On this date in 1918, Seal Beach launched the summer season with a focus on wartime patriotism.
Beyond the usual Seal Beach attractions of bathing, fishing, and boating, twenty-five baby war bonds (a cheaper five dollar version of the more expensive Liberty Bonds) were buried in the sands of the beach — free to the lucky beachgoers who dug them up (no coal shovels allowed.)
C. H. Burnett and former Los Angeles deputy district attorney Lou Guernsey, both Four Minute Men, spoke about the war in Europe and the importance of saving Thrift Stamps.
Who were the Four Minute Men? They were a branch of President Woodrow Wilson’s Committee On Public Opinion made up of over 75,000 volunteers across the United States. They were called “Four Minute Men” as a play on the Revolutionary era Minute Men who could be ready to combat British troops with a minute’s notice. The Four Minute Men were not ready for combat, instead they were practiced public speakers, usually of middle age, prepared to deliver four-minute speeches to drum up public support for America’s involvement in World War I.
Here’s a typical speech taken from the Committee On Public Information Division of Four Minute Men Bulletin No. 17, dated October 8, 1917:
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
I have just received the information that there is a German spy among us — a German spy watching us.
He is around, here somewhere, reporting upon you and me — sending reports about us to Berlin and telling the’ Germans just what we are doing with the Liberty Loan. From every section of the country these spies have been getting reports over to Potsdam — not general reports but details — where the loan is going well and where its success seems weak, and what the people are saying in each community.
For the German Government is worried about our great loan. Those Junkers fear its effect upon the German morale. They’re raising a loan this month, too.
If the American people lend their billions now, one and all with a hip-hip-hurrah, it means that America is united and strong. While, if we lend our money half-heartedly, America seems weak and autocracy remains strong. Money means everything now; it means quicker victory and therefore less bloodshed. We are in the war, and now AMERICANS can have but one opinion, only one wish in the Liberty Loan. Well, I hope these spies are getting their messages straight, letting Potsdam know that America is hurling back to the autocrats these answers:
For treachery here, attempted treachery in Mexico, treachery everywhere — one billion.
For murder of American women and children — one billion more.
For broken faith and promise to murder more Americans — billions and billions more.
And then we will add:
In the world fight for Liberty, our share — billions and billions and BILLIONS and endless billions.
Do not let that German spy hear and report that you are a slacker. Don’t let him tell the Berlin Government that there is no need to worry about the people in [NAME OF TOWN], that they are not patriots.
Everybody, every man and woman, should save a little and lend that little. The United States Government bond is, of course, an excellent investment, the very best, safest for your money. In fact you can cash the bond any day you need money, getting your four per cent interest to the very d”ay you choose to sell. And you can buy a bond out of savings, say five dollars down and balance later.
So everybody now? Who wants the town of [NAME OF TOWN] to make a record in raising money for the Liberty Loan?
Now, then, who will lend his money? Just a few dollars down, say five dollars to start saving, or all cash as you choose. Who will help?
That’s it. I knew [NAME OF TOWN} was full of patriots.
Now your pledges. — There is a man at the door will take your name and address as you go out and to-morrow morning you ran fix it up at any bank.
Don’t let the other man remind you tomorrow. You remind him.
Not all Four Minute Men speeches were as blatantly manipulative as that one, but they all were propaganda for the war effort to counteract any vestiges of American isolationism (President Wilson had been reelected in 1916 with the slogan of “He Kept Us Out Of The War,” but the sinking of the Lusitania and the Zimmerman Telegram had convinced him to declare war on Germany in 1917) and to sell Liberty Bonds and Thrift Stamps to help finance the war.
The real main attraction of the day was the thirty-five piece Submarine Base Band, a popular musical ensemble that played in parades, for dances, and at public events all across Southern California. The band players were all sailors stationed at the submarine base that once operated out of San Pedro. The Submarine Base Band was a volunteer operation, and the band instruments were all bought by the band members out of their Navy pay.
A little over five months later, what would later be known as World War One would be over, but no one in Seal Beach knew that. For them, the outcome of the war in Europe, in spite of their hopes for peace and victory, was uncertain.
– Michael Dobkins
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