Every year Veterans Day falls on November 11th. We learned in school that World War I officially ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when Germany signed the armistice agreement with the Allies. In the Kennebunks, November 11th was the third time that week folks had celebrated the end of what they wishfully referred to as “the war to end all wars.”
Several days earlier, Mrs. Sarah Lord Cram received a telegram from her son Robert who reported from the Radio Station at the Charleston Navy Yard that the Germans had surrendered thereby ending the war. Mrs. Cram only told three of her closest friends about the telegram, but news traveled fast in the Kennebunks even before Facebook. By the time Robert Cram sent his mother a retraction of the news, church bells were already ringing, and kids had already been dismissed from school to celebrate. Later in the week, it happened again when someone got word that Goodall Mills in Sanford had closed to celebrate the end of the war. The Kennebunks jumped on the bandwagon again.
Nobody seemed to mind all the premature celebrating when Mr. Clarence Webber got the official word in a phone call from Biddeford Chief of Police Thomas Stone on November 11th. Clarence called the Editor of the Kennebunk Enterprise. She called Rev. Coleman. He prudently called around for corroboration before ringing the church bells again. But then he did and soon every church in Kennebunk was singing about peace. Kids were dismissed from school for the third time in a week. They didn’t mind a bit.
One hundred gaily decorated automobiles made a honking procession to Alewive, Kennebunkport, and Kennebunk Beach. Everywhere along the way, people joined in with deafening jubilation. Back in Kennebunk Village, the Soldiers Monument was decorated with red, white, and blue electric lights. At the playground, the band played, a huge bonfire was lit, and several shots were fired from William Barry’s old historic ship’s cannon.
In Kennebunk Lower Village, the Kaiser was burned in effigy near the fire engine house. The Boston & Maine locomotive’s whistle invited the Methodist Church bells in Kennebunkport to join in the crescendo late into the evening. A large party of young Kennebunkport people enjoyed a moonlit ride to Kennebunk to join the festivities in Post Office Square.
World War I was sadly not the war to end all wars. More than 41 million Americans have served their country since The United States was founded. We at the Kennebunkport Historical Society wish to honor every single one of you on what we now call Veterans Day. Thank you for your service and welcome home!