The holiday now known as Veterans Day originated nearly a century ago when what was then called the Great War ended with an armistice between Germany and the Allies. The end of the long, bloody war, which cost an estimated 10 million military deaths, was cause for celebration in Europe and America.
Rhinelander residents celebrated along with the rest of the world. The letter below was written the day the war ended by Rhinelander resident Mitch Mode’s great-grandmother to a relative who was in the service in Europe. Mode was surprised to learn of the letter’s existence when the president of the Rhinelander Historical Society sent him a copy of it.
His great-grandmother’s words, which are printed below, give readers a glimpse into a time very different from the present day. But even after so many years, the modern reader can feel the emotions the writer felt as she wrote. Her sentiments are universal and timeless.
November 11, 1918
Hurrah! Hurrah! Isn’t this the most wonderful day that we have ever seen! I only wish you could hear the celebrating that little Rhinelander is doing. The church bell has rung since four o’clock this a.m. Whistles have blown until you can’t hear yourself think. I’ll tell you it is all for a great cause. You boys will soon be home. I don’t care how long we must wait as long as we know you are coming. Maybe you will be here for Xmas but we just won’t let ourselves think about that.
I got to the hotel about 6 o’clock this morning as no one could think of sleep. I then called up the girls and said, “Come in as soon as your work would be done as it’s just great.”
Dad was here and he said Mother is laughing one minute and the next minute she is crying. She is so tickled.
I wish I could write about something else because I’m so excited I can hardly manage my pen.
Every cow bell in town is sold, dish pans pounded to pieces. I tell you it’s great.
What will the celebration be like when Company L comes back home. Can a person imagine a wonderful thing like that. I can feel myself slip as soon as I mention it. I’ll be there with bells on, believe me.
Everything closes at 9 o’clock so I must get busy as all the family from the farm will be here for dinner and I’m baking bread so I must get busy and I want to buy some horns for the children.
When Nelda [her niece] heard the whistles she said now Uncle Carl will be home and we can get some sugar.
She is going to take her pony to the depot to meet you.
I’ll write more when I cool down a little. I’m too excited to write. I want to tell everything at once and I can’t spell a bit.
Take good care of yourself, _____. [The letter closes with what Mitch Mode believes is a Swedish term of endearment.]