As the Trail Times continues to celebrate 120 years of reporting local news, we’ve donned white gloves and browsed through historical newspapers, looking to highlight some of the City of Trail’s landmark events.
The band was playing while Reverend H.R. Ragg gave a patriotic address as the town bubbled with excitement over news from Rossland that the Huns surrendered.
The trouble, as noted the next day in the Trail News Friday, Nov. 8, 1918 edition, was that it was all rumour – armistice terms hadn’t been signed and the war was still on.
“It has been proved to be a hoax and a misrepresentation by the United Press that sent it out,” wrote editor W.B. Wilcox under the headline, ‘War Not Over, But Trail Celebrated.’ “Though there is every belief that the Germans will surrender almost any time,” he clarified.
Notably, the weekly paper’s next edition on Nov. 15 headlined “Great War ended Monday morning,” which included a front page synopsis of terms Germany accepted to end the battle.
Armistice Day, today known as Remembrance Day, is still observed in Canada, parts of Europe and Australia on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
That is why Trail Times staff chose to focus on another Trail News headline from the era almost one century ago, for March’s 120th anniversary feature.
Time seems to have buried the story of another horseman who rode into town that year, carrying an invisible scourge that killed more people worldwide than all the wars put together.
Sometimes called the “greatest medical holocaust in history,” the Spanish Flu hit Trail hard back in 1918, sullying victory celebrations throughout town.
“The feeling being that the old town would fairly bubble over were it not for the number of deaths that have occurred here in the last week from the epidemic,” Wilcox notes in his Nov. 8 front page story.
Men and women nurses were being called for one column right of the headline, declaring, “Many homes have not been attended, safety first means help your neighbour, and ‘as soon as you read this phone, T.A. Robley, 143.’”
Robley was said to be a ‘Godsend’ alongside his stenographer, Miss Gray, both whom remained on duty 15 to 20 hours daily to take some of the routine work off the shoulders of Trail doctors Thom and Nay.
Notably, on Page 3 of the same newspaper, Robley advertises his insurance services against every known disease, including the Spanish Influenza, that cost ‘only $1.00 a month.’
Under the “Hundreds of ‘Fluenza Cases in Trail,” feature, the writer notes a doctor and nurses from Spokane were in Trail to help, but volunteers were still needed.
The cases multiplied so rapidly, that the News couldn’t give each death the attention deserved, and “in many instances, whole families were for the time without attention.”
The Trail News reported 15 deaths, identifying the majority of critical cases from the Gulch, and two-thirds of the deaths among “foreigners.”
Hotels in the Gulch, listed as the Montana and the Aldridge, were converted into auxiliary hospitals. Returning soldiers manned the makeshift centres around the clock until they too, became afflicted with the disease.
The Trail News explained an emphatic appeal was sent out ‘yesterday’ for volunteer help of any kind, printed in English and Italian, that was hoped to be “effective in its aim.”
Sadly, the edition printed the names of people who passed from the flu, most being babies and young adults.
Upon review of the Trail News Nov. 15 edition, an article titled “Flu Epidemic Still Serious in Trail,” noted 600 flu cases and 35 more deaths in one week, again mostly infants and people under 30.