Monday, November  30th, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Fighting the -Great War- On the Home Front

In March, 1918 – ninety years ago – La Verne’s packing houses were in full operation and business was good. Citrus fruit was in demand, and Paul Neyron brand oranges brought $8 per box in New York.

But people were deeply concerned with what was known as ‘the Great War’ which had been raging in Europe for three and a half years.

It had been a year since the U.S. had entered the European conflict, siding with France and Great Britain against Germany and other countries in a gigantic mess that historians are still sorting out.

Politicians saw America’s goal as very simple: " make liberty supreme throughout the world and to make the atrocities, the infamous and unspeakable crimes against civilization committed by Germany impossible forever in the future!" .

Anything German was suspect. British and American propaganda fostered hatred by detailing atrocities and barbarities committed by the German ‘Huns.’

People - many of German descent - now looked at anyone who even spoke German as a possible subversive.

In 1917, a week or so after the U.S. entered the war, Miss Mary M. Bartruff resigned from her teaching position at Bonita Union High School, where she had taught German and English for ten years..

Now, in March, 1918, a La Verne Leader article told of three men taken into custody in Pomona, arrested because they had failed to register as alien enemies. They were handed over to federal authorities to be interred for the rest of the war.

Recruiting for the U.S. military had been underway for a year, and a ‘La Verne Honor Roll’ printed in the Leader listed forty-one men in the Service. Enlistees chose the branch of the military they liked; those who were drafted had little choice in the matter.

The list of servicemen included Frank Palomares, Henry Hixon, Roscoe Hoover, and Jesse Brandt.

The first two had owned the Lordsburg Cyclery on Third Street and raced cars and motorcycles. Palomares ended up in France, and Hixon was in the Quartermaster corps. Hoover, son of W.I.T. Hoover of La Verne College, was assigned to a Signal Corps unit training pigeons used to carry messages back from the front. As for Jesse Brandt, an honors graduate, he had written the Draft Board that he was a conscientious objector and could not bear arms. He had been arrested and taken away.

Funding the war was a problem, so it was decided to sell ‘Liberty Bonds’ to be redeemed at a future date. Now Secretary of the Treasury McAdoo was launching another spectacular drive to convince Americans to invest in a Third Liberty Loan, buying yet more government bonds to support America’s war against the Huns. He was quoted:

"Every American should pledge anew to his government the full measure of his resources and resolve to make every required sacrifice in the same fervent spirit that impels our gallant sons in the trenches of France and on the waters of the Atlantic to shed their blood in America’s cause."

La Verne’s Thrift Stamp Committee brought Superior Court Judge Weiler to speak at a meeting in the Methodist church. Weller noted that the government was registering ten million men, and there was no question but that victory would be ours. To equip and maintain them, the government had to either tax citizens a sum sufficient to carry on the war or just pass on a portion of the cost to posterity. The latter method had been thought best and just, so more Liberty Bonds were being sold and Thrift Stamp campaigns were underway.

Hollywood stars such as Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford criss-crossed the country holding rallies calling on all patriotic Americans to buy Liberty Bonds and stamps. Harry Lauder, a celebrated Scotch comedian, had lost his only son in action. He came to Los Angeles and spoke of his experiences, bringing in donations for the comfort and good cheer of the laddies ‘over there.’

A drawing by Aston Overholtzer, son of S.A. Overholtzer, showed Uncle Sam being supported by three thrift stamps. It was placed on page one of the Leader.

Six agents from the Pomona office of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company would be visiting every La Verne residence on April 2. They hoped to sell at least $5,000 worth of War Savings and Thrift Stamps.

A grand patriotic rally was planned for April 11 at the Shrine auditorium in Los Angeles. The governor would preside, and two bishops would speak. Famed Ellen Beach Yaw would sing. A hundred seats were reserved for La Verne attendees, who should bring lunch in their machines.

By the end of May, the First National Bank announced that it had sold a total of 432 First, Second, and Third Liberty Loan boards to 194 subscribers – a total of $37,000 for the war effort!

Many articles on the war effort appeared in the weekly La Verne Leader as Editor W.H. Green was now receiving hundreds of linear inches of war patriotic publicity sent out by the California State Council of Defense.

A "Food Saving Program, 1918" was officially announced by the U.S. Food Administration, as wheat was needed to help feed the military and the Allies. Three years of fighting had wreaked havoc with Europe’s food production. The goal was to send the Allies and American soldiers as much food as possible with the most nutritive value: wheat, beef, pork, butter and sugar.

La Verne housewives faced a problem in preparing meals, with increased prices and a bewildering array of voluntary food conservation days which were instituted.

Every week would have two wheatless days (Monday and Thursday), and one wheatless meal every day, two porkless days (Tuesday and Saturday) and one porkless meal every day. Every day was to be a fat-saving day and a sugar-saving day, using fruit, vegetables and potatoes abundantly. Then this changed to just ‘meatless Tuesdays.’

The La Verne Meat Market immediately ran a notice that for the "National Meatless Day:" they would not sell any Beef, Mutton, Pork, or Veal on Tuesdays.

Things were too complicated. A week later, federal officials looked at agricultural production and readjusted the voluntary rationing, temporarily suspending it but asking that all cut use of flour and sugar.

In one of merchant Bob Williams’ columns in the Leader he noted that "Speaking of the number of things that the war deprives us of and the very changes it has brought about— why, I can remember when my wife used to call me ‘Hun’!"

That was just a bad pun, and a bit dated now, but for some reason, that comment about passing the cost of the war to posterity has a very familiar ring to it. – GB