Fighting ended on Nov. 11, 1918, when an armistice was signed in France at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year. The War had started in the summer of 1914, though the United States didn’t enter the War until April of 1917.
Word reached our area about 4 a.m. that day, and very soon every factory whistle was sounding and every church bell was ringing. It was noted that the bells were led off by the tones of the old St. Peter Catholic Church bell, which is still in place in the Shrine belfry on the site of the old church — and is the oldest church bell in Norwalk.
As the day went on the streets filled with people and the schools were closed to allow the students to participate in the festivities. A parade was formed and headed for the courthouse where the chief speaker was State Rep. William H. Herner of Monroeville. Of course, there were celebrations in every community across the entire country, and I imagine they were similar — ringing bells, making noise, forming a parade and then listening to a patriotic speaker.
President Woodrow Wilson had called World War I the war to end all wars, but we know that wish fell by the wayside 20 years later when World War II broke out. For several years, the old Armistice Day has been called Veterans Day and is a day to honor all veterans, while Memorial Day in May is set aside to honor deceased veterans, especially those who lost their lives in combat.
In reviewing my office files, I find that the first huge flag owned by the Norwalk Veterans of Foreign War Post was first flown 35 years ago, on Nov. 11, 1983. Most people are familiar with the story of that wonderful tribute to our country and its men and women who have served and especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The flag was sewn at the Norwalk Furniture plant, and takes a goodly crew to unfurl it and then to furl it again at the end of the day. I’m sure we’ll see it again this year on Nov. 11.
For many years Norwalk has been home to an Ohio National Guard unit, which for a long time was referred to as “Company G.” Co. G was mustered into U.S. service on July 23, 1917, three months after the U.S. declared war against Germany. Two weeks later, on Aug. 5, 1917, Co. G was drafted into the armies of the United States and served in the trenches of Europe for the duration of the war and then some. It took the government some time to return the troops, and Co. G didn’t enter New York harbor until March 30, 1919, and weren’t discharged and on Norwalk soil until April 22nd.
A Huron County Welcome Home Celebration took place on April 24 in Norwalk, after which the veterans said farewell and at last returned to their civilian lives. This wasn’t the end of Co. G, of course. It remained active and saw service in both World War II and Korea.
* * *
REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at New Directions Design, 20 W. Main St., in downtown Norwalk. These contain my earlier columns fully indexed and in permanent book form.
Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.