Remember When: The History of Veterans Day
“Veterans Day” originated as “Armistice Day” on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Major hostilities of WWI were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when the armistice with Germany went into effect.
Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and November became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Unlike “Memorial Day,” “Veteran Day” pays tribute to all American veterans. At the urging of major U. S. veteran organizations, “Armistice Day” was renamed “Veterans Day” in 1954.
Many Americans and Alabamians celebrate the November and May holidays. This writer does not know of another small town that celebrates and honors veterans, living and dead, any more than AndalUSiA, Alabama. Yes, USA was capitalized in the city’s name!
It is always so inspiring, encouraging, and amusing to read the old newspapers to see what was going on in this city 100 years ago. Businesses were getting a good start; Education seemed to be of utmost importance to the citizens; Crime was being abated; Politics was hopping; Community Growth was encouraging as most citizens were doing their part in an effort to build homes, neighborhoods, businesses, schools, churches, public buildings, transportation, and utilities.
From late 1918 in the November and December editions of The Andalusia Star, some interesting accounts came be found.
A LETTER FROM CYRUS SALTER – “Judge L. J. Salter received the following letter from his son Cyrus – Dear Papa: Will write you a short letter. I am well and feeling fine. I guess I will come back to America shortly. I was on the firing line when the order came to cease fire. We sure were a happy lot of boys now. I have been in five of the largest battles on the western front from Chateau-Thierry down to the great Meuse River drive (The Meuse-Argonne Forest Campaign, one of the final battles of WWI, was the deadliest battle in American history. 26,000 were killed. The Chateau-Thierry Battle was one of the first actions of the American Expeditionary Forces under General J. J. Pershing. The battle in the summer of 1918, an Allied victory, was one of the turning points in WWI.) …We were extremely busy firing when the order came that a truce had been signed. Sometimes I could not tell whether I was a human being or a gory beast in the shape of a human being. I have seen the ground strewn so thick with the flesh of man and beast until it was sickening. When I get home, I shall have lots to tell you all. Hope all of you are well. Write often. Your son, Cyrus E. Salter, A. E. F.”
An earlier letter to Judge Salter back in the summer of 1918, his son Cyrus wrote, “Sometimes the roads are literally blocked with the treacherous enemy’s dead. I will close hoping you and all the family are well. Will be pleased if you will send me a few copies of The Star.”
“Andalusia’s school has been hard hit this year. Between diphtheria in late summer and ‘flu’ in the early fall, we have had only one week of school.”
“NOTICE – Get your shot of “FLU” VACCINE at the courthouse. It offers a reasonably good protection against influenza and pneumonia. The vaccine is given without charge to all who apply – Covington County Health Department”
“Andalusians are planning to do some big business during 1919. In fact, Andalusia is a business center and business on a big scale is the order of the day here.”
“The Dixie Hotel (on South Cotton St.) began serving meals at noon today after having the dining room closed for three days for lack of help.” (Does this sound familiar, restauranteurs?)
“BUGGIES – We have just received 4 carloads of Hercules and Griffin buggies. We can make you a good price. O’Neal, Law & Co.”
“FOR SALE OR TRADE – Several good mules. W. N. Rushton” (I remember it being stated by Andalusia Manufacturing Co. business giant A. Reid Merrill that when the W. C. Merrill house was being built in the early 1930s, the first house on the right on Three Notch Court, a mule hauling building materials dropped dead in the front yard. The mule was buried in the front yard! Maybe a headstone in the front yard around Halloween would scare away the trick-or-treaters!)
“DON’T TRY TO GET RICH QUICK – It can’t be done. Our bank is a safe place for your money. The Bank of Andalusia. C. S. O’Neal, Pres.; E. L. More, Vice-pres.; S. B. Milligan, Vice-pres.; R. N. McLeod, Cashier; J. F. McDonald, Asst. Cashier.”
“HOW TO STOP MOONSHINING – Some days ago, I noticed on editorial in The Montgomery Journal in which it was said there are one hundred illicit distilleries in Covington County. I want to answer this by saying that this statement is more than likely true although there are not any more stills in this county than there is in any other Southern county. There is just a little more work done here by the revenue force than in any other counties.”
“Now why does this condition exist? In the first place, the governor has taken off all fees such as informer and guides that were of assistance to the revenue officers in locating stills. Now if anyone gives his time to that business, he has got to do it for nothing. The revenue men come into the county one time in 4-8 weeks and only stay from 1-3 days at a time. They can never put it down, because those in the stilling business can get information just as soon as the revenue men arrive in the town. Breaking up the stilling business is a joke!”
“What about the sheriffs? The law does not give sufficient compensation to justify them to aid in this kind of work. Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 days for a sheriff to catch a still in operation. When he does, he receives but 2 dollars. The Alabama laws, I am told, are such that you have to catch the still in operation before you can convict a man. No one should blame the sheriff for not wasting his time with that kind of business.”
“I would suggest that the next general assembly of Alabama pass a law giving the sheriffs at least 25 dollars for each still and conviction and 10 dollars to the informer who will give the information leading to the capture of the still, all to be paid by the guilty party. If this is done, the sheriffs would take an interest and break them up. It will not be long until the evil will be banished! A CITIZEN OF COVINGTON COUNTY”
“THE FAMOUS AMERICAN CORSETS ARE MARKED LOW – 25 cent Apron Gingham,; U. S. Gun Shells- 68 cents a box; 24 lb. Sacks Flour – $1.49; 10 cent Snuff – 8 cents a box; Brown Mule Tobacco – $4.98 a box. J. W. SHREVE & CO.”
“G. W. CUMMING, PHOTOGRAPHER – The pictures you are planning to send to that soldier of yours – They must soon be on the way if you would make sure that he has them to gladden his heart on Christmas morning.”
“TEACHER’S EXAMINATION – The next examination for teachers in Covington County will be held at the courthouse beginning at 9 a.m., December 16, 1918. Applicants should read ‘Teaching Elementary School Subjects’ (95 cents) and ‘Teaching in Public School’ (99 cents). Charles Baker, County Superintendent.”
“FOR SALE – Good Jersey Milk Cow, Will give 4 gallons of milk per day. Reason for selling – Have more cows than I can care for. O. L. Thagard”
“The Nicest Fashionable Line of Cameo Rings and Broaches You Ever Saw – Come see them! J. D. Prestwood, Jeweler. Prestwood Building.”
“Dr. L. E. Broughton is in Chicago this week where he is attending the meeting of the American Public Health Association of which he is a member. The object of that conference is to discuss measures for fighting the flu in 1919.”
“The Board of Education has decided to open the Andalusia City School on Wednesday, January 1st. (Guess there weren’t any New Year football games to watch on TV back then! Radio was all there was!) The town is practically free from influenza now and the city health office believes that by taking proper precaution, the school can open and continue the session.”
“The board will employ a school nurse to look after the general welfare of the pupils. In order that the children may complete the year’s work and make their grades, the school will run 6 days a week and continue the session into the summer. (WHAT?) It will be necessary for the children to enter the first day and attend regularly to make their grades.”
In conclusion, what has been found in this gaze into 1918 in The Andalusia Star as we Remember When a number of boys from this area who fought in WWI is the story of a local war veteran who fought in five major battles of that war. Cyrus E. Salter was one of those Andalusia boys. His father Judge L. J. Salter was Chairman of the County Commission in 1914 when building a new courthouse was being discussed. Son Cyrus Salter is listed at the public library in a1965 obituary thanks to a little “digging” by Linda Grimes, staff genealogist. He is interred at the Andalusia Memorial Cemetery, and, apparently, he lived a long life. This writer hopes to discover more about this war veteran so hopefully some relatives who are still around will be a wealth of information.
Yes, Veterans Day is set aside to honor our living veterans, but in this column, tribute is paid to this local war veteran who was fighting at the very time and day at the end of WWI when a cease-fire order came down. “Gone But Not Forgotten.”
Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.