Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Schlosser to Give Talk about Greensboro at the Beginning of World War I

Wednesday, February 25: Presentation by journalist Jim Schlosser, “Greensboro at the Beginning of World War I.”
4 p.m. Hodges Reading Room, Jackson Library 2nd floor, UNCG.  Free and open to the public.


 In the summer of 1914, when  World War I erupted in Europe, Greensboro residents were curious but not too concerned about an event so far away. Few Greensboro men knew anything of military service. The last draft was 50 years ago in the Civil War. For this latest war, President Woodrow Wilson pledged strict neutrality for America.

As the world observes the centennial of the  war’s beginning, Jim Schlosser, retired writer for the Greensboro News & Record and O. Henry Magazine, will discuss life in Greensboro from 1914 to April, 1917 when the nation finally went to war against Germany and its allies.

During the  interlude,  Henry K. Burtner continued to sell furniture at his family’s Burtner Furniture Store on South Elm Street. Floyd W. Booker  worked at Cone Mills’ Proximity plant.  Annie Wade Reveley, a graduate of Greensboro's St. Leo's Hospital nursing school, went daily from her home on a narrow downtown street to help the city’s sick and injured.

The  city prospered as it grew from a post-Civil War backwater town to a major manufacturing and insurance center. The railroad had made good times possible. Tracks radiated in six directions from the city.

Greensboro people became armchair warriors. Will’s book store and Meyer’s department store advertised war maps for following battles fought in places locals had never heard of, including Armentieres.

Greensboro newspapers ran interviews with area people who had escaped from Europe. Not all did. Dr. Claribel Cone of the wealthy textile family wound up stuck in Germany for the duration, unable to continue her art collecting. The Germans apparently didn’t associate her with Cone Mills, where her brothers were retooling their factories to make clothing for British and French soldiers even before the U.S. joined the war.

It would be a short, victorious war for the Yanks. But the experience was traumatic for Greensboro. Of the 1,634 men and 12 female nurses from the area  who went to war,  Burtner, Booker and Reveley were among 78  killed in combat or who died from influenza that swept European battlefields. The cost was heavy for an area that never expected to go to war.

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