20.9.13

Armistice


In keeping with this week's Sepia Saturday theme of Peace, the following is a brief excerpt from my great-grandfather David Blumenfeld's long-lost memoir, written in South St. Paul, Minnesota.

Sunday, November 10th 1918 was a grand day, [my eldest son] Albert’s wedding day. ...The honeymoon of their marriage passed in a glow of warmth and joyous discovery beyond any power of words to set down. There was never in the glittering realm a sound of joy like this.

[Meanwhile, Albert had, against his parents' wishes, enlisted in the Army and was about to leave for the European front.]

Albert Blumenfeld in uniform
On the very next day, Monday, November 11th, before dawn, wireless messages announced to the world [that] an Armistice was signed in the presence of General Pershing, Marshal Foch, and many other notables and military dignitaries. ...There was celebration all over America. Factory whistles screeched, church bells tolled; at 8 a.m. the Swift and Company ... stockyards employees laid down their tools and began celebrating.


The stockyards
... The mobbing, the pelting of roses, the kisses from suppressed, hot-lipped women who were perfectly respectable. The little flasks of whisky and cognac from many good-natured men’s pockets. Wavy lines of factory girls arm in arm, some of them half drunk, swayed along amidst the crowd, jostling men and squealing pert coquetries. There hovered about sundry lecherous looking males, much attracted by this throwing down of the outer earthworks of sex. Arms were thrown around strange necks in tight embraces. Girls shrieked endearments or words of immodesty or abuse like cats at their amorous cries on roofs. Men fanned their erotic fires with jests and buffoonery.


Minneapolis, Armistice Day 1918
An unmanageable excitement took over the nation. With uplifted arms all began to shout, “The war is over! The war is over!” while thousands laughed and wept. A combination of tumults. What joy or heartbreak was in their cry, God only knew. People were shouting that “the boys got the Kaiser” and crowds laughed, for a man moved into the light carrying a scarecrow on a long stick and yelling, “Here, here, we got the Kaiser.” The war was ended as suddenly as it [had begun].

...Two days after Albert’s wedding David received a telegram from his youngest daughter Helen [who was visiting] in Trenton, New Jersey, stating that she was married to Arthur Singer and that Moshe Rosen acted as best man and witness for them.
Helen and Arthur


17 comments:

  1. Fascinating! All that jubilation, only to be followed by the depression of the Thirties and then another World War. Do you know why Albert's sister married without telling her father?

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    1. Her parents didn't approve of the Socialist Arthur, and Helen felt very stifled by them in other ways. She was kind of the black sheep.

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  2. Jo's right: celebrate, then get right back into another one. I'm afraid there will ALWAYS be another war...
    I love Helen and Arthur -- they look absolutely smitten, don't they? Hope they had a long, happy marriage!

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  3. That combination of contemporary images and diary extracts which you do so well and which makes for fascinating blog-posts.

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  4. I especially like the photo of Minneapolis. I have some postcards of the Armistice celebration in Minneapolis here. The celebration looks very chaotic. I didn't post those cards for Sepia Saturday because I used them on my blog in 2009 (before Sepia Saturday).

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  5. Sometimes, all you can say is "Whew!" I hope both marriages were long & happy ones. And obviously, Albert's was fruitful. :))

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    1. It was, although I'm descended from Helen!

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  6. They look so happy. And the whole thing just preparing for WW2. Just in time for their son to go.

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  7. Ruth Blumenfeld often the told the story of how she and al (my grandmother and grandfather) were married and the same day got on an overnight train to chicago knowing nothing of the war being over.. and when they emerged from the train in chicago, there were crowds of soldiers cheering them as they got off the train... she said to Al (who was just an enlisted man)-" I had no idea you were so important- look at how many people came to cheer us on our marriage!"-- and happily, Grandpa never had to go to war!

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    1. Hi Kay! Great anecdote, thanks! If you haven't seen the whole Blumenfeld diary, I just posted the original in PDF on our Blumenfeld Expedition Facebook page.

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  8. And you left us hanging ! How did the father react to Helen's unexpected wedding ?

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    1. Both Helen's parents were stunned, and her mother, always a bit of a hypochondriac, took to her bed. They did not approve of Arthur because he was a Socialist, if not a Communist (this was 1919, remember). If you search for "Singer" on this blog, there are a couple of other related posts.

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  9. Yes I would like to know more about Helen's marriage too.

    That picture of Armistice day is fantastic. The relief and excitement is tangible.

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  10. Sean, tell us more about Helen's wedding.

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    1. Well, not much to tell - they eloped! It was a tumultuous marriage (Helen was my grandma). I've posted a few bits...if you search my blog for "Helen" you'll see them. I'll probably have more posts in future!

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  11. Fabulous writing. Really captures the essence of the time.

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  12. This is all very wonderful. The writing is so great and the pictures are great too.

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