On November 11, 1918, not 20-minutes after the Sacramento Union
received word from the Associated Press that the First World War had ended, scores of euphoric Sacramentans took to K Street, among them a 12-year-old boy trumpeting the “Star Spangled Banner” from his family’s open-top automobile. Soon after the cheers of triumph faded, America made that day – Armistice Day – an annual point of remembrance for those who fell during the First World War.
Along with Armistice Day, Sacramento would honor its World War I fallen – roughly 135 countywide – through the construction of the Memorial Auditorium on 16th and J streets and the Eagle Memorial in William Land Park, along Freeport Boulevard. Drafting off of the public parks movement of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, a more creative type of remembrance took on the form of the memorial grove, grown from seeds brought back from the battlefields of Europe. The westernmost edge of Land Park soon became home to a living monument of elms, larches, beechnuts, hornbeams and maples. Armistice Day parades along J and K streets were also popular, primarily powered by the efforts of both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
In 1952, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day and, in time, went from a holiday honoring just World War I's fallen to one honoring all the nation's veterans.
The story of Sacramento’s involvement in the First World War and eventual efforts to memorialize its sacrifices is told in the Sacramento Public Library’s World War I and the Sacramento Valley,
available for checkout at your library and on sale through the History Press
. Written by James Scott, librarian and staff historian.