A six-year-old experiences Armistice Day

From The Essie Summers Story, here are Ms. Summers’s memories of Armistice Day, 11 November 1918, when she was six and a half years old in New Zealand:

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I stood outside our house in Buckley’s Road staring in amazement as a boy, standing in the stirrups of a black pony, tore down our road (he must have ridden all the way from town and probably didn’t stop till he got to the sea at Brighton) shouting ceaselessly: ‘Peace! Peace! Peace!’

The whole suburb went mad, determined on making as much noise as possible. Mother and Mrs. Scott next door got out as many petrol tins and buckets as they could muster and, giving us pokers and shovels, actually commanded us to beat them as loudly as we could! We children were horribly embarrassed about this childish behaviour on the part of normally staid grownups and in the end sneaked off into our old stable and left them to it.

Besides, I couldn’t see any cause for jubilation. At six I realized peace meant the end of the war, but a boy had once told me that the Germans were bound to win the war and they’d come over here and cut all our heads off! Every night when Mother heard my prayers I repeated after her: ‘Please may the war end soon and Uncle Bill Summers and Cousin Bill Summers get home.’ I couldn’t understand why Mother wanted it to end when such dreadful things were going to happen to us. I’d a vague idea it was tied up with forgiving one’s enemies, but I’d no patience with such sentiments.

Mother always tucked us up warmly before we said our prayers, but I was taking no chances on not doing the right thing, so every night when she turned out the light, I got stealthily out of bed, knelt down and added a postscript: ‘Dear God, I’ve just got to pray what she says, but please don’t let the war end, ever!

So now I was very apprehensive. Fortunately, Father arrived home on his bicycle, all businesses having closed down, and was able to sort out my fears, explaining Peace meant that we had won and nobody was going to cut anybody’s head off. This so restored me I cheerfully and unceasingly blew a whistle all the way to town, perched on a seat on his bicycle bar. We joined the jubilant crowds in the Square and celebrated by having an icecream in a dish from ‘Icecream Charlie’ at the Bank of New Zealand Corner. This really marked it as a big day, because hitherto I’d been acquainted with icecream only in cones.

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