Looking back: Patriotism, public health make July 4th great event

Published 10:46 am Friday, July 6, 2018

by Clyde Parker

Friday, July 5, 1918
July Fourth was a real day in Franklin, a genuine all-American celebration in which hundreds of patriotic Southamptonians with many visitors from Isle of Wight and Nansemond counties, and from Gates and Northampton counties, in North Carolina, joined in heartily. 

Mr. Paul D. Camp, War-Savings director for Southampton County, and his tireless assistant, Mr. J.T. Bonney, had so arranged the program that National Independence Day was carried through without a hitch or unpleasant incident to mar the festivities.

Mayor Joe Bynum Gay, who, incidentally, is one of our most successful town merchants, was also on the job and supplemented the police force, Sergeants Bell and Gardner, by enlisting the services of R.M. Phelps, F.T. Pope and a number of Boy Scouts. They all made excellent traffic cops and managed the numerous motorcars with metropolitan precision.

Of course, the airship, numbered 39959, was one of the main features of yesterday’s events; it appeared promptly at 10 o’clock in the morning, driven by Major Thomas Brown of Langley Field, Newport News, Virginia. Earlier, he had visited Franklin, in the same machine, on June 3 for a test run, and again on July 2 for the purpose of releasing into the air advertisements for the Fourth of July celebration. 

Upon arrival, the airship was landed in Mr. Paul Camp’s farm-field, next to his residence on Clay Street, where it stood temporarily for close-up observation by those who were in-town for the festivities. Then, the air show took place.

To say that Major Brown “cut-up” in the air is expressing it mildly — he “looped-the-loop” half a dozen times or more and did “fifty-seven varieties” of thrilling and hair-raising stunts in the super ozone while the admiring crowds beneath stretched their necks and murmured softly “Ain’t he got em?” As a climax to his aerial maneuvers, the major dropped low in the air at the south end of Main Street, over Mrs. M.E. Bogart’s residence, and came up the street at a rate of 90 miles an hour, flying only a few feet above the buildings. He was above the law and beyond the grasp of the traffic cops. He plumbed the middle of the street as truly as an experienced auto driver could have done.

Rising gracefully at the north end of Main Street, and passing over Poplar Springs Cemetery, he made a beautiful landing in Mr. James L. Camp’s pasture-field at the old Camp homestead, next to Franklin Dairy, from whence he took flight about an hour later. He was going to Wakefield, our sister town in Sussex County, to give them a Fourth of July performance. From there, he was to fly on to two other engagements later in the day. It was regretted that the big airship could not stay here longer, but those who saw it were more than repaid for their trip to Franklin.

The exercises of the day were held on the Franklin High School lawn on Clay Street where a prettily decorated stage was erected.  Hundreds of people gathered in the shade of the trees to hear the speakers, both of whom gave splendid talks, replete with patriotism, loyalty, and eloquence.

Mr. J.T. Bonney presided over the exercises and presented the Honorable R.E.L. Watkins who introduced the first speaker, Dr. George W. McDaniel, pastor to the First Baptist Church of Richmond. Dr. McDaniel is a frequent visitor to Franklin and our townspeople were delighted to have him here again while those who had not heard him before were equally charmed with his splendid address.

The doctor mercilessly analyzed the false doctrines of German autocracy and the heinous moral code of the German nation. Dr. McDaniel recounted the unspeakable outrages by the “Beast of Berlin” that took place in France and Belgium as proof that the Germans, as a people, are co-partners in crime with their ruler.

“They are attempting to carry out by brute force their deep-laid and long-cherished schemes for German domination of the world a la Kultur,” he said.

The speaker appealed to the people to stand by their government, to buy war-savings stamps and liberty bonds, to support the American Red Cross and the YMCA in their war-relief efforts in France, and to give the best government in the world the very best support of which we are capable. Dr. McDaniel’s remarks were frequently interrupted by applause. His message was one of the most inspiring delivered to our people since the war began. 

Franklin’s Honorable John Crafford Parker introduced the second speaker, former State Senator A.F. Thomas of Lynchburg. Senator Thomas has gained statewide recognition through his able advocacy of health legislation in the Virginia legislature. He is the author of a bill that specifically addresses tuberculosis eradication.

The daylong exercises were interspersed with singing by a choir of Franklin school children, accompanied by a string orchestra. Mrs. John A. Williams, the former Dorothy Lee, town chairman for the War-Savings campaign, was in charge of this feature of the program, which was generally enjoyed by everyone.

All during the day, War-Savings and Thrift Stamps were sold from several booths scattered around the schoolyard. Attractive young women from the different county districts were in charge. Hundreds of people bought liberally of the little thrift stamps, which are the things for everybody to lick if America is to lick the Kaiser.      

The Town of Ivor has been well over the top for some time, thanks to the splendid efforts of district chairman Dr. John S. Gale and Postmaster John L. Pulley; the Town of Courtland went over the top by more than $1,600,  while the Town of Franklin has pledged about $33,000, or 75 percent of its quota.

Ice cream, sandwiches, lemonade, etc. were sold at several booths for the benefit of the American Red Cross and the French Orphan Fund. A large sum was realized for both purposes.

The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was there in force, campaigning for their cause. 

Special baby examinations were sponsored by the Virginia Anti-Tuberculosis Association. Assisting in this effort were Dr. Dandridge P. West, a baby specialist of Norfolk, Dr. W.B. Barham of Newsoms and Dr. R.L. Raiford of Sedley.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net