Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Punta Gorda celebrates the End of a war November 11, 1918

 It was November 11, 2018 and it took a train arriving from Fort Myers to bring the joyous news that the “Great War” was indeed over and an armistice was signed to Punta Gorda.  The day became the First Armistice Day now celebrated as Veteran’s Day. Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice went  into effect.

The city, which had sent nearly 100 of its own off to training camps earlier that year many who ended up fighting the “Hun” in France, was ecstatic.  Flags were hung from many of the local businesses on Marion Avenue of the day:Goldstein’s Furniture Store (now Cubby’s),  the Seminole Hotel (FM Don’s), Ed Wotitzky’s store, Copper Hardware.  At 3 p.m. all businesses closed and people assembled at the Methodist Church for a service. Yes, it was a time to celebrate, but the war had had costs - two young Punta Gordan’s had been killed, Augustine Willis and John Davis.  Another seriously wounded seventeen-year-old would die in 1920 from his war wounds, Raleigh Whidden. 

At 7 in the evening a celebration was held in front of the Plaza Theatre.  Harry Goldstein played his violin, with JB Washington at the cello.  Stirring addresses were given by Mayor Trabue (the Founder’s nephew), Col. Hancock and others.  Norma Pepper, an early teacher, provided a recitation.  

Only a few years before, the Punta Gorda High School Valedictorian, John Boyle, told his classmates that they would likely have to join the war effort. many did including him. So did the town, sending  their town doctor, Dr. McQueen, one of Jones family, a Morgan, a Sikes , all local business people off to war in Europe.  The City also engaged in drives and other activities to support the fight. Now Punta Gorda could celebrate and that they did and continued to do commemorating the end of the war with parades, parties, picnics every year thereafter.