Armistice Day

Airdates: November 9, 10, 12

This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Louis Mazé.

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the war on the Western Front officially ended, in accordance with the armistice signed between the Allies and Germany. Many of the allied countries soon after declared November 11 as Armistice Day, an official holiday to commemorate the final cease-fire on the Western Front and honor the nearly 10 million military deaths and 7 million civilian deaths during World War I.

Anna Gladys Jenkins Casimir was a freshman at Baylor when World War I ended. She remembers how she first learned of the news:

"The whistles all blew. I don‘t know why they blew early in the morning before we awakened. I guess the news just got to Waco and they began blowing then. But we were all—jumped out of our beds and began rejoicing because we knew then that my older brother would get to come home safely."

Louie Edward Mayberry, who lived in San Antonio, recalls that November 11, 1918 for him and his cousin began with an encounter with some bullies as they were on their way to sell newspapers outside the Lanier Hotel:

"Before we got our papers, we came across a crowd of little boys, paperboys. Most of them were Hispanic boys, and we were the only two black ones there. And he saw that ring of boys, and he looked over in there. He said, ‘That's my partner.' And they were—they had a little poor—little Mexican boy down. They had knocked his papers out of his hand. They were whipping him. And my cousin waded through there, and what a fight! And, of course, I was right behind my cousin to see that they didn't hurt him. And he came out of the crowd with this little boy. He was crying. (laughs) So we put him between us so we could watch him, so if those guys came up there and started anything again, we could go out there and take up for him. And he stood out there and sold his papers that day. And after a while, the extras come out: ‘Extra! Extra! The war is over!' And the town went wild."

Mayberry describes the celebrations in the streets of San Antonio that followed the cease-fire:

"Girls were all over town, and they had boxes of powder, talcum powder. And they were slinging that powder on everybody, and I was just as white as I could be and smelled good. (laughter) Oh, we headed home to tell Mama and my aunties. And so we came back, and they had a parade that evening, people out of Fort Sam Houston, Camp Travis. They had a big parade: their guns and those big old army trucks in those days and soldiers marching. They had the Kaiser there in effigy, you know. Oh, gee, that was a day to remember."

After World War II, Armistice Day became Veterans Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in several other countries. On November 11, people in many parts of the world still pause at 11 a.m. for a moment of silence to pay respect to all of the lives lost during wartime, a tradition begun in England in 1919.

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