Armistice Day Adventures
All the girls in our seventh grade class had a crush on Captain Bill McKenney, the local hero of World War I. So it was with great excitement that we discovered he was the speaker on the Armistice Day program one November. Captain Bill was out of the U.S. Army, but he still made a striking figure as he rode this beautiful brown horse around our town. Not other man wore shiny boots with greater dignity.
Our junior high school was brand new, and it featured a large auditorium with a roomy stage.
Captain Bill flashed us a smile and began to talk about life as a soldier in France. His intention, I suppose, was to tell us to honor those who had fought for our freedom, and why we should remember them, especially on this day.
He began a description of cannon fire and trench warfare, and what it meant to “go over the top” when three of the loudest bangs we ever heard reverberated throughout our building. For a second, we sat stunned, and then there arose a wave of cries from the audience. Our principal, Mrs. Ballard, who had once told the students that she could tell what culprit was whispering behind her back, as she “had ears so acute I can hear the grass growing,” jumped about a foot in the air.
Captain Bill, stood stock-still, but Superintendent Shrader jumped off the stage, ran down the aisle and leaped out the side door. In a few minutes he came back, thanked Captain Bill for an exciting speech and ordered everybody to go home.
I guess we were in shock because we tramped out of the school in a daze, and didn’t find out what had happened until the next day.
The daily paper reported that the McIntyre brothers had escaped from two prisons. Because the courthouse was just a block from the school, they had rushed across our lawn and were moving under our windows when Sheriff Lee fired shots over their heads to make them halt.
We all wanted a program as exciting as that every year, but all other Armistice Day programs always just featured somebody reading poems.
Mary Elizabeth Mruzik