Albion Recorder, November 1, 2001, pg. 18
One holiday we celebrate in November is Veteran’s Day (formerly Armistice Day). When the United States entered the “War to End All Wars” (World War I) in April, 1917, Albion’s citizens answered the call to duty and enlisted in droves into the armed forces to serve their country. The War also affected Albion College, which saw many of its male students withdraw and join the branch of service of their choice first, rather than being drafted. Those students who remained were required to take part in military drills on campus as part of their course work. The Student Army Training Corps (SATC) was formed in 1917 to prepare Albion College students (males) for military service. The College worked with the U.S. War Department which approved a program to: enlist students into the service, train them for active duty, and identify/train future officers. Four active military officers: Lieut. John L. Bate, Lieut. D. H. Tilson, Lieut. Charles E. Staudinger, and Lieut. Sievers were brought in by the War Department to conduct the military training. Two companies were formed on campus.
Several Albion College buildings were transformed into an army military base. The Epworth Physical Laboratory was the headquarters; the Old North Building was turned into a barracks as was the Sigma Chi house, while the North Hall served as a business headquarters. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) building on E. Erie St. served as the Mess Hall. Robinson Hall was designated the camp infirmary which saw unexpected use: The deadly Spanish influenza epidemic struck here in October, 1918. Over a hundred of the two-hundred fifty SATC members were afflicted and treated at Robinson Hall. Several dozen Albion town residents died of the virus in the months to come, and Albion schools were closed for several weeks in early 1919.
Students were required to take two hours of military training each day, plus a “war course” class. The first 15 SATC students were shipped to the Central Infantry Officer’s Training Camp at Rockford, Illinois on November 15, 1918. With the end of the War occurring that same month however, the SATC members were discharged in the following weeks and the last man left on December 15. Thus ended the SATC and military training at Albion College until March, 1943 when Army Air Force Cadet training began during World War II.
Patriotism and anticipation ran high, and on Thursday, November 7, 1918, the Albion Recorder announced in big front page headlines that Germany had quit and an armistice had been signed, based upon a United Press wire it had received. Albion thought the War was over, and the word spread fast. Unfortunately, it was only a preliminary surrender agreement on the battle field that had to be officially approved by both the U.S. and its Allies, and the German government. The agreement was not signed until Monday, November 11, the official day the War ended. November 7 has subsequently been dubbed by historians as “The False Armistice Day.”
Albion saw a huge “end of the War” celebration beginning at 2 o’clock the afternoon of November 7, and continuing through late in the night. Factory whistles blew, sirens sounded, and the Albion College SATC, armed with their guns and bayonets, led an impromptu jubilant parade through downtown Albion. Behind them was the Post Band, the Albion College girls, and the citizens of Albion in their decorated automobiles, waving decorated flags and banners. The Boy Scouts lit a huge victory bonfire at the corner of Clinton and Center Sts. that evening, and a special celebration service was held at the Methodist Church on E. Erie St. The next morning as the truth became known, it was embarrassingly noted that the premature local celebration could be considered “a rehearsal” for the real armistice which was soon to come.
From the Archives this week we present a very historical photograph of the Albion College SATC “False Armistice Day” marchers of November 7, 1918. The scene shows the west side of the 200 block of Superior St. Notice the Bijou Theatre on the far left in the Eslow Block, followed by the Singer and Son Furniture & Undertaking (later the site of George Caines Paint store), then the Afton A. Dibble Clothiers (present site of Wilking Office Supply). Beneath the soldier’s feet are the interurban (electric street car) tracks which were in use here the first two decades of the 20th century.
Our second photograph features the local soldiers marching on the main campus of Albion College, with the Epworth building in the distance. Special thanks to Nancy Held for supplying this week’s photographs.
(top) Albion College SATC “False Armistice Day” marchers of November 7, 1918
(bottom) Local soldiers marching on the main campus of Albion College
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic