Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Forest Hills Tribute To July 4, 1918

By Michael Perlman

Chairman Eckman of 4th of July Celebration introducing Senator Calder, Station Square, 1918

Originating in 1914, the Forest Hills Gardens coordinated annual Independence Day festivals in exquisitely decorated Station Square with activities at the Forest Hills Inn and Tea Garden, Olivia Park, and along Greenway Terrace. One of the most communicated events was on July 4, 1917, when Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. president, delivered his “One Hundred Percent American” unification speech at the LIRR Station, pleading for a single standard of patriotism and loyalty to the America of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, to address WWI.

Now it is time to turn back the clock to the 1918 festivities, which were also meaningful, but yet, long-forgotten. Today, patriotism and tradition continue to echo locally in a modified form, particularly through Children’s Day at Flagpole Green in early June, although a century ago large-scale Independence Day celebrations were held on the actual day. 

Flag raising ceremony on Village Green, July 4, 1918

A flag raising ceremony proceeded on Village Green (now Flagpole Green), and Reverend Joseph McLaughlin of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs delivered an address. H.E. Conway read excerpts of Secretary Franklin Lane’s address and patriotic songs were recited. Tennis matches were played on courts that once occupied the site of The Inn Apartments, and the Obstacle Race was an attraction among the popular children’s games feature in Station Square. In Olivia Park, students of the noted Louis H. Chalif dance school at 165 West 57th Street performed the Twilight Symphony, an interpretative dance. 

Samuel W. Eckman, who served as Chairman of the Fourth of July Celebration, introduced Senator William M. Calder, who delivered an eloquent address resulting in rounds of applause by several hundred attendees throughout Station Square. His speech consisted of “The country owes a debt of gratitude to General Leonard Wood and Colonel Theodore Roosevelt for their work in stirring up the sentiment on every hand,” and “We are a long way from success, but we mean to fight it out to the last man, and we must all be ready to answer the call and to stand behind the government.” As a native Long Islander, he felt that Forest Hills was especially delightful, and he praised our community spirit.

Senator Calder felt that one of our most important achievements was passing the draft. He explained that “it put all men, the rich and poor alike, on terms of equality.” He established confidence for our future, based on the success of achievers including Harold Davies (WWI veteran) and Charles Schwab, the famed steel magnate.

Senator Calder discussed America’s conditions in its early days such as the Civil War, and pointed out our fight to free a portion of the human race. “We are now as never before a united people,” he said. “This is a war for justice to nations and to men, and when it is over, the treaties of peace must have a clause in then which should assure to all nations a just and complete peace. We must never forget our obligations to France in the time of the Revolution – how they helped us then and how we should help them now.”

He continued, “While America welcomes the oppressed of every nation to her shores, they must when they come join heartily in building up the honor and glory of the United States. We should here today consecrate ourselves anew to the cause of America and to the just war that she is engaged in.”

The agenda continued with “The Spirit of Play,” a masque presented by children, and character and patriotic dancing followed. Evening festivities consisted of dancing in Station Square, in addition to Camp Upton soldiers performing musical numbers. At the Church-In-The-Gardens, wounded soldiers and sailors of WWI were guests of honor at a dinner.

A great success resulted from the collaboration of various committees such as “Soldiers and Sailors” chaired by L.M. Burt, “Printing” by the prolific American type designer and printer Frederic W. Goudy, “Posters” by famed artist Herman Rountree, “Red Cross” by Mrs. Leon D’Emo, “Entertainment and Program” by John M. Demarest of the Sage Foundation Homes Company, and “Dances and Music” by W. Leslie Harriss.

A similar version has been published in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column:

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