Marshfield, June 1919: Red Arrow Days welcome home returning World War I soldiers
By Kris Leonhardt
With the signing of an armistice in a French railroad car in November 1918, Germany and the Central Powers were defeated by France, the United States, and the Allied Forces. Four years of carnage and destruction ceased, and World War I came to an end.
Marshfield area soldiers and sailors slowly made their way home, and local residents welcomed them with open arms and kind words of appreciation.
With the final servicemen relieved of active duty, the city made plans for a huge event as Mayor Henry Kalsched announced a two-day celebration for the return of the 32nd Division. The “Red Arrow Division” had served on the front lines from May 1918 until the end of the war.
Organizers meticulously planned the event to have “enough of everything, not too much of anything” as they handpicked the attractions for balance.
Anticipation for the festival grew in the upcoming months as children and adults alike waited for Central Avenue to fill with the numerous stands and platforms.
At 8 a.m. June 18, the city rang with the sound of factory whistles and church bells and began bustling with activity.
Returning legionnaires were treated with respect and gratitude as they made their way through the city streets and attended the numerous events. In a place of honor sat the “gold star” parents, whose children would not return home after giving the ultimate sacrifice.
Band performances, parades, and dances were all held in their honor. The Adler and Trio theaters offered special showings.
Local wrestler Fred Beell fought Chicago native Bob Rodgers in the middle of Central Avenue while food stands dotted the city street.
For the special event, numerous oxen were secured, and every available city butcher helped to process the animals to provide the needed fare for a huge barbecue prepared in Marshfield’s White City Pavilion. (The Pavilion, a dance hall constructed by the city’s Eagles Club, was situated in what later became Wildwood Park & Zoo.)
Red Arrow Days ran continuously for two days, with thousands of attendees arriving in the city for around-the-clock events. During the festivities, not one individual got out of line as the community paid its respects to the fallen, celebrated the end of the war, and welcomed the boys of the 32nd home.
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail at P.O. Box 51, Marshfield, WI 54449 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.