100 Years Ago: A WWI Valentine’s Day

Old postcard of Moonlight Bridge, Newmarket NH and a horse-drawn carriage

The newspapers of February 1918 were an interesting mix of both normal and war-time notices. The cold weather of January had continued for an entire month. “February so far has proved to be as cold as it was January weather. Saturday it was 10 below zero, Sunday and Monday were still colder, and Tuesday morning it was from 20 to 25 below zero, with a stiff wind blowing, which made it seem still colder. What a winter!

As for Valentines Day, The Newmarket Advertiser, despite worries still of the influenza epidemic, proudly posted headlines for a GRAND ENTERTAINMENT and VALENTINE Party at the Free Baptist Church Vestry coming up on February 12 at 8 P.M. “An Evening of Fun and Pleasure,” the story promised. Admission was 15 cents for adults and 10 cents for children.

The day after the event, the newspaper stated that “a standing room only sign could very well have been placed on the outside of the vestry,” that evening. “The room was beautifully decorated with a center piece of different colored strips, colored lights and hearts of all kinds and sizes hung around; small hearts, big hearts, hearts to wear, hearts to eat, which were, of course, sweethearts.

The evening opened with entertainments, the first number being an exercise by the Camp Fire Girls and chorus; piano solos, “The Shower of Stars,” “The Fight Is On,” “Sunrise Echoes” and “Marche des Tambours,” by Miss G. Dionne. Norman Tobey sand “Who Knows,” and for an encore “Out on the Deep.” Reading “A Classical Parson,” by Miss L. McIntire, which was well rendered and gave lots of amusement. Vocal solo by Miss Antoinette Hamel, “The Japanese Love Song“; violin solos by David Cohen, “Cavatuna,” and “Rondiono,” accompanied by Miss L. Jackson on the piano; Miss K. Haley and Sidney Green sand a duet, “Theres a Long, Long Trail a-Winding,” and for an encore, “Tell Me, Pretty Maiden.”

Advertisement for a Grafonola in
Talking Machine World magazine, 1916.

The program concluded with a patriotic tableau in honor of Abraham Lincoln, under the direction of Mrs. William M. Roberts and Mrs. Myra Sewall representing Columbia and Lewis Moulton reading the address. After the entertainment, and while refreshments were being prepared, tunes were played on the Grafanola, kindly loaned by A.H. Place, and college songs were sung. Everyone had evidently come for an evening of jollity, so games were started, and if you want to know what sort of time was had at the first social of the year of the Young People, just ask anyone that was lucky enough to be there.

Boston Merchant Marine, East Boston
and Charlestown Navy Yard, 1914-1918. Courtesy of the  Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

The newspaper also included a number of notices about recent military enlistments and those men sent to camps for training. One story about merchant marines surprised me. “Albert J. Sands, Local Druggist, Is Appointed Recruiting Officer for This District.”  By February of 1918 the Federal Government was realizing how essential it was to transport resources back and forth across enemy-infested seas.

The newspaper story goes on to say that 526 New England druggists including Albert J. Sands of Newmarket had volunteered for war duty, becoming recruiters within their drugstores for the new merchant marine. Young men from 17 to 27 could apply. Those inexperienced with seagoing would be trained as “sailors, firemen, oilers, water tenders, cooks or stewards, on ships of a training squadron maintained by the shipping board.”

Louis K. Liggett of Boston was given credit for the cooperation of these druggists, and his Rexall stores, of which the local Mr. Albert J. Sands ran one, were in the forefront of the work. The fee paid to those who joined the Merchant Marine was $30 per month, to start.

[Editor’s Note: this story is part of an on-going series about heroic New Hampshire men and women of World War I.  Look here for the entire listing].

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3 Responses to 100 Years Ago: A WWI Valentine’s Day

  1. Pingback: New Hampshire World War I Military: Heroes of The Great War | Cow Hampshire

  2. Amy says:

    When I read that they had honored Abraham Lincoln, my first reaction was…why? He’d been president more than 50 years before. Then I realized, “Oh, his birthday was Feb 12.” And then I realized that today the equivalent would be honoring JFK, and then it doesn’t feel so odd at all—for those of us who remember JFK.

  3. Most surprising part of the article there were 526 “druggists” within nh at this time. That strikes me as a very large number considering the relatively small population of nh. My math puts that at about 50 per county. andy raynor nh

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