On this date in 1919, the Weekly Times-Record of Valley City noted that coming home wasn’t always easy for returning veterans. Newsreels showed joyous films of ships being greeted by cheering crowds. Newspapers ran front page pictures of celebratory parades. Towns across the country welcomed their veterans with concerts, parades, and picnics. But the newspaper noted that homecoming was not so glorious for every veteran. Some didn’t have a home to go to. Others didn’t know if they had a home or not. Some had not received a letter from home in months. Some hadn’t received a letter the entire time they were gone. For these veterans, coming home was not the grand and glorious event portrayed in the movies, newspapers, and magazines.
Almost unknown in World War I history is the Hall of States. It was established to ease the homecoming for veterans facing an uncertain future. Located in Washington, it was designed to be warm and welcoming. States sent representatives to help returning veterans. The state flag and the name of the state were prominently displayed at the desk representing each state.
The Hall of States was furnished with comfortable armchairs where veterans could smoke and relax. It was easy for them to find the desk for the appropriate state and talk to someone who was there to help. Representatives could look through records, send telegrams, and make telephone calls. They did whatever they could to find any information the veteran needed.
It was not unusual for unexpected reunions to take place. Veterans would brighten when they saw a familiar face from their home state. On one occasion, three brothers met for the first time since the war started.
Mrs. Frank White represented North Dakota. Her husband was a colonel still stationed in France. Her son was in the Navy and hadn’t come home yet. But she was determined to help North Dakotan veterans ease their concerns and have a good homecoming. She also went to the hospital to meet with North Dakota veterans who couldn’t come to the Hall of States in person.
Mrs. White claimed that the North Dakota boys, being from a dry state, were glad to get home – because in France, the liquor ran freely.
Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher
Weekly Times-Record. “Brings Home to Service Men.” Valley City ND. 12 June 1919. Page 1.