Many of the young girls in York, Pennsylvania awoke to the sound of church bells on the morning of November 11, 1918. Many young girls in York viewed those bells as wedding bells. Of course those “wedding bells” had a very strange accompaniment. The girls in York heard more than church bells. They also heard train whistles, factory whistles and fire alarms. That combination of noises announced the surrender of Germany. That meant an end to the First World War.
More than one young lady living there in York had a boyfriend or fiance overseas. Those ladies knew that the return of their beloved servicemen would likely lead to a finalization of wedding plans. That was why they could view the November bells as “wedding bells.”
Why was the sound of church bells then so closely associated with weddings? Why does present-day talk of marriage seem to herald the sounding of wedding bells? Until fairly
recently, most of the weddings in the United States took place in a church. As the newly-married couple left the church, the wedding bells would sound.
Therefore, as the citizens of York ran out into the streets on the morning of November 11, 1918, the sound of the church bells must have sent a special message to the young women who had long missed male companionship. Those who had married men before their departure looked forward to being new wives. Those who hoped to get married could view the church bells as wedding bells.
No photographer captured the scene on that morning, as one photographer did after the end of World War II. At the conclusion of that Second World War, strangers embraced in the streets of New York City. Perhaps some of the same acts of passion and enthusiasm could be seen in York on that November morning.
The young women, who could then look forward to the embrace of a loved one, must have felt quite passionate. They probably did not even pay attention when some of the local firemen put an effigy of the Kaiser in York’s Square. After all, that effigy was dressed in black, and those young ladies were no doubt thinking about a particular white dress.
Their thoughts were focused on the wedding dress they expected to wear when they departed from where they had said their wedding vows. Their minds and hearts awaited the sounding of the true wedding bells.