This year’s Veterans Day not only marked a day to salute our veterans, it also commemorated the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I.
(You may remember Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day. The name was changed in 1954 in order to honor all veterans, not just those who died during World War I.)
Back in 1918, Hamilton County celebrated the end of the “great war” — or, more optimistically, “the war to end war” — just as enthusiastically as the rest of the country. 
When word leaked out around noon on November 7th that the Noblesville Milling Company had received a telegram stating Germany had signed an armistice, county residents didn’t wait for official confirmation — the party was on.
The Noblesville Daily Ledger sported the huge headline, “GERMANY HAS QUIT!,” along with a notice from Mayor Jack McCoun that a patriotic demonstration would take place on the courthouse square that evening.
It was quite a celebration. People vied to see “who could whoop the loudest and wave the biggest flags,” while the Kaiser and the Crown Prince were burned in effigy in a bonfire on the southeast corner of the square.
Noblesville’s schools were dismissed, and those students, along with pupils from the Fishers school, joined the thousands jamming Noblesville’s streets. One man described it as the noisiest gathering he’d seen in Noblesville since the city celebrated the nation’s centennial in 1876.
That was just the beginning.
An official observance took place on November 11, when the armistice was actually signed (at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.) Those festivities included fireworks, two large bonfires on the square and a parade featuring the Noblesville Military Band, the fire department, War Mothers and Fathers, the Women’s Relief Corps, the Red Cross and private citizens.
Meanwhile, up the road, Cicero was also going “wild with joy.” Church bells rang, the War Mothers held a prayer service and residents organized a parade of their own.
What sometimes gets lost in all the hoopla is that the war didn’t officially end until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles the following June. For several months, the county was still in war mode.
Huge ads encouraged the Ledger’s readers to continue supporting the troops by contributing to the United War Work campaign. (The campaign was a joint effort of the Y.M.C.A/Y.W.C.A, the National Catholic War Council/Knights of Columbus, the Jewish Welfare Board, the War Camp Community Service, the American Library Association and the Salvation Army.)
Funds collected during the drive went to provide recreation, entertainment and the comforts of home to soldiers still serving overseas.
One serviceman who benefited from the campaign was Arcadia’s Vern Wibel.
Lisa Hayner shared a letter Sergeant Wibel wrote to her great-great aunt, Christena “Tena” Snyder. Tena was a friend of Wibel’s family.
The letter, penned by candlelight on stationary provided by the Knights of Columbus and sent from “some place in a little town in France,” was dated January 29, 1919. In it, Wibel, a member of an ambulance company, described some of the horrors he’d witnessed and told how he’d lived in trenches for weeks at a time, never knowing when he might be blown to bits.
He closed by saying he was grateful he no longer had to sleep wet and hungry in a hole in a field, unable to take his shoes off.
Lisa learned that Wibel was one of the lucky soldiers who made it home. A glassblower by trade, he later became manager of Arcadia’s canning factory. He passed away in 1966.
A big thanks to ALL our veterans for your service!
- Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Friday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com