First published Nov. 10, 1983 Although our calendars designate November 11 as Veteran's Day, many of us can recall when it was known as Armistice Day. In fact, although I was a very young child at the time, I can vaguely remember the 1918 Armistice. The high-pitched, eerie sound of the fire whistle always frightened me and I can remember that on Nov. 11, 1918, my mother assured me that this time the siren meant good news - the war was over and our soldier boys would soon be coming home. The Westfield Republican of Nov. 13, 1918, carried the news that "We Celebrated." "C.R. Donant of the Nickel Plate Railroad announced the good news early Monday morning. The celebration commenced at 5 o'clock a.m. by blowing of whistles and ringing of bells, parades, music and noises of all kinds." There was a huge bonfire with speeches by A.E. Skinner, A.S. Tennant and Prof. A.N. Taylor. "A part of the celebration consisted of giving a fitting welcome back home to the boys who had started that very morning for Camp Humphrey, Virginia, but had been turned back at Rochester." The same paper listed a number of young men who had left in that contingency. Westfield boys listed were: Samuel Marsala, Charles Vetillare, Harry E. Perrin, Frank A.C. McCutcheon, Alfred Grien, Raymond I. Lahl, Robert L. Ecker, Gerald Ingram, Ernest W. Clayman, Raymond F. Lloyd, James Ventura, Amos N. Betts, James Scarpine, Fay W. Benson and Dominico Ferro. At that time Westfield was in the midst of that horrible influenza epidemic. The Red Cross was calling for volunteer housekeepers and nurses to go into the homes of the sick and lend a hand. A plea was also made for women to prepare food in their own kitchens to be taken to those unable to cook for themselves. Parents were asked to keep their children in their own yards. Vigilance Committees were appointed to cooperate with Chief of Police Shaw and Mr. Clarence Allison, school janitor. In the early 1950s enthusiasm was demonstrated for the occasional observances held on November 11 in honor of all persons who had fought for their country. Any reference to World War I in Westfield brings to mind that fun-loving group of veterans known as The Last Man's Club. I learned from a short history of the club written in 1979 by Ed Finlay that the Westfield Last Man's Club was organized in 1949 with 69 members, all of whom were paid-up members of some Veterans Organization. Two men prominent in launching the group were the late Herbert F. Thompson and Ralph G. Keopka. It is strictly a social club concerned with the welfare and happiness of the members. Ed recorded that in 1979 the membership of the Westfield Last Man's Club had diminished to 16 and we know there are even fewer active members at the present date. They got together only four times a year - on Armistice Day, and usually the first Friday in February, May and August. Wouldn't you like to listen in on their yarns and reminiscences? 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).
Photo courtesy of Patterson Library
A gathering of the Last Man’s Club held at the Fish and Game Club in the summer of 1966. How many of these men can you identify? The man standing directly behind Mel Bemis is Louis Curtis.