Thursday, April 6, 2017

April 4, 1917 in Lewiston, Maine

The Sun Journal's Looking Back feature strikes again with this interesting nugget:



100 years ago, 1917

The resolve appropriating $80,000 for the construction of a National Guard Armory in Lewiston received its several readings and was passed to be engrossed in the Maine Senate Thursday morning. An amendment provides that sum shall be taken from any fund immediately available -- preferably the million dollars subscribed for War purposes. It is provided, also, that the work of construction shall be supervised by a committee appointed by the Governor and composed, in addition to the adjutant general, of two citizens of Lewiston and two of Bangor. An exactly similar resolve providing for the construction in Bangor was also passed to be engrossed.

What's most interesting to me about this, aside from what I'll be saying further below, is that the "National Guard Armory" later became a community hall known generally as the Lewiston Armory, where I along with many other students graduated high school.  I couldn't find any definitive history online, readily, of the Armory, which is a little odd, so at least I got to read, randomly, about its origins in the newspaper.  There's a raft of tax preparers who provide free service there each year, and in that context was my most recent visit to the building.

Here's today's Looking Back:



100 years ago, 1917

(Page One Headline) WAR IS DECLARED BY U.S. -- House Passed War Resolution at 3 O'clock This Morning. Young Men of 19 to 25 Years of Age To Be Called First. Service in the National Guard and Naval Reserves is encouraged in a bulletin issued to the employees of the Lewiston, Augusta & Waterville street railways and applied companies. While the company cannot guarantee to make up the difference in pay to all men, exceptions will be made in cases requiring special treatment by reason of dependent families. The positions and ratings of men that enlist will not be lost and absence from work will not be considered a break in service.

Obviously, the war in question was the Great War, otherwise known as WWI, which just as obviously had begun without U.S. involvement, and more obviously still did not stop Americans from preparing for involvement before the official declaration; see the above article from two days earlier for evidence of that.  Since so much focus has been put on WWII in recent decades, WWI has begun to slip from history, except maybe the assassination of Franz Ferdinand (who otherwise got a band named after him, and makes spectacular appearances in Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day) and the excuses Germans made for rallying behind a monster like Hitler.  Last year I read a book by Teddy Roosevelt in which he complains bitterly about Woodrow Wilson's failure to confront the realities of the situation.  Sure, he was preparing to run against Wilson and therefore any remarks might be dismissed as campaign rhetoric, but reading the book, I can't help but agree with Roosevelt.  Today we know Wilson mostly from his proposal for the League of Nations, which eventually became the still extant United Nations.  We think Wilson on the whole was a visionary.  Roosevelt thought he was an idiot. One of them's on Mount Rushmore.  (Just saying.)  It's equally telling that Americans have internalized Wilson's reluctant approach to war rather than Roosevelt's pragmatic one.  We likely have no idea how that happened.  It began, oh, a hundred years ago, maybe.  Or at least, this was one of those definitive turning points.

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