Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.
It was in early November of 1938, when our first grade teacher, Miss Westlake, told us that we would be observing a very special day the following week. She said it was called “Armistice Day,” and we would be talking about it all week long.
As the week progressed, we learned that the special day was to celebrate the day when the armistice was signed to end the fighting in World War I. It was to honor our soldiers and sailors who fought in that war. There would be no fireworks or parades like the ones on the 4th of July. Instead, we would show our thanks to those people in a different way.
She said the armistice had been signed at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. So our observance of that occasion would be exactly 20 years later … to the hour.
Miss Westlake told us that we would observe that day with “one minute of silence.” When the courthouse clock struck 11, we would stand in the aisle beside our desk, and no one would speak or make a sound for a full minute. Our silence would be to honor those who served in that war.
It is no small task to get a room full of six-year-olds to be totally silent for a full minute. So Miss Westlake worked with us every day, telling us how important it was for us not to talk or laugh. I think we all began to understand the solemnity of the occasion, and I was confident that we could do it.
The one exception that I wasn’t sure about, however, was a boy named Max Biederman, who sat right across the aisle from me. He was kind of a class clown who would do just about anything to get a laugh. He was a paste eater, and I don’t think he even liked the taste of paste. I think he ate it just to make the other kids laugh. Yes, Max would be a challenge during those 60 seconds of silence.
When Nov. 11 arrived, the day started like all days, as we recited the pledge of allegiance to the flag in the front of our classroom. Then we moved on with the day’s reading assignment. At 11 a.m., the clock in the top of the courthouse began to strike, and we all stood beside our desk as the 60 seconds of silence began.
All the work that Miss Westlake did to prepare us for that day paid off. You could have heard a pin drop in the room. There wasn’t a peep from any of us kids. Even Max Biederman was silent. He didn’t say anything funny, and he didn’t do anything outrageous. He just stood there in silence like the rest of us. I was not only surprised, I was also proud of him.
We don’t celebrate Armistice Day anymore. Now we call it Veterans Day, and it honors those who served in all of our wars. I don’t know how school kids pay tribute today to those who served, but I hope it is just as impressive as our “minute of silence” was.
Oh yes, one more thing about Max Biederman. About a month or so before school was out for the year, Max told me he and his family were moving to Texas the following month. They were going to live on a cattle ranch and raise horses. He said that since we were such good friends, he was going to send me a pony. I was thrilled.
I waited quite a while, but I never did get that pony from Max. The two of us were pretty good friends, however, so I suppose it could still arrive any day now.
Those wishing to contact Bill Boyd can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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