‘Peace Christmas’ 1918

One hundred years ago, the world celebrated its first peacetime Christmas in four years with the end of the “Great War to End All Wars.”

By Roy Vataja

One hundred years ago, the world celebrated its first peacetime Christmas in four years with the end of the “Great War to End All Wars.”

On Grays Harbor, families awaited the return of their sons and the Spanish flu pandemic was beginning to subside, bringing relief and allowing public gatherings to slowly resume as the country moved back to a peacetime footing.

Here are a few news stories from the Aberdeen Daily World and the Grays Harbor Post reflecting the issues Harborites were dealing with in December 1918.

The “boys” were returning from Europe:

Wounded soldier back from front — John C. Harlan, son of patrolman W.J. Harlan, is the first Hoquiam boy, bearing scars of Hun bullets, to return from France. He arrived Saturday evening after being several weeks at the base hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, recovering from a wound in the left foot made by a machine gun bullet. His lungs are affected by gas and he suffered from shell shock during the fighting around Château-Thierry. Mr. Harlan was a member of Company D, 126th Infantry, which was part of the 32nd division given seven citations by the French government for bravery. — Aberdeen Daily World, Dec. 23, 1918

First man from front returning — Among the large number of war veterans to reach New York yesterday from France was Dick Mathews, brother-in-law of T. Kinberg, of this city, who is salesman at the Harry Druxman store. A telegram received this morning from Mathews says he will start on the trip across the continent at once and should reach Aberdeen the first of the week.

Mathews will probably be the first Aberdeen resident to arrive home who has seen service at the front. He has been in France for over three years going over prior to entrance of the United States in the war. He joined the Yankee colors as soon as war was declared against Germany by this nation. He served as an engineer, being an expert structural bridge engineer. Mathews has constantly been engaged in bridge construction work under fire. A letter received here some time ago told of the great difficulty of such work with shells bursting on all sides. Mathews is a well-known athlete of the northwest. He was a star football player on the University of Washington team. — Aberdeen Daily World, Dec. 26, 1918

Christmas decorations were a mix of the old and the new:

Need more holly — While a quantity of beautiful holly has been received at the Salvage and Gift shop for sale for Christmas, it is going so that the management is asking for more from those so fortunate as to have the bushes on their premises. More home cooked food is also needed, as there is a constant demand for this every day. All of the goods in the shop are defining good sale and contributions of all kinds are solicited to replenish the stocks. This is as truly a Red Cross enterprise as any other department, and requests the support of the citizens of Aberdeen for this reason. — Aberdeen Daily World, Dec. 20, 1918

Christmas tree illuminations — Many Aberdeen stores this year made a display of a Christmas tree in their show windows. The novelties in electric lighting gives excellent opportunity for a variety of light and color and there were a good many pleasing features in this line. — Aberdeen Daily World, Dec. 25, 1918

The Spanish flu pandemic was beginning to subside:

No further need of flu hospital — The Red Cross emergency hospital in Hoquiam, opened about two weeks ago, during the height of the influenza epidemic, because of the overcrowded condition of the general hospital, will be closed in a day or two. Only five convalescing patients remain in the institution, there having been no new arrivals since Friday last. — Aberdeen Daily World, Dec. 23, 1918

Children again may see movies — The ban on the attendance of children at the motion picture houses in Hoquiam was lifted today by order of the health department, the influenza situation among the children especially, having greatly improved within the past few days. Announcement of the removal was made from the mayor’s office this afternoon. — Aberdeen Daily World, Dec. 20, 1918

Local fraternal lodges showed their loyalty to their adopted country:

To dedicate flags — The Serbian Benevolent Society of this city will hold services tomorrow afternoon at two o’clock at the A.O.U.W. hall to dedicate American and Serbian flags. A banquet will be given the society and invited guests at the close of the ceremony.

In the war period just passed, the local Serbians have taken splendid part along patriotic lines. The function of tomorrow’s ceremony will be an expression of the appreciation of America in the great cause of national liberty. — Grays Harbor Post, Dec. 28, 1918

And poverty and crime took no holiday:

No more Christmas begging — Requests by the usual large number of cripples arriving during the Christmas season, for permission to sell pencils in the business section, drew from the police chief today an emphatic no, which was coupled with orders to patrolmen to pick up all such persons operating without a license.

The police point out that these cripples as a rule pick up more money in a day than the ordinary man earns in a week and that although the pencils they have are actually for sale, few take them who are moved by their pitiful condition. — Aberdeen Daily World, Dec. 24, 1918

Salvation Army donations stolen — A burglary of particular cold-blooded nature was committed Tuesday night, when the Salvation Army barracks on East Wishkah Street were broken into and systematically ransacked. About $65, consisting of contributions received during a recent Tag Day drive, were taken.

The sum of $51.23 was found in a jar. A $10 bill was taken which had been laying nearby. About $2.50 in pennies the thieves considered worth taking. They even carried their thievery far enough to smash two jars of jam.

The police are investigating, but under the usual handicap of having nothing to trace but currency, which cannot easily be identified. — Aberdeen Daily World, Dec. 26, 1918

Roy Vataja is the son of Finnish immigrants and wishes everyone a hearty “Hauskaa Joulua ja Onnelista Uutta Vuotta 2019!”