a Center High School graduate of 1908. He parents were Mr. & Mrs. T. N. Crocker and one of his brothers was the father of Mrs. Dube (Reba) Taylor.
Norman Crocker along with hundreds of other soldiers was aboard the ill-fated steamship Tuscania that was torpedoed off the north coast of Ireland. Many of the bodies washed ashore and Norman’s body was recovered the next day and together with others was buried in a long grave in Scotland. His body was later sent back to center for burial in the Antioch cemetery.
Clyde chance, a 27 year old 1908 graduate of Center High School was the first Center soldier to be killed on foreign soil as Crocker was killed at sea. Clyde was killed in October just before the end of the war in November 1918. His parents were the Phillip Chance’s and they lived in east Center on Shelbyville Street. Mr. Chance worked for the T. Smith’s lumber company and their other children were Lester, Lucille, Eula, and Jack. We knew the Chance family and my parents were close friends to them. Miss Lucille later was my 4th grade teacher.
I will remember the day that the Chance family received news by telegraph that Clyde had been killed. We could hear their screams at our home which was several blocks away. Then there was more crying and screaming at the depot when Clyde’s remains and that of another 1908 center school graduate, John Yeary arrived on the morning train several years later in 1921.
Children were always present at the depot for those sad departures and return of the bodies. So therefore I think we children now all in our 90’s who lived through those days could well be called World War I Vets.
The war was not over for many of the soldiers who returned home crippled, with loss of limbs, and victims of the German poison gas. Gus Friday who lived in our neighborhood on McKee Street was handicapped for life after being “gassed” in the war. I’ve heard him cry with emotion while telling of some of the horrors of the fighting that he was a part of and witnessed.
The other part of the World War I years that I remember so well was that flour was taken out of the grocery store for the “war effort” for some reason. I never have understood why. So people who had been used to eating hot biscuits for breakfast every morning now were eating corn bread muffins instead. But my grandmother who lived next door to us had “hoarded” some flour that she shared with my mother all along for our Sunday breakfast.”
Thank you Mrs. Mattie Dellinger for those wonderful memories of a time so long ago that you lived through. You are missed by all in Shelby County. The times may have been different but it is my feeling that the people who lived back then were of a much heartier stock.