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11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

By Fred Steiner

The following article posted on Bluffton Forever was written by the late Rolland Stratton. It is also a chapter in the book “A Good Place To Miss: Bluffton Stories."

I was a 7-year-old boy in November of 1918. We lived at 118 East Elm Street, where I was born. On November 11, I remember coming out of the house and every bell in town was ringing and the fire whistle at the light plant was blowing. 

People came out on the street and learned that the war had ended. A neighbor, Mrs. Frank Herrmann, came running out and wanted to know what was going on. She cried when we told her that the war was over. 

I can still see her wiping her tears with her apron. She had several sons in the army, and her son, Sylvan, returned home badly wounded. 

Several businessmen and some other residents formed an im- promptu parade. My guess is that there were over 100 adults and perhaps 20 or so children involved. Many of the men, probably a dozen, shot guns during the parade. 
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This parade traveled all over Bluffton. And, every time the parade came to a home with a star in the window, the men fired a volley over the roof. A blue star meant the family had someone in the service. A gold star meant that someone in that family died in the war. Lots of houses in town had stars, and this of course meant that there were lots of shotgun shells required. 

One of the men in the parade was Ed Reichenbach, who ran a grocery store downtown. His grocery truck was the vehicle used to go to the hardware stores to buy the shells—by the carton. 

I remember at Bertha Wood’s house, which was on the corner of Spring and College, the men fired five volleys over the roof. Following the parade, I was one of the many kids picking up empty shells. Very soon, my pants pockets were full of shells. 

I had many uncles and cousins the army. My aunt, Eliza Fett, wrote to her son, Gilbert, who was in France. She suggested that he write to his grandfather, Asa Stratton. 

So Gilbert wrote several times and his grandfather always answered promptly. In one letter, Gilbert told his grandfather that the army had a gun in France that could shoot as far as the distance from Bluffton to Findlay. 

When Gilbert returned from the war, in one of his conversa- tions with his grandfather he was “scolded” rather harshly by his grandfather. 

You see, his grandfather thought Gilbert was trying to make a fool out of him with this story. He told Gilbert that it was impossible to shoot through all that timber. Gilbert’s grandfather hadn’t realized that the gun was elevated. 

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