"Monday was a gala day in Princeton. Having made sure that the war had ended — that the story flashed over the wire was not a fake — the word went forth to close the stores and 'let 'er go', and the celebration which followed beggared description."
So wrote editor R.C. Dunn in the Princeton Union 101 years ago as World War I ground to a halt in Europe on Nov. 11, 1918.
An improvised band was formed that Monday morning and a parade made to the railroad depot. Everybody joined in and, Dunn wrote, there were "automobiles with horns blowing and potato stoves dragging behind." (Enlightenment needed on what potato stoves were.)
There was a celebration in the afternoon, with speeches, that took place at the corner where the downtown traffic lights are today. There was a choir and, Dunn wrote, "crowds of people remained on the street until late at night. Princeton had never seen such a day before."
How I'd like just a half hour with Dunn and his contemporaries to understand the joy they felt about the armistice to end the war that they thought would end all wars. In today's world it would be a TV event, with signals bouncing all over the world on satellites. But in 1918 the word came over teletypes and then was spread from house to house, down the alley and around town.
And so it was that Armistice Day was born to remember those who had served. And, fewer than 30 years later, it would be recognized as a tribute also to those who served in World War II. Following the Korean War the day was renamed Veterans Day to remember everyone and a few years later legislators changed it to the fourth Monday in October, providing those long weekends that some legislators are fond of. Now it's back to Nov. 11, where it should be, remembering that the armistice was reached in Marshal Foch's railroad car on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
On the Monday after next it'll be 101 years since the time Princeton "had never seen such a day." We can't bring back the Princetonians of 1918 to tell us about their feelings but it is a time to remember those who served then and have served since. I remember back in the 1990s when, on the pages of the Princeton Union-Eagle, we were lucky enough to have a Princeton Vietnam vet write about his return to The Wall in Washington, D.C. Larry Ziebarth wrote eloquently about his trips to the wall where the names of those who died in Vietnam are inscribed in black granite..
Ziebarth, a former state VFW commander, went to the Wall as part of a color guard that stood as names on the wall were read. Before his duty started he found names of two Princeton grads killed in Vietnam (one a classmate), and the names of two who were in his platoon. "I think about what was left behind in Vietnam — so much innocence, so many dreams, so many good men and women," he wrote. I wonder what they might have done for their families and country." And then his last paragraph: "Although I have yet to walk from one end to the other without tears, I keep thinking that one day perhaps I'll make it. But then I imagine the faces behind the names on the wall — and then I think, maybe not."
Another former soldier who spoke eloquently about those who served earlier in our country's history was Gen. Douglas MacArthur, a hero to some and less than that to others, but one considered by many a military giant from America. I'm reminded of his eloquence when he made a farewell speech at West Point in 1962. He used the academy's motto of "Duty, Honor, Country" as his text and made a speech that ls a testament to those who served.
He talked of the American man-at-arms and called him the noblest figure in the world. "When I think of his patience in adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words," he told the graduating cadets. "He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism . . . In twenty campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude . . . and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people . . . I can see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs on many a weary march, from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle deep through the mire of shell-pocked roads; to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God."
MacArthur had a way with words and he knew he was on stage that day, delivering a well-rehearsed speech that was made to look off the cuff because he had no notes. His final lines, as he knew he was nearing the end of his life, are well remembered, although some may say he was glorifying war.
"The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished . . . they have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly but with thirsty ear for the witching melody of faint buglers blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield . . . today marks my final roll call with you. But I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of the Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps. I bid you farewell."
As he neared death two years later in 1964, MacArthur begged President Johnson to get the U.S. out of Vietnam. He understood the tragedy that would follow, just as President Eisenhower, the former Allied Supreme commandeer, knew bad times were ahead when he asked for a reduction of arms as he left office in 1961. Those two old soldiers had endured much and didn't want more of the same.
But MacArthur, in his speech, touched on his feelings for the American military, feelings that can be passed on to our children, and their children, so they better understand why we live in the kind of country we do today, even with all the troubles that persist throughout the world.
"I do not know the dignity of their birth but I do know the glory of their death," MacArthur said. "They died, unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory."
Romanticizing war? Maybe. But in 2019 Veterans Day is still a good time to recognize and support those in the military. Veterans Day is a day to be thankful for those who serve, in peace and in war, in the States and abroad. We'd be a much different country without those women and men.
PRINCETON SPORTS MEMORIES
Nov. 6, 1959 - Jim Parrish placed third in the District 16 cross-country meet . . .Princeton finished 2-5-1 with a 26-13 loss to Braham, a team that had given up only 19 points the previous seven games. Bob Nick ran for a touchdown and passed to Larry Gerdin for the other.
Nov. 5, 1964 - Princeton lost 7-0 to Cambridge in the final football game of the season. The Tigers, 4-3-1, gave the Bluejackets (9-0 and ranked 10th in the state) a good game.
Nov. 5, 1969 - A 6-0 win over Elk River at Princeton gave the Tigers a share of the RRC title. TheTigers tied with Foley and Cambridge. Mark Blaske (76 yards) scored the touchdown on a seven-yard run after a pass of 24 yards from quarterback Mike Barg to halfback Jerry Bergeron.
Nov. 7, 1974 - Former PHS runner Ervin Top, a sophomore at St. Cloud State, placed ninth in the Northern Intercollegiate Conference meet . . . The girls basketball team won its seventh straight, beating Foley 31-14 to end the regular season.
Nov. 9, 1979 - Amy Erickson and Vonnie Moore each won two events but Princeton lost to Cambridge 112-60 in swimming . . . The PHS girls placed ninth in the region cross-country meet and Doug Burns, the only boy runner from Princeton, was 21st.
Nov. 8, 1984 - Princeton led St. Francis 9-1 in the deciding set of a subregion volleyball match but lost 17-15. Janelle Reed had nine ace serves in the three games . . . The girls swim team placed second in the Two Rivers Conference meet.
Nov. 9, 1989 - Princeton, finishing 10-14, lost to Duluth East in four sets in Section 7AA volleyball play . . . Jason Dierks threw for 1,175 yards and 13 touchdowns for the PHS football team. Jim Davis caught 32 passes for 451 yards and seven touchdowns.
Nov. 10, 1994 - Princeton beat Mora 7-6 to win the first section football title ever for PHS. Greg Sliter provided the winning margin for the second game in a row with his extra-point kick. Gordy Schwartz scored the touchdown and ran for 77 yards.
Nov. 5, 1999 - Princeton (6-4) had a 10-point lead in the third quarter but lost 35-32 to Proctor in a Section 7AAAA semifinal football game. The Rails scored three touchdowns on fourth down. The Tigers had 351 yards and averaged 6.7 yards a play, Proctor 403 with an average of 5.5. David Holmes ran for 115 yards and three touchdowns . . . The volleyball team (5-19) lost to North Branch in subsection volleyball.
Nov. 4, 2004 - The football team beat Duluth East 28-0 to advance to the section title game. The win upped the team's record to 10-0 a first in PHS history. Ryan Fay caught two touchdown passes from Scott Roehl and Ryan Kotnik ran for two touchdowns.
Nov. 5, 2009 - The volleyball team finished the season 0-20 with a loss to St. Francis in section play.
Nov. 6, 2014 - Jordan Neubauer was hired as the PHS baseball coach . . . Maggie Peterson was named second team all-state in soccer and Taylor Laabs was selected for the state Class A all-tournament team.
Nov. 1, 2018 - Kelsey Dorr, competing in her sixth straight state tournament, finished sixth in singles at the Class AA state tournament. She ended her career with a second MVP award in the Mississippi 8 Conference and a school record of 189 victories. She also finished second in doubles the previous year. Sisters Gabby and Anna Dahlen placed fifth in doubles iat the state tournament.
Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years), and has covered sports in the Princeton area for 52 years.