Doughboys depart San Luis Obispo in 1917

Posted by David Middlecamp on October 9, 2013 

DOUGHBOYS OF WORLD WAR I ... When the boys left for camp in 1917, it was an occasion for a large public leave-taking at the railroad station with bands playing, flags unfurled and all the ceremony befitting the occasion. This shot of just such a leave-taking of the hometown boys was loaned to the Telegram-Tribune for its Centurama edition by Bob Shelby. It was "Goodbye Broadway, Hello France," as Americans poured troops into Europe. From the collection of History Center of San Luis Obispo County


The May 15, 1956, Centurama edition of the Telegram-Tribune carried some notes of interest from the First World War.

This war would not impact the region as heavily as the Second World War. Camp San Luis Obispo and Camp Roberts were not in existence. There were bond drives, and troops came through town on trains.

During the First World War, Germans were subject to backlash though, it never reached the hysterical move to relocation that the Japanese would experience in the next war after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"Strong feeling against a local lodge, made up of mostly of Obispans of German ancestry and an inflammatory speech from the stage of the Elmo theater, resulted in the abandonment of the lodge, according to a news account in the Morning Tribune of June 26, 1918, which chronicled the incident as fololws: [sic] "The local lodge of Hermann Sons became a thing of the past yesterday when the members of the organization signed a statement disbanding the lodge and ordering that funds in the amount of $500 be turned over to the home guard. Secretary J.E. Schulze issued the following statement: "That agitation may be settled, and that all may work together in harmony for the glory of our country, the San Luis Obispo lodge of Hermann Sons has ceased to exist, and the monies remaining in the treasurer treasury are given to the California home guards of San Luis Obispo."

At the end of the war, civic activists wanted a souvenir. "The Tribune suggests that San Luis Obispo should have at least one of the captured cannons to stand as a symbol of the triumph of civilization over the 'right of might.' " The paper argued that 500 local boys were serving, and it would be a fitting monument to their sacrifice.

The photo from the Centurama edition, seen above, is now in the collection of the History Center of San Luis Obispo County.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s there were several local ethnic organizations who kept alive traditions of the old country including Swiss, German, Japanese, and Portuguese.

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