Prairie Village News 5/8/18

Faron Wahl, Manager.

A great deal of my column content tends to focus on our current and upcoming village events. But rooted in historical preservation as we are, it would seem apropos during our 2018 opening week to glance back in time just a bit instead. Exactly 100 years back, I’m thinking – to 1918.

The year 1918 is now far enough in the rear-view mirror that it hardly seems like “recent” history. In fact, when a person ponders a sampling of headlines and happenings from that year, at least in the context of our twenty-first century mindset, many of them hover somewhere between quaint and curious. Others are simply tragic. But such history is worth an occasional visit to help us remain better balanced in our life perspective.

Daylight Saving Time was first observed in the U.S. in 1918. While that doesn’t exactly seem like an archaic occurrence from yesteryear, the fact that the Red Baron was shot down and killed over France during the same year certainly does. Those two events certainly don’t strike us as contemporaries.

The town of Codell, Kansas experienced its third tornado in three successive years, each striking precisely on May 20 (1916, ‘17, and ‘18). Each grew in velocity by one F-rating from the previous. Wow.

The last known Carolina Parakeet, the only parrot species native to the U.S., died in 1918 in Cincinnati – the final step on the road to this avian’s complete extinction. From an agricultural point of view, the full obliteration of this species was tragic in more than just the obvious way. During these birds’ later years of existence, farmers had become increasingly aware of their ability to help control troublesome, invasive cockleburs, which made them quite significant to farming at that time.

How about this one? Sunday baseball was made legal in Washington, DC in 1918. It’s true – prior to that, playing America’s Pastime on a Sunday was very much taboo. Washington was one of many U.S. cities grappling with this same societal conundrum during that era.

Along similar baseball lines, the 1918 major league season ended abruptly at the start of September, and the World Series was subsequently played extremely early as well, all due to World War I.

The Spanish flu hit with an initial wave in the spring of 1918, then rapidly spread at a horrifying pace, being declared pandemic not long thereafter. More than 30 million people died of this virus during the following six months alone.

Of course, in terms of world history, the most notable time and date of 1918 occurred at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, when an armistice signed by the Allies and Germany took effect, ending the hostilities of World War I.

Even in a current world brimming with stresses and challenges, we have it awfully good today. I am fascinated by how things once were, particularly the tough but simpler (and sometimes wiser) order of day-to-day life our own families experienced just a couple of generations back. I wouldn’t claim to be adequately prepared to slide back in time and live it myself, but renewing that knowledge really makes me thankful.

We invite you to come out and take a calm, leisurely stroll back in time here at the village. Even if you’ve experienced our offerings many times, there’s always more to absorb, more to contemplate – all regarding what the little things used to be like and how that period’s lessons paved the road to today. It’s an exercise in thankfulness, and it’ll leave you with a fresher perspective on life.