November 11, 1918 would turn out to be an extraordinary day for the more than 500 residents of Wayzata. It was a dry day with temperatures in the mid-50s, more than 10 degrees higher than normal.
|Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society
But this extraordinary day offered its crowning moment while the town slept, several hours before sunrise. At 4 a.m. local time World War I officially ended. During the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”, Germany and the Allies signed a peace agreement in France. In a time when radios where not common household appliances, the front page of daily newspapers delivered the joyful news to the town.
|Armistice Day Celebration in Minneapolis Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society
Minnesotans throughout the state celebrated in the streets of towns small and big. Minneapolis was home to one of the largest impromptu celebrations. People could be seen on the streets shoulder-to-shoulder while others cheered from windows in buildings above. The boys overseas would soon be coming home. Well, some of them would. Unfortunately, many of the local boys who served in World War I would not set foot in Wayzata again.
Within the pages of the 1918 Wayzata yearbook, there was mention of one young man in the History of the Class of 1918 section of the annual:
“One of our boys, Ernest Aselton, heard the call of his country answered it by enlisting in the Marine Corps.”
Aselton joined the Marine Corps in August of 1918 and was killed in action in France two months later.
The local men who served overseas formed deep bonds with other service members in Europe. They sought that type of comradery when they got back home. Less than a year after the Great War ended, the Wayzata Legion was granted its charter on September 3, 1919. The founding members had familiar Wayzata names like Quay, Manning, Getten, Frost and Kysor. Arthur H. Quay was the first Commander. Post 118 was named in honor of Aselton. The first national Legion convention was held in Minneapolis in November.
History repeated itself in 1939 when Europe was once again thrust into another war, World War II. And because of this, the Great War, the war to end all wars, was simply known as World War I. Similarly, the name Armistice Day, which celebrated the end of World War I, was changed in the United States to Veterans Day in the mid-50s. Since then, it has been a day to honor those who served the U.S. military.
More than one hundred years after World War I ended, November 11 still has significance in our community. It serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come over the course of a century. From the days when news was delivered in black and white to now when it’s consumed by swiping a smart phone. More importantly, it is an opportunity to thank those who serve our country.