Thursday, November 8, 2018

Armistice Day In Old Rockdale

    The insistent blast of the mill whistle woke Massey from a sound sleep. He could not remember what he was dreaming, but he was sure it was pleasant. Massey fumbled with his blanket and grabbed his alarm clock, nearly upsetting the washbasin. The luminous hands of his Big Ben pointed to 3:24―much too early for the shift change. He was about to return to sleep when the whistle was joined by bells from Saint Joseph's steeple and the blast of a steam locomotive. Next was the deep-throated sound of the village fire alarm followed by the ooga-ooga of klaxons from several cars and trucks and the shrill screech of yet another steam whistle. A mere down pillow over his ears was not going to be enough to defeat the clangs, bangs, toots and screams that were merging into one clamorous roar.
    “Not again” Massey muttered and felt his way to the window. Just four days ago, all of Rockdale had exploded in a joyous shivaree when someone passed on the rumor the war was over, and he had yet to recover his lost sleep. Massey threw open the window and let in the noise and a cold blast of November air. The scene greeting him was etched into his memory forever. Below, Moen Avenue had swelled into a sea of cheering men and women, and sleepy children banging pots and pans with wooden spoons in time with Louie Antonelli’s hurdy-gurdy.. Firecrackers left over from the Fourth finally had their chance to contribute their pops and from the nearby canal, skyrockets from a towboat showered the night with cascades of red and green.
    “It's over.” the crowd chorused over the din. “This time it's over for sure. The war is over.”
 * * *

* * *

   The end came at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year 1918. The German command on the Rhine sent out the wireless message, “Im Westen nichts neus”―”Nothing is new on the Western front.” The ally’s message was briefer-”All is quiet.”

Excerpted from Slogans: Our Children, Our Future 

Author's Note: I mislabelled Louie Antonelli's musical instrument. Actually it was a street barrel organ.