On July 4, 1917, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. president, delivered his “One Hundred Percent American” unification speech at the LIRR Station, pleading for a single standard of patriotism and loyalty to the America of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln during WWI.
Today, patriotism and tradition continue locally in a modified form, particularly through Children’s Day at Flagpole Green in early June, although a century ago large-scale Independence Day celebrations were held on the actual day.
In 1918, a flag-raising ceremony took place on Village Green (now Flagpole Green), and Reverend Joseph McLaughlin of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs delivered an address. H.E. Conway read excerpts of Secretary Franklin Lane’s address and patriotic songs were recited.
Tennis matches were played on courts that once occupied the site of The Inn Apartments, and the Obstacle Race was an attraction among the popular children’s games feature in Station Square. In Olivia Park, students of the noted Louis H. Chalif dance school at 165 West 57th Street performed the Twilight Symphony, an interpretative dance.
Samuel W. Eckman, who served as chairman of the Fourth of July Celebration, introduced Senator William M. Calder, who delivered an eloquent address to several hundred people in Station Square.
“The country owes a debt of gratitude to General Leonard Wood and Colonel Theodore Roosevelt for their work in stirring up the sentiment on every hand,” he said. “We are a long way from success, but we mean to fight it out to the last man, and we must all be ready to answer the call and to stand behind the government.”
“While America welcomes the oppressed of every nation to her shores, they must when they come join heartily in building up the honor and glory of the United States,” he continued. “We should here today consecrate ourselves anew to the cause of America and to the just war that she is engaged in.”
The agenda continued with “The Spirit of Play,” a masque presented by children, and character and patriotic dancing followed. Evening festivities consisted of dancing in Station Square, in addition to Camp Upton soldiers performing musical numbers. At the Church-In-The-Gardens, wounded soldiers and sailors of WWI were guests of honor at a dinner.