Childs Park, North Elm Street

Bill Jeffway, October 30, 2019

“Armistice Grove” is what it was called exactly a century ago. It was considered nothing less than “hallowed ground” by those who experienced the horrors of WWI.

The importance of local history is that we decide what is worth remembering, which gives it the potential to be remembered in the future. So what is worth remembering

About midway along the stretch of Childs Park that runs along North Elm Street, you will see a very distinct, grove of century-plus white pines.

One-hundred years ago, on November 11, 1919 at 11:00 am, Charles and Annie Childs started a tradition. In honor of those lost in the “World War” just concluded, they planted a white pine among an existing grove of white pines in the park. Charles died in the summer of 1932 and Annie carried on the tradition.

In the 1934 ceremony, which involved a parade from Bridge Street Park up Main St. to Elm St. and to the grove, Annie Childs presented the white pine to be planted to Col. William J. Collins, head of the local American Legion. Upon presenting it, Childs said, “The pine is a symbol of longevity and may we consider it a hope for peace…”

Upon accepting it, Collins said, “..the men and women who served in the World War regard the Armistice Grove of Childs Park as hallowed ground, dedicated to those who gave their lives, yet who live and will continue to live through such loving memorials as this, to the end that liberty, justice and democracy may endure.”

A photograph from the time shows Mrs. Childs with a large group of children, about as tall as the pine tree just planted.

The President of the American Forestry Association, claiming credit for the concept of memorial tree planting, wrote instructions at the time that included suggested types of trees, ceremonial songs and words. He said, “In the planting of a tree you will leave behind a living sentinel…”

Although Mrs. Childs lived until 1950, the tradition seems to have stopped in the 1930’s. Perhaps the combination of a global economic depression and the world war that required the renaming to distinguish between “first” and “second” world wars was all consuming.

The tradition may have stopped. But it need not be forgotten. Nor the meaning behind it. ~ Bill Jeffway