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100 years ago in Spokane: Parade shows support for preparing for World War I

From our archives, 100 years ago

Riverside Avenue was a “sea of flags” during Spokane’s big Memorial Day parade.

This parade was fraught with even more than the usual significance, because in 1916 the U.S. was teetering on the brink of entering the European war.

In fact, the theme of the parade was “preparedness,” which was a word meaning, more or less, the opposite of pacifism. The call for “preparedness” was driven by the increasing conviction that U.S. entry in the war was inevitable, and when that day arrived, the U.S. should not risk being caught unprepared.

The most remarkable element of the parade was “a new kind of drill,” which reflected the spirit of the times.

“File after file of citizen marchers, eight abreast, each with a flag over his shoulder, swung down Riverside with fair precision and alignment, presenting their collective mute testimonial to prepared Americanism,” the paper said.

The parade also symbolized a uniquely American feeling of “united front” as war approached.

“In it were men of British, German, Italian and Scandinavian descent, all marching under the same flag,” the paper said. “Capitalists and clerks marched side by side, employers were with their employees, sons trudged alongside their fathers. At the head of the division and at its rear, large American flags, outspread, were carried by groups of volunteers.”

Oddly, the one group that was not allowed to join this “preparedness” parade was the regular Army troops from Fort George Wright. They watched the procession from the sidewalk.

“They were prevented from marching by a general order forbidding service participation in any sort of preparedness demonstration,” the paper said.

However, the local National Guard companies were apparently exempt from that order, and they “made an excellent appearance.”


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