Westfield “gave them a hearty welcome then” in 1919 when the soldiers and sailors returned home following World War I.
On April 21 the town’s first welcome to its heroes was a “hummer,” consisting of a supper at the Grange Hall attended by 200 persons. Of these, 75 were boys who had been in service. A number of Red Cross nurses and YMCA workers were also present. The rest of the folks were ladies who accompanied the boys, the village trustees, the clergy, the town board, members of the Grand Army of the Republic and members of the Welcome Home Committee. V.A. Kent was toastmaster, J. Robert Douglas represented the town, and R.J. Stearns was song leader.
The group joined whole-heartedly in the songs which were popular at the time and are still familiar to most of us – “There’s a Long, Long Trail,” “Just a Song at Twilight,” “Over There,” “Keep the Home Fires Burning,” “K-K-K-Katy,” and “Yankee Doodle.”
Following the dinner, the reception and entertainment at Beckman’s Rink (now Eason Hall) was one of the great occasions in Westfield’s history. The Westfield boys were made to feel that the folks at home appreciated what they had done.
Later on that summer, on Sept. 5, the second anniversary of the leaving of the first contingent from the Second District, a much larger celebration was held in Westfield. The big Welcome Home Day was attended by thousands of Westfield residents and those from the surrounding towns of Chautauqua, Clymer, French Creek, Harmony, Mina, Portland, Ripley, Sherman and Stockton, who came into town by railroad, street cars and automobiles.
The festivities began at 10 a.m. and something was doing every minute. Athletic contests, under the direction of the Westfield Fire Department took place on Main Street.
From 10 a.m. until after 7 p.m. Lieutenant Emery with his Canadian army plane furnished entertainment to the thousands present by his daring flights over the village and surrounding country. The exhibitions were given on Peacock Field on North Portage Street, which was an ideal spot for ascending and lighting. Some of the people who enjoyed the unusual experience of a flight in the air were Dr. Roy Foster, Jack Allen, John F. Welch, Dr. C.E. Welch, Floyd Riley and J. R. Douglas who accompanied Lieut. Emery when he returned in the plane to Bemus Point. Bob said that an auto is not in it with an airplane.
At noon the local servicemen, with their visiting comrades-in-arms, Westfield Firemen and members of the different bands to the number of about 800 were the guests of the citizens of Westfield at dinner, which was served at the Motor Inn (located on first floor of the Welch Office building) YWCA rooms, Grange Hall, Presbyterian and Baptist churches.
The parade, the main attraction of the day, was led by the Grand Marshall, Lieutenant Commander John Schoenfeldt, U.S.N., the ranking officer in the Town of Westfield.
The park was packed to its capacity at 3 p.m. with persons eager to hear the address of Bishop Charles H. Brent of Buffalo.
At 4 p.m. and again at 7:30 all ex-servicemen, their wives and sweethearts, were the guests of the manager, C.J. Carlson, at his theater at Main and Portage streets, and this playhouse with a seating capacity of over 1000 persons, was filled with the guests of the day.
During the day in the park, a massed band, comprising the ten bands present in town, gave a concert. The music rendered was a pleasing feature of the day.
The day’s program was brought to a close by a grand military ball at Backman’s Rink, for servicemen and their ladies, also an Old Folk’s Dance at Grange Hall and a dance at Fenner Hall.
The “boys” who left Westfield with the first contingent, two years prior to this big Welcome Home Celebration, were Ross Hungerford, Walter Falvay, Clesson Peck, Howard Strong, Norman Johnson, Kenneth Wells, Earl Backman, Harry Sheldon and Hugh Hall.
DIBS AND DABS: In answer to my question about which house on Second Street was the Tew family residence, Melvin Bemis called to tell me that it was 25 Second St., the home owned by the Hage family for many years. Thanks, Mel.
Marybelle Beigh is the current Public Historian for the Town and Village of Westfield. Her office is located at 3 East Main Street in Westfield, N.Y, 14787 — inside Parkview Ice Cream Parlor. Her scheduled office hours are Monday through Friday 9 to 11 a.m.; other hours by appointment.
Beigh can be reached at email@example.com or by calling 326-2457 (office), 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).
Postcard courtesy of Patterson Library
Main Street was all decked out, Sept. 5, 1919, to welcome World War I veterans home.