A shared longing to return old ways

  • Red Cross Emergency Ambulance Station pictured during the 1918 Spanish Flu. Library of Congress

For the Monitor
Published: 8/11/2020 11:10:38 AM

As our ancestors in Concord lived a century ago, they too experienced much turmoil and unsettling times. Their regular lives ran parallel to many concerns for the safety of themselves and their families. The people continued to gather down on Main Street at the coffee shops in the morning as well as the diners in the evenings. The discussions were both welcomed and needed to cope with world wide concerns from war to pandemics.

In the year 1918, our ancestors witnessed the U.S. Congress establishing time zones and approved daylight savings times while they also witnessed a total eclipse of the sun. The Boston Red Sox defeated the Chicago Cubs for the 1918 World Series Championship. Our ancestors also witnessed a second deadly wave of the Spanish Flu starting in France, Sierra Leone and the United States in August of 1918.

With the United States’ declaration of war on April 6, 1917, the trains left the Concord depot with many local young men and woman destined for Europe. People in Concord were concerned for their loved ones serving on the field of battle as the Spanish Flu arrived in 1918. People sought solace with their everyday routines during the summer of 1918, desiring a touch of normalcy and allowing them to function as they went about their daily chores yearning for both the end of the war as well as relief from the concerns of the pandemic.

As our ancestors read the morning edition of the newspaper, they found death on multiple fronts with both the war and pandemic. They continued to embrace routine to dampen the fear they felt while trying to provide for their families. It was on Nov. 11, 1918 that a ceasefire and Armistice was declared with a conclusion to the first Great War. The United States ultimately suffered the loss of 110,000 soldiers during the war and 45,000 as a result of the 1918 Spanish Flu. With the war concluded and our soldiers en route home, the sadness surrounding the pandemic continued until April, 1920, ultimately infecting a third of the world’s population, 500 million people around the globe in four successive waves.

As the men and woman started returning to Concord from World War I late in 1918, there was much relief but little celebration in the streets of Concord. Trains were arriving on schedule at the Concord Train Depot and soldiers would file out still garbed in their military issued uniforms. Many soldiers’ victims of undiagnosed post-traumatic stress syndrome and simply returning to their jobs around Concord and resuming their little piece of routine life again. Not all of the people that survived the war won their own battles, simply reliving the war over and over each evening as they slept until their final days. It was not openly discussed but kept to themselves. As the people welcomed their soldiers’ home to Concord, they themselves continued to live in fear of the pandemic until it concluded in 1920.

Our ancestors, not unlike ourselves, burdened much with war and pandemics. They desired normalcy and a return to a routine so very desperately. As the days of 1918 turned to weeks and weeks to months a century ago, life once again returned to those that desired it so. Children again attended school in a carefree manner, people worked. The brilliant fall foliage surrounding Concord returned each year, the cold winters and snow found children sledding while spring found farmers planting their crops. Children were born to  parents as others passed away naturally.

People do go on living as life continues to happen. That’s the way it is supposed to be.


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