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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Thomas Burt, February 6, 1979. Interview H-0194-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Jubilation in Durham, North Carolina, on news of victory in WWI

Burt remembers being medically cleared to fight in World War I after this third examination. Afterward, he quit his job, planning to carouse until the army called, but the war ended before his number came up. He remembers the jubilation that gripped Durham when news of the Entente victory reached town.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Thomas Burt, February 6, 1979. Interview H-0194-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

When the war started, where were you working?
When the war started, I was out here in the country. I hadn't been to Durham when the war started. I went to Durham the time the war was goin' on. I registered out here in the country up at Gorman's store. Then I went to Durham. It was so long before they called me to be examined, I done even forgot about I'd registered. Finally, they called me. I went and was examined three different times. The first two times, they turned me down. Then they called me back again to be examined the third time. I went up there and was examined Sunday morning at 10:00. There was a soldier doctor there that examined me that time. They got two of them, a soldier doctor and another doctor that'd been there all the time—civilian doctor. They run me all over that courthouse! Up and down that great long hall, I run all down yonder and run back. They slapped that thing on me and those things After a while, that old soldier doctor told me, "Well, I'm gonna hurt your feelings, I reckon. I'll tell you, boy, the only thing between you and France is water." [laughter] He said, "Just listen out any time. Just look out for your call any time." He said, "They need mens over there. You just listen out." So I quit work, and just walked up and down the streets and out here in the country and out home. I say, "Well, I'm-a quit and come and go in the army now." I walked up and down the streets in Durham, all over Durham playin' guitar, drinkin', kickin' up and havin' fun. I'll never forget it. Friday mornin' about 9:30 or 10:00, I ain't never heard so many horns, car horns, all the factory horns, bells, and everything. I didn't know what the devil had happened. Come to find out the army had signed. You know I was a happy boy! Folks were runnin' and jumpin' in Durham. What in the world was the matter with these folks, Lord, if that place weren't in the works! There was many a poor woman's son went over there and didn't come back—got killed. I'd got to the place where I didn't care. So many of the boys I knowed had gone, and I just got to the place where I didn't care—I wanted to go too. To tell you the truth, I just worried and worried till I got to the place where I didn't care if I did go, but I was glad to hear them whistles that morning—Yes I was. Them folks celebrated in Durham. All night Friday night, Saturday, they was a-hoopin' and a-hollerin'. Big old factory horns blowin', car horns, bells ringin', fire wagons and all runnin' up and down the street. Back in them days, they had horses pull the fire wagons. It had drove all over town. It was a time in Durham! I don't reckon there's never been a time in Durham like that before and since. Yes, I was a glad boy I didn't have to go.