A look back at Armistice Day in Oklahoma
Just as guns fell silent across France on Nov. 11, 1918, they began sounding in Oklahoma City and across the state as residents celebrated the end of the conflict they knew as the Great War.
Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, an occasion that Oklahomans met a century ago with a combination of joy and relief.
In Oklahoma City, a siren sounded at 2:15 a.m. to mark the armistice, according to an archival story in The Daily Oklahoman. City residents tumbled from their beds and out into the streets, a reporter wrote in the Nov. 12, 1918, edition of the newspaper.
By 3 a.m., a crowd had gathered downtown. People snapped up extra editions of the newspaper and fired guns into the air in celebration.
"While the big guns in France were cooling off, family shotguns here were limbering up," the reporter wrote. "Many rushed from their homes and mingled their shouts with the noise of whistles and bells. All available firearms were pressed into use and a barrage was laid down from front porches that would have done credit to a small battle."
Early that afternoon, an impromptu parade formed downtown. People marched up and down Main Street and Broadway without any order or plan. Tractors, trucks and mule carts followed behind, and people beat cow bells, saw blades and plow discs to make noise. The celebration continued unbroken into the evening.
In Norman, students at the University of Oklahoma left class in celebration. Men from the Students' Army Training Corps, a precursor to the modern-day Reserve Officers' Training Corps, joined in the festivities until their commanding officers ordered them back to class.
In Davis, a three-mile parade of cars wound its way through town. Among the cars was a hearse bearing a picture of Kaiser Wilhelm II, who had abdicated the German throne just days before. The hearse was emblazoned with a banner reading "Yanked to Hell." During the celebration, a parade-watcher fired a gun into the hearse. Another bystander batted the pistol away, and a stray bullet struck another parade-goer in the leg. The man was taken to a hospital in Pauls Valley for treatment.
In Drumright, 20,000 workers in the Cushing-Drumright oil fields laid down their tools and went into town, joining at least 10,000 residents in "a thirty-six hour delirium of joy," the reporter wrote.
In at least one case, a celebration turned tragic. In Vanoss, a rural community about 12 miles west of Ada, a car struck and killed a small boy during celebrations. The driver left his car in the street, swearing he'd never drive it again. He immediately walked home and drank carbolic acid, dying within minutes.
For some, the day was a poignant occasion. In downtown Oklahoma City, a gray-haired man and woman threaded their way through the crowd along the downtown parade route, watching revelers pass by. From time to time, the woman hid her face against the man's sleeve.
On her left arm, the woman wore a black Red Cross arm band. On the band was embroidered a gold star.
Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954. The Oklahoma National Guard will hold its annual Veterans Day ceremony at 2 p.m. Sunday at the 45th Infantry Division Museum, 2145 NE 36, Oklahoma City.