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November 11, 1997

Photograph of parade marchers in Perry's first Armistice Day celebration
Parade Marchers in Perry's first Armistice Day celebration on November 11, 1918, were Mary Frances Kennedy (now Hopkins), age 5, and her brother, Thomas Nugent Kennedy, 7, wearing a sailor suit. Mrs. Hopkins, now 84, lives at 260 N. Third Ave., #301-B, Upland, CA91786. She sent us these pictures with her recollections of those early years in Perry.

Photograph of Mary Frances Kennedy Hopkins
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Mary Frances Kennedy Hopkins today
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Tuesday is Veterans' day throughout this great land. In many communities, the celebration is minimal at best, but the first one -- November 11, 1918 -- was a grand and glorious occasion in this city. It was called a "Victory Celebration and Peace Jubilee," and it was highlighted by a colorful parade around the Perry square.

Some of that euphoria from the past is shared with us by Mary Frances Hopkins, now a resident of Upland, California. She was a five-year-old youngster living here 79 years ago when that first peace celebration was staged. Mrs. Hopkins, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William H. Kennedy, remembers the day well. She and her brother, Thomas Nugent Kennedy, then seven, were dressed up in miniature uniforms made for them by an aunt, Mrs. George M. Kirn, and they became participants in that happy parade. Mrs. Hopkins has sent us pictures from that day, and one of her from today.

Originally, what we now call Veterans' Day was first designated as Armistice Day to mark the official end to the great war which we now know as World War I. The precise hour was 11 a.m. on November 11 -- the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. That hour was the moment of cease-fire for all parties in the conflict. Although the name has been changed, the official day remains November 11, and it now is held to honor all those who have served the U.S. in any armed conflict, not just in World War I. It is one of ten federal legal public holidays. Incidentally, there is no such thing as a "national holiday," because each state has jurisdiction over holidays. A "federal legal public holiday" is designated by the President and the Congress and it applies only to the District of Columbia federal employees.

In the 1918 Armistice Day parade, Mary Frances marched in a miniature Red Cross uniform while her brother, Thomas, was dressed like a U.S. sailor. Each child waved a small American flag and they carried a banner from the "Black Bear Company," with an emblem indicating it was a Red Cross unit. As far as I can determine, Mrs. Hopkins and her family were not related to any of the Kennedys now living in this area. Her father was a Western Union office manager when they lived here.

According to the Perry Republican weekly newspaper, a "huge patriotic crowd" was on hand for that first Armistice Day celebration in 1918. "Several thousand people came to join in the festivities and the program," the reporter wrote. The parade was held in the morning and was led by the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans organization of that period). The newspaper account continued: "Then came the Red Cross ladies, the 3rd Regiment band, Boy Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, Indians and citizens. The real feature of the parade was that of little Patzie (sic) Sowers and Willard Elliott in a Red Cross stunt. Miss Patzie was attired in the regulation Red Cross nurse outfit and by her side walked Master Willard in khaki with one arm in a sling ... These two youngsters were recipients of much applause along the line of march."

Many articles were contributed to the Red Cross sale conducted by Auctioneer Queen, the newspaper reported. A crocheted spread made and donated by Mrs. Frank Skalenda was sold about 20 times for $5, the paper said, and each purchaser donated it back for resale. It was finally bought by Mrs. W. T. Donahoe for $45. A pig donated by 0. J. Hirschman was bought by Jim Wright for $14.75. A calf donated by the Bechtold family was bought by Mrs. G. W. Clark for $10. A $6 pair of reading glasses donated by Mrs. Grace Brengle brought $5.50. Peaches donated by Orlando Walkling brought $3.50 and the turkey donated by Joseph Spillman was bought by George Mouser for $5.

A band concert in the park was followed by patriotic speeches. The newspaper reported that the chief orator was the Hon. J. J. McGraw of Ponca City. He was joined by local speakers paying tribute to peace and victory and urging continued effort in the war work drive to support U. S. servicemen still "over there."

It obviously was a great day of celebration, with a mixture of sober reflection thrown in. So it is today as we salute Veterans' Day, even without a parade or a band concert. We should never forget the sacrifices made on our behalf by the gallant men and women who have answered the call when our nation was in peril. We are free to celebrate that day, or to not celebrate it if we choose, because of what they did for us. Our hats are off and our heads are bowed, if only in our thoughts. Thank you, veterans.