Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI
November 10, 1999, Page 28
Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.
Index of "Oldies" Articles
Compiled by Dee Zimmerman
Clark County News
November 14, 1918
The war in Europe has ended after 1, 567 days of fighting in which virtually the whole world has been convulsed to some degree.
Announcement of the cease fire was made at the capital at 2:45 a.m. on November 11, as the news was flashed through the continent.
The terse announcement of the state department did not tell of the scene at Marshall Foch’s headquarters as the armistice was signed. It was stated, however, that at 5 a.m., Paris time, the signatures of German’s delegates were affixed on the document which ended the world of struggle and had cost at the very lowest estimate, 10,000,000 lives.
Thursday afternoon Neillsville joined with the balance of the nation in celebrating the news of Germany having accepted the Allied terms of armistice and that the hostilities had ceased. The news came early in the afternoon but about 5 o’clock word came from Madison that the word was authentic.
The canning factory whistle cut loose, followed by the whistles of the Condensary and the dehydrating plant. In a few minutes church bells were ringing and the down town streets were jammed with happy people who paid no attention to the rain and muddy streets. All the fireworks that could be secured were fired off and three huge bonfires were kindled at various corners. Headed by brass drums, tin pans and any noise making implement that could be secured, the people paraded up and down the street through the mud, singing, shouting: and in any possible manner, in venting their joy over the war’s end. An effigy of the Kaiser was burned in one of the bonfires and his “castle” was added to the flames. Even though Neillsville is a “dry” town, an amazing appearance of red liquor came out of hiding. The liquor had evidently been kept in preparation for the event and to drive away the flu. The good-natured crowd kept up the victory celebration until the early hours of the morning. The discouraging feature of the celebration made itself evident the next morning when it was learned that the peace news was the result of a press agency which was taking a long chance in guessing at the truth and gambling on making a reputation for itself. It faked the entire nation and caused at least a day’s delay in the speed-up program of the United States.
Monday, when the news of actual signing of the armistice had been received, here, the city and adjacent country went wild gain. About 4 o’clock in the morning the fire alarm roused the citizens of the city and from then on until early Tuesday morning the streets were filled with a riotous, happy crowd. Impromptu bands were formed with drums, pans, saws and any old noise-making apparatus being at a premium all day. The older generations vied with the younger people in parading up and down the street singing and cheering for this great event.
Monday morning, a V-J day later to be announced. Accordingly, they set 2 p.m. as the time for the formal program to open, and called a meeting of representatives of all interested organizations, to be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning. At that time details were to be worked out. A preliminary committee met and formed plans for a general celebration in the afternoon. An impressive program was held on the school grounds. Rev. Brandt, pastor of the German Lutheran Church, opened the meeting with a fervent prayer and offered Thanksgiving to God for the goodness of peace on the nation. Rev. Roberts, pastor of the Presbyterian Church read passages of scripture. James A. Phillips delivered a masterly address; a singing program was given with the crowd joining in singing national selections. Rev. Weber, pastor of the Catholic Church, pronounced the benediction.
At the conclusion of the program, a parade was formed headed by the band and a line of marchers walked down the street, a singing, cheering mob crowding the street from sidewalk to sidewalk. The parade split up into individual efforts, snake dances, war dances and every conceivable form of fun and pleasure carried out with vim and laughter.
Shortly before the news of the cease fire and Armistice signing, telegrams from the war department were received by some area families announcing the deaths of their sons who were in the Armed Forces. Mr. and Mrs. Carl Pollnow’s son, Louis, died at a hospital in England as a result of pneumonia. Edward Joyce, son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Joyce, died at an American Red Cross hospital in England, presumed to have died as a victim of the influenza epidemic which had spread through Europe and America. George W. Ehlers, son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Ehlers, of Columbia, also died of pneumonia shortly after arriving in England. Another victim of influenza was Louis Lloyd, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ed Lloyd, of Columbia, who was in an American base hospital in Portsmouth, England.
Several more Clark County men died during the flu epidemic as well as war casualties.
August 16, 1945
When the World War II Victory news came at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, the Neillsville Rotary Club was assembling for their meeting. Its president Wm. Whaley and various members presently contacted Messrs. Nehs and Anderson upon the street and in the celebration hubbub came to an agreement. Their decision was that the local celebration would have more of a point if staged at once, rather than wait for a discussion indicated that there would be a parade at 2 p.m., followed by a bonfire, and that there would be a street dance in the evening.
The central figure in the program was to be the Neillsville High School band, which previously called for a practice session Tuesday evening, presently marched out upon the street and gave its help for the evening’s informal celebration.
Tuesday evening’s impromptu celebration had been slow in starting. At about 6:40 p.m. the siren and Condensary whistle broke loose briefly, followed by two church bells ringing. The city relapsed in silence. At about 7:30 p.m. Major Anderson, out upon Main Street, was oppressed by the unseemly silence. So he used his office persuasion to get some noise. The whistle valve at the Condensary was fastened down. Cars began to course (cruise) up and down the streets, with horns at work.
The Rotary Club, intending to discuss various civic matters, found all discussion drowned out by the insistent din. Accordingly, Art Wagner grabbed a big drum and led the Rotarians out upon Main Street for a snake dance going a block and a half.
Then the band appeared, with marchers behind. For a time the band paused upon the bank corners, and played the Star Spangled Banner, a solemn note in the general jubilation. As the band went into lighter music, people began dancing around it. Neillsville folks were expressing some of their pent-up feelings of relief after the long period of tension and anxiety.
The formal celebration was to be centering at the Clark County Fair. Most business places and professional offices would be closed all day Wednesday, and also Saturday and Monday afternoons.
A sobering thought to Tuesday night’s impromptu celebration of Victory is the fact that 26 names that night appeared in gold on the Neillsville Honor Roll. Each of Clark County’s other cities and villages also had Honor Roll listings of those young men who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
(We can understand the reason for the people’s rejoicing when they heard the news of the war’s end, after World War I, World War II and other wars which have been fought. The absence of family members who were involved in the combat of war was in the thoughts and prayers of those at home.
On Veteran’s Day, we remember those who served in the Armed Services. The following message, which will be presented at a Veteran’s Day Program tomorrow, summarizes the reason for our country having designated a day in memory of our Veterans. D.Z.)
A Tribute to Neil
Veteran’s Day is a special day for me, as you can probably tell. My father is a veteran of the Korean War, and my uncles are World War II veterans. In fact, I know many veterans through family and friendships. On this national holiday, however, I always think of two people in particular. One of these was a man named Neil Oestreich.
Neil Oestreich was our next door neighbor in Loyal, Wisconsin. I was very young when I knew Neil; nevertheless, I have fond memories of him. He was a big, burly man who worked for the Clark County Highway Department for many years. If you have ever seen the illustration of the man who was on the Dad’s Root Beer pop cans and bottles that is what Neil looked like. Neil loved to laugh and loved children (he and his wife, Linda, had four children of their own). I remember going to his house during the day, where my brother, Brad, and I would always play with their cats and kittens. It always seemed like one of their three cats had a litter of kittens. We also used to play in the piles of dirt and sand (like typical kids) that were in his backyard. My mother would get so upset at my brother and me for leveling these hills of sand, but Neil always told my mother, “It’s no problem. They are kids, and I love having them come over.” We used to greet Neil everyday when he came home from work as if he were our grandfather.
When I was six years old, my family moved from Loyal to Neillsville, Wisconsin. As I became a teenager, I started to lose contact with Neil and Linda. During my first year of college at UW-Eau Claire, my mother called me one evening to tell me that Neil Oestreich had died of cancer and that his funeral was on the next Saturday. My mother and I attended his funeral that day. It was then that I discovered so much more about Neil Oestrich.
Neil was a veteran of World War II. In fact, I found out that he was in the U.S. Army infantry in the European Theater of Operations. He was a part of the American force that landed in North Africa in 1942 and that invaded Sicily and Italy in 1943. Neil remained and fought with his division in Italy until the war in Europe ended in May 1945.
As I sat there at his funeral service, listening to the eulogies for my “Neil,” I wondered what his life was like as a soldier. Here was this very gentle and caring man who I pictured approaching a beach on Sicily or Italy in a landing craft with the enemy’s bullets, projectiles and bombs flying everywhere and especially in his direction. I tried to imagine how scared he was, what carnage he witnessed, the trying experiences he had, and how he probably wished that he were back home in Loyal, Wisconsin. I thought of the sacrifice of duty and pride. Realizing that at any moment a bullet or shell could have his name on it, he fought alongside other Americans because he knew it was the right thing to do. When he and other American troops were liberating Italian cities and people from the oppression of their Fascist ruler Mussolini and Adolph Hitler’s Nazi troops, I wonder if he had told himself, “So this is why I am here – to help these people.” At that moment, I told my mother, “I never knew….” I felt badly because I never had taken the time to tell him how proud I was of him. I had never taken the opportunity to say “Thanks You” to him.
I missed my opportunity to say all of these things to Neil; however, I will never miss the opportunity again when it comes to our American veterans.
American veterans, I am very proud of you. I, along with other Americans, owe a debt to you that can never be repaid. Thank you for serving our country and for helping to preserve the freedoms and privileges that we all enjoy.
Greg Zimmerman (Gregg is Principal of the Osceola Middle School where a Veteran’s Day Program will be held. D. Z.)
During World War I, a display of cannons, etc. was brought in to Neillsville, via railroad, to be viewed.
A large assembly of observers turned out for a Memorial Day celebration with a parade which made its way down Main Street, Neillsville.
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