Celebrations were held in various towns and boroughs in Delaware County on Saturday as many observed the centennial anniversary of America entering World War I.
At Collingdale Park, the Collingdale Historical Society held a “Day of Remembrance.” Society President Elizabeth MacGuire said the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. A memorial in the park lists 128 names of Collingdale residents who served in the war.
Of that number, 122 people returned from the war; six didn’t. Some of the lost represented established Collingdale families. Joseph Glover and his cousin, Calvin, both of whom lived on Hibberd St., were among the fallen was were members of the Beatty family who lived on 705 MacDade Blvd. and lost three family members, Robert, Edward and Louis.
Will Brown, whose father Leland Nelson Brown was a resident of Collingdale, has published a book, “The WWI Diaries and Letters of 1st Sergeant Leland Nelson Brown.” Leland lived on Florence Ave.
Collingdale had a morning and afternoon walking tour that included walks by the homes of the fallen. Collingdale in the pre-1920s was very rural, but there was a population expansion as industry started to appear in the borough due to war. The tour also made a stop at Aldan’s Historical Museum.
In mid-afternoon the Darby and Collingdale historical societies gathered at Darby VFW Post 598. There was singing of songs that were popular during the war, led by local history buffs John and Jan Haigis. “Pack Up Your Troubles,” “Over There,” “I Didn’t Raise My Boy to be a Soldier,” to name a few. “Chocolate soup” was also served. This was a food choice introduced during the war because of its protein value.
For many people, the prominent roles African-Americans played in the war were eye-opening.
Black soldiers, including troops called the “Harlem Hell Fighters,” were decorated for gallantry in France but returned home to face Jim Crow discrimination.
On April 10, 1917 there was an explosion at a munitions factory in Essington that killed some 350 workers, mostly girls, as the men were at war. Sabotage was suspected, but the actual cause is still unknown.
Aldan Borough had a branch of the Red Cross that started in September 1917 and continued to exist during World Wars I and II. Why it disbanded is unknown.
The day the war ended is known as Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918. The 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the guns fell silent.