The ghosts and goblins were gone and local turkeys were still being fattened up in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner. But Davenporters, and most of the world, were about to pause in their holiday preparations on to remember those who fought and sacrificed everything in the Great War.
Armistice Day in 1925 was both a celebration and memorial to November 11, 1918 , the day a peace treaty was signed creating a cease fire, which led to the end of a war that had devastated countries and killed an estimated 16 million people, military and civilian, wounding an estimated 21 million more.
The 11th fell on a Wednesday that year; local businesses and schools on both sides of the Mississippi closed for the day. In Davenport, the day began with a “monster street parade”* that began at the Scott County Courthouse at 9:30 a.m. and traveled through the downtown business district.
Officers from the Davenport Police Department led the start of the parade that was estimated to be over a mile long and contain representatives from nearly every organization in the city. This included seven large bands, hundreds of children (from the Turner Societies, Orphans Home, Boy & Girl Scouts, R.O.T.C., and more), and veterans from the G.A.R. (Civil War), Spanish-American War, and the World War (as World War I was known at that time).** Those who could wore their uniforms and followed their colors as thousands of spectators paid their respects and gentlemen removed their hats.
The parade wound its way through the streets until it ended at the Levee shortly before 11:00 a.m. Spectators followed the parade and thousands of people lined the Davenport levee and turned to face the east. At 10:45 a.m. a French 75 millimeter gun was fired in a 21 gun salute.
At 11:00 a.m. the gun ceased firing and a bugle played by Spanish-American War veteran Frank Ruefer sounded roll call. Then gun fire erupted from both sides of the river—Rock Island had its own parade and levee memorial—and factory whistles filled the air in memory of the celebration that had taken place seven years before.
The celebration was far from finished. From the levee at the end of Main Street, the crowd moved to the Davenport side of the Rock Island Arsenal Bridge where the first Gold Star Iowa highway marker was unveiled. The seven foot high plague was dedicated to local teacher Marion Crandell, the first American woman killed in active service during the Great War. Pupils from St. Katherine’s School, where Miss Crandell had taught, were among those present to honor their former French teacher.***
By 11:30 a.m., the Davenport Fire Department was demonstrating aerial ladder use and life saving techniques to an estimated 15,000 interested onlookers. Drill team competitions, street dancing to live music, business open houses, and a football game between St. Ambrose and Notre Dame Reserves filled the afternoon hours.
The celebrations continued into the night. At 8:30 p.m., the Armistice Ball opened first at the Coliseum and then at the Eagles’ Danceland and the Hotel Blackhawk Gold Room. There was even an American Legion Armistice Day Beauty Contest held during the ball, with twenty-eight swimsuit-clad participants traveling between the dance sites. Ten contestants were eliminated at each site before the winner of the contest, nineteen-year old Dorothy Eckmann, was crowned Miss Davenport at the Gold Room celebration.^ This certainly gave a “Roaring Twenties” twist to the day’s traditional events!
Eighty-one Scott County men and Miss Marion Crandell died while serving our country in World War I. We remember their sacrifice and the bravery of all who have served, fought, and sacrificed, on this Veteran’s Day.
(posted by Amy D.)
* The Daily Times, November 10, 1925, Pg. 2.
**The Daily Times, November 11, 1925, Front Page.
***Davenport Democrat and Leader, November 11, 1925, Pg. 15.
^ The Daily Times, November 12, 1925, Front Page.