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A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 103

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Chapter 15 Tonopah Goes to War… New Divorce Laws and Old Social Strata… A Harrowing Ride in My Thomas Flyer… A More Harrowing Ride in an Army Tank As WORLD WAR I kept rumbling nearer and nearer, rising fears gave way to firm convictions. When in April, 1917, the United States entered the war, Tonopah’s men and women, like people in every other town and city, revealed unimagined capabilities. As our Tonopah boys left to enlist, marching to the railroad station behind the Miners’ Union Band, the men on the sidelines cheered and the women bit back the tears. While Hugh became a Four Minute Man and spoke at Liberty Loan drives, which followed each other in rapid succession all over the state, I was inducted into the Junior Red Cross. The division chairman for, the Pacific Coast appointed me director in Tonopah, a position of which I was very proud. I taught every grade in the school to knit; the younger children made wash cloths, and the older classes made sweaters. The prize for the best sweater was won by an eleven- year- old boy. Our young people also did their bit for the Belgian children. We held an organized drive for funds on Christmas Eve - “ Glorified Roundup,” I called it. Four groups of singers were carried in trucks to the compass corners of the community, whence they walked to a spot in the center of town singing “ Silent Night,” “ Hail to the King,” “ Little Town of Bethlehem,” and other old favorites. That Christmas Eve was bitterly cold, the wind was full of sleet, and the ground covered with snow. As the sweet young voices of the children floated out over the frosty air, hardly a house failed to respond to our knock. Many people, at their windows watching for us, opened doors and quickly thrust into the collectors’ hands five-, ten-, and twenty- dollar gold pieces. The most spectacular feat our town accomplished was to send an ambulance to France. The whole town was mobilized into the Tonopah Ambulance Regiment - the T. A. R. - and held a carnival at which we raised the necessary $ 3,000 in one night. The war was a turning point in many areas of our lives. It was responsible for one step forward in American democracy that was illustrated graphically in Nevada. Social lines in Tonopah were never strictly drawn. It was one of the charms of the life. But in Reno, the old staid community, class distinctions were drawn along rigid lines, and the social upheaval there took on something of a comedy of manners. Reno had two strictly drawn and opposing groups: those who approved of the divorce laws enacted by the legislature and those who would have none of them. If you belonged to one group, or were even known to countenance its views, you were subject to criticism from the other. Feeling ran deep and strong. I heard more than one Reno woman say, in



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