“The only worthwhile road is that which leads to Jasper Ave.”
On the news of the Armistice, November 11th 1918, Edmonton “ then in the throes of Spanish Flu already “ threw caution to the wind and its citizens celebrated with flu masks on. Factory whistles, bells and the fire department’s sirens sounded the news, work stopped, and jubilant crowds gathered in the street. Impromptu parades and bonfires by the citizens were followed the next evening by a torch-lit parade the next evening by those wounded veterans who had already returned.
In Europe, the last Canadian had died only hours before the armistice. Even afterwards, Canadian soldiers were employed to occupy Germany, and roughly 6,000 sent to Russia to aid the Royalists in their battles against the Bolsheviks. A huge number of soldiers were already wounded and in hospitals, some already home. Those left were tired of endless parades through German, Belgian, and English cities. Discipline began to break down in some areas, as troops longed to be sent home. Their commanders were busy demobilizing troops everywhere, providing ˜Khaki University’ training to soldiers when possible, and trying to arrange shipping back home when Canada’s main port was still reeling from the great Halifax Explosion of the previous year. Canadians were sent to Britain, and thence home. Private Hasse of the 49th wrote in his diary that “the only worthwhile road is that which leads to Jasper Ave.”
Five long months later, March 22, 30,000 Edmontonians lined Jasper Ave and crowded to the CPR station at 109th & Jasper to watch the 49th Battalion come home. Next-of-kin were allowed on the platform, veterans drew up outside the approach. Dignitaries were there to welcome, but according to journalists stayed modestly out of the limelight. The Edmonton Journal News Boys’ Bands played as the first train rattled over the High Level and arrived. The cars were emblazoned not only with the 49th crest, but the names of the battles in which the battalion had fought: Ypres, St.Eloi, the Somme, Bourlon, Passchendaele, Cambrai, Mons, etc.
The Battalion had one last parade. They formed up outside the station, marched east through the crowds lining Jasper Avenue, onto 101 street, then west again to the armouries. There they were dismissed, and the war, for them, was over.
The next day was a Sunday, and the banks remained open so that the soldiers could draw their pay. Unfortunately the return to civilian life was rife with difficulty. Psychological issues, money problems, job problems, and the Spanish Flu ensured that there would be no easy end to the war.
Sources: Gilpin, John F. Edmonton: Gateway to the North ; MacGregor, J.G. Edmonton: A History; Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum History of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment; Janice Tyrwhitt et al. The Great War and Its Consequences 1914-1920 Alberta in the 20th Century Vol. 4, Ed. Ted Byfield.