Lynnfield honored the service of “the Boys” who served “Over There”
By Helen Breen
The town of Lynnfield rose to the occasion in supporting the troops when the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. American forces under General John J. Pershing arrived on the Western Front in the summer of 1918, contributing significantly to the Allied victory declared on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918.
The home front
Lynnfield, with its sparse population of 1,100, made significant contributions to the “war effort.” Some 245 residents became members of the Red Cross. Those in the Center were under the direction of Dexter F. Parker. Parker also produced a small newspaper called Town Topics, “intended for ‘the boys’ and to encourage letter writing.” Elizabeth Green, longstanding town librarian, and Sarah Herrick were in charge of “garment making.” Katherine Ross, unofficial town historian, led a group making surgical dressings.
South Lynnfield “was remarkably well organized by Henry W. Pelton,” whose committee worked on food conservation and sold Liberty Bonds. Soon shortages were felt all over town. To save fuel, schools were closed on Mondays during January. The traditional practice of “oiling” dirt roads (all Lynnfield roads were dirt at that time) was curtailed because of oil rationing.
Even before the War ended, an impressive Memorial Plaque, with the names of all those currently serving, was installed in South Lynnfield near the junction of Salem Street and Route 1. A solemn exercise for the “Unveiling of A Tablet In Honor of the Sons of Lynnfield Who are in Their Country’s Service” was held at the old Town Hall at 3 o’clock on Sunday, October 27, 1918.
The featured speaker was Dr. L. J. Birney, who had “spent the summer with the boys Over There.” Everyone in Lynnfield was encouraged to “Come and Honor the Boys.” Although the War would end within a month, three “boys” from Lynnfield made the ultimate sacrifice on the Western Front: Willard Freeman, John Lammers and Benjamin Mitchell.
The heroes return
A gala “Welcome Home Celebration in Honor of the Boys of Lynnfield, Mass. Who Served in the Great War” was held on Tuesday, July 17, 1919. Afternoon festivities began at the “estate of Hap Ward,” a sprawling entertainment complex in South Lynnfield near Suntaug Lake. Activities included a band concert, various sports, “reception for the boys,” plus an ice cream social followed by dinner.
An evening program continued at Town Hall with a speech by Town Moderator Rutherford D. Smith, a presentation of medals, and musical selections followed by dancing until midnight. Transportation was provided from Roundy’s Store in the Center to Hap Ward’s in the afternoon, and from the Chemical House (fire station) in South Lynnfield to the evening events at Town Hall.
By all accounts the townsfolk of Lynnfield embraced the “war effort,” supported their “boys” during the conflict and properly honored the World War I troops on their return.
Armistice Day was first celebrated nationally on November 11, 1919, the one-year anniversary of the end of World War I, then called “The Great War.” (Little did anyone suspect that World War II would follow.) In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
(Sources: “Lynnfield, a heritage preserved, 1895-1976,” Marcia Wiswall Lindberg, ed.; “Lynnfield,” by Warren H. Falls.)
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Below is an excerpt from “Over There,” a popular patriotic song written by George M. Cohan (Leo Feist, Inc., New York ):
Over there, over there,
Send the word, send the word over there,
That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming,
The drums rum-tumming ev-’ywhere.
So prepare, say a pray’r,
Send the word; send the word to beware,
We’ll be over, we’re coming over,
And we won’t come back till it’s over over there.