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Looking back: August 1919 in Camden

By Susan Mustapich | Aug 28, 2019
Courtesy of: Camden Public Library Walsh History Center The "Welcome Home Celebration" for Camden's servicemen Aug. 20,1919, was billed as the largest community event the town had ever seen by The Camden Herald.

CAMDEN — While World War I ended Nov. 11, 1918, the logistics of demobilization meant that American soldiers were returning to the United States throughout much of 1919.

The "Welcome Home Celebration" for Camden's servicemen Aug. 20,1919, was called the largest community event the town had ever seen in reports in The Camden Herald.

The town declared the day a "half-holiday," with the shops and mills closed, and all events were "free including dances and entertainments," according to an Aug. 15, 1919, story.

Preparations went on for a full week leading up to the parade. During that time, "Boston decorators" were in Camden outfitting nearly every commercial building on the parade route "with bunting and flags," and many residential homes were also decorated.

The newspaper's Aug. 22 edition described the "Welcome Home Celebration" in detail. The parade began at 4 p.m. with floats sponsored by local businesses and constructed by workers on their own time. Marching in the parade in large numbers along with the floats were workers from the Camden Shipyard, Camden Anchor-Rockland Machine Co., Camden Mill and Lincoln Mill.

Also in the parade were 11 decorated automobiles bearing placards, "Mothers of our Boys" followed by three autos carrying little girls in white singing patriotic songs.

"Next came the float that touched the hearts of all, carrying the boys of '61,' [Civil War] these aged and battle-scarred veterans, who are getting so pitifully few in number, and with them their faithful and loyal wives," the Herald reported. "The car of the Spanish War veterans followed next," and "handsomely decorated" cars represented the five allied nations in World War I.

Red Cross workers were well represented in the parade, according to reports, along with civic groups, including the Golden Cross and Knights of Columbus.

The Camden Mill float bore the sign "225,000 blankets and 180,000 yards of overcoating," detailing its contribution to the servicemen. The Lincoln Mill carried "two of the machines used in the manufacture of the uniform cloth which this mill turned out," with the inscription on its sign "580,864 yards for our boys." The female employees were in cars, and Mr. Lincoln was there with 73 of the male employees marching behind him.

After the parade, the soldiers and sailors stood before a reviewing stand across from the Opera House, where they and many spectators were addressed by speakers, there was singing of patriotic songs, and a flag presentation to the newly formed Arey-Heal post of the American Legion. Afterwards, a buffet lunch was held for the servicemen at the Opera House.

Carnival-themed dances were featured that evening, one outdoors on the concrete area in front of the Post Office, where "overhead hundreds of colored electric lights had been put up and along the sides Japanese lanterns," and another at the Opera House. "At both places there was such a crowd that there was barely dancing room and everyone was having a splendid time," according to the Herald. "Many were dressed carnival style and confetti was at all times in the air.

"Such is the story of our Welcome Home for our Camden boys. We did our best to honor them. We know they enjoyed it and appreciated it."

One hundred years ago this August, Camden celebrated the return of its soldiers from World War I with a half-holiday for workers throughout the town, a grand parade and evening carnival. (Courtesy of: Camden Public Library Walsh History Center)
Soldiers returning from World War I stand in front of commercial buildings decked out in bunting and flags on Bay View Street during the "Welcome Home Celebration" Aug. 20, 1919. (Courtesy of: Camden Public Library Walsh History Center)
The Camden Shipyard workers put great effort into their float to welcome Camden's "boys" who returned from World War I. (Courtesy of: Camden Public Library Walsh History Center)
The Golden Cross was one of many civic organizations represented in the Welcome Home parade Aug. 20, 1919. (Courtesy of: Camden Public Library Walsh History Center)
The reviewing stand at the end of the Welcome Home parade was held across from the Camden Opera House in what was then called the "Sexton lot." (Courtesy of: Camden Public Library Walsh History Center)
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Comments (3)
Posted by: David Franclemont | Aug 28, 2019 15:40

Excellent article Susan! Very enlightening and well written. Thank you so much for your endless work and coverage of The American Legion in Camden.


Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Aug 28, 2019 14:35

Great read! Thanks for the history lesson. War is hell but our boys served proudly and our mourners presented a proud face. With ensuing wars I wonder when or if we will learn the lesson that our youth have to pay!

Posted by: Jeff Sukeforth | Aug 28, 2019 10:02

What a great article and a wonderful part of our military history in Camden.  Thank you Susan for this article.

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