Armistice: A temporary cessation of war; a cease-fire.
For some of us of a certain age (and there are fewer and fewer of us), Nov. 11 – Veterans Day – will always be remembered as Armistice Day. In a way, this is quite appropriate: In the 101 years since the armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed, there has been no permanent peace, just lulls in continuing wars, hot or cold.
When, in 1954, Nov. 11 became Veterans Day, a day to honor all veterans, little did we know how many wars and how many veterans this would come to include.
In honor of this day, this column offers a bit of post-armistice history involving a “swellegant bunch of boys” and “peachy girls.”
In 1928, 10 years after the armistice ending World War I, a group of local veterans founded Post 23 of the Jewish War Veterans. At celebrations of national holidays, a contingent marched in the parades, with officers on horseback in the lead. They also had a 30-piece marching band.
When the membership of the Providence post grew to 157 veterans, it became obvious they needed a permanent place for meetings, lectures and social events, a place of their own rather than rented quarters.
If men of that era formed an organization, could a ladies auxiliary be far behind? In this case, five years elapsed. It was a given that ladies were formidable workers for a cause, even though secondary to the main organization.
The auxiliary soon took over the brunt of the social welfare and fundraising for the post. Some years ago, a member of Post 23 (which still exists) remarked to Eleanor Horvitz that the women not only raised most of the money for social welfare programs for ex-servicemen in need, but they also helped staff the programs with volunteers.
The ladies visited veterans in local hospitals, Newport Naval Hospital and the Soldiers Home in Bristol (now in Exeter). They brought gifts on each visit and special presents for the Jewish holidays.
When the members of Post 23 realized that they required a permanent home, the women added that to their fundraising goals. They were indefatigable: luncheons, cake sales at the Outlet Co., in Providence, holiday celebrations, socials and balls.
It was part and parcel of the kinds of activities all the auxiliaries of that era undertook. They also raised most of the money for the old school building at 100 Niagara St. that the post purchased from the city of Providence.
Fanny Davis served as first president of the auxiliary and Ethel Cohen was the third. Both women were later elected president of the national Women’s Auxiliary of the Jewish War Veterans.
One of the main fundraising events undertaken by Post 23 was a week-long Grand Carnival and Mardi Gras, held on a lot at the corner of Broad and Ontario streets. One of their newsletters held this appeal: “A swellegant bunch of boys and a peachy group of girls, trying their level best to make some money for a really worthy cause – welfare work among the Jewish ex-servicemen .... You’ve GOT to go over there, Pal, and spend a couple of dollars .... I know all about the Depression, but you’ve GOT to give those boys and girls a break.”
This Veterans Day, we celebrate all those who serve, and have served, in the armed forces, even as we remember the “swellegant boys” and “peachy girls” of JWV Post 23 and its Women’s Auxiliary.
GERALDINE S. FOSTER is a past president of the R.I. Jewish Historical Association. To comment about this or any RIJHA article, contact the RIJHA office at email@example.com or 401-331-1360.