September 20, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

An article in the Oregon Statesman observed how the war was being received:

WAR AND EFFECTS NOTED IN SALEM
Verbal and Fistic Conflicts Are Result

“War declared! War declared!” screamed a small boy who lives on Chemeketa street, yesterday morning. Up and down the street, splashing in a small pool which had collected in the gutter, the lad frantically waved his arms at a group of smaller youngsters and yelled again, “War declared on everything!”

With a certain little group of children who live in the neighborhood between North Winter and Cottage and Chemeketa, war is the chief topic for amusement. With a knowledge of the present unsettled conditions in Europe, probably gleaned from the conversation of their elders, these children maneuver on their make-believe battlefields in a realistic manner. Divided into countries, they war against each other with all the fervor of their small hearts.

They All Talk Of It

On the streets, in department stores, news stands, on the trains, at the stations, in fact any place where men, women and children congregate, there is talk of war.

Want “Live” News

“After a time,” said a well informed man recently, “the American public will have become so used to the news of horror and bloodshed that the average man will pick up his morning paper at the breakfast table and grumble at its lack of news. Passing over a scare headline announcing the wholesale murder of ten thousand European soldiers, the burning of an entire city and the destroying of millions of dollars worth of fine art, rare state treasures, etc., he will search the back pages for live news. Such is human nature.”

Despite the fact that war has been raging in the old world for over forty-eight days and the local papers have been filled to overflowing with war news, Salem people are still interested. One German meets another on the street and it is between these two that genuine sympathy exists. Frivolous remarks as to the outcome of the conflict rarely pass their lips and it is with sorrow and pity that they remark concerning the great losses.

Salem Men Abroad

A bootblack on North Commercial street is intensely interested and is perhaps one of the best informed men in the city on matters pertaining to it. A native of Greece, he is vitally interested in the affairs of his country and watches the dispatches daily for news. Friends of Eugene Eckerlen and Kola Nies, two well known business men of the city, who are in the war zone at present, are anxiously awaiting an opportunity for the return of the traverse to the United States.

Belgians and Austrian Fight

Recently two Belgians who have been employed by the Southern Pacific company as section hands, got into a forceful argument with an Austrian who was employed with the same gang. Waiting till night to settle their dispute, the Belgians waylaid the Austrian and it took the combined efforts of the set ion foreman and the entire crew to quell the outburst of fury which resulted. According to the story, the scrap began with the telling of a joke by the Austrian. “The French telegraphed to Brussels for three thousand Belgian troops,” said the narrator. “The message ended with a postscript. If you can’t send three thousand Belgians, send one Irishman.” The Belgians took offense at the story and defended the fighting sprit of their countrymen with their fists.

Even Teachers Dispute

A well known local school teacher and an intimate friend stood on a down town corner yesterday. One claimed French descent – the other German. One blamed the kaiser, the other claimed France. One wanted to be a Red Cross nurse, the other poo-poohed the idea. Their conversation become so animated that it finally attracted the attention of passersby. After a few heated remarks the upholder of the French remarked, spitefully, “Well, you’ll have to admit that we French have formed the fashions of the world for years. Now what kind of clothes will we have to wear if the ‘Dutch’ capture Paris.”

“My dear,” replied her companion, sweetly, “We Germans could never make such freaks of ourselves, I’ll admit. I presume the kaiser would allow a few hobble skirts but the world will probably come to wooden shoes, ankle skirts and peasant basques if we Germans set the fashion pace.”

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About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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