Nostalgia: Gloriously Happy

Armistice Day in New Orleans
View of a group of Italian men and boys gathered on the 900 block of Canal Street in celebration of Armistice Day, November 11, 1917, and the end of World War I. A group of uniformed soldiers stands at the lower right. The Audubon Building at 929-931 Canal, the S.H. Kress Co. at 923 Canal, and the Maison Blanche at 901 Canal are visble in the background.

The news of the end of the first World War reached New Orleans early on the morning of November 11, 1918. The celebrations of Armistice Day began at 3:30 a.m. on the riverfront, when the Dock Board heard the news and began blasting their horns, which were soon joined by church bells and sirens. All over the city, people read their papers and immediately abandoned all plans for the day. Businesses and schools were closed, and people took to the streets in wild celebration.

Canal Street was overrun by 7 a.m. Cars decorated with American flags and patriotic bunting and balloons had to be removed from the crowded streets as impromptu parades started up on almost every block. Soldiers and sailors joined in with songs; bands played up and down the streets. Impassioned speeches and cheers and whistles filled the air, and the celebratory drinks didn’t stop flowing until the bars ran dry. The Elks threw together a night festival with a parade and firework display. Hundreds of thousands of New Orleanians celebrated well into the night.

On the first anniversary of Armistice Day in 1919, the American Legion and the city planned a celebration: an 11 a.m. moment of silence, followed by a memorial program at City Hall and an elaborate military parade on Canal Street. A holiday was declared at both the city and state level, and businesses and schools closed midday so all could participate in the festivities. Thousands of people who had served or were serving in military or welfare organizations, as well as Gold Star League families, marched together in the parade.

Armistice Day was celebrated in New Orleans in this same general manner for the next five decades. Nighttime military dances were added in the 1920s, and the parade was moved to the evenings in the 1930s. The last official Armistice Day celebration was in 1953. The following year, President Eisenhower officially changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day.


A group of Italian men and soldiers gathered on the 900 block of Canal Street on Armistice Day: November 11, 1918. The Italian societies were out in full force to celebrate the end of the way and the victory. Their first parade was at 7 a.m., and marched to City Hall, and they kept parading all day around the business district. At 5 p.m., various Italian organizations joined together to form a parade with several bands, including the Italian Military Band.  They were described by a reporter as “gloriously happy.”


 

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