Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Showing Them What They Should Do

It was less than two weeks after his arrival home from France at the close of the first World War that our (possible) Kelly descendant, Harry Sullivan, was off on another mission. This time, his task took him from his hometown of Denver, Colorado, to a nearby western city—Salt Lake City, Utah. The Denver Post noted his mission only tangentially on May 8, 1919:
Lieut. Harry Sullivan, who just returned from France with the 157th division, is leaving Denver today for Salt Lake City, to help the Mormon City in their Victory Drive there. They are away behind Denver and Harry is going to show them what they should do.

What, exactly, the Post meant by “Victory Drive” or why—and how—Salt Lake City was considered to be “away behind” in their progress in the drive, the article didn’t explain. Perhaps this was something everybody knew at the time—but something for which, unfortunately, I can’t find any answer almost one hundred years later.

A possible explanation came several months later, in the form of a November 26, 1919, Denver Post headline,
Governor Shoup Authorizes Expenditure From the Contingent Fund for Sleeping Accommodations in Windsor Hotel for Soldiers.

The long article that followed not only provided context, but quoted our Harry Sullivan extensively. Evidently, once back home, Harry was again finding his way regularly into the newspaper headlines. This time, he offered his opinion on the Governor's decision.
            “It is needed—Lord, how it is needed!” exclaimed Harry Sullivan, manager of the municipal free employment agency and himself an overseas man. “There are 500 ex-service men who are applicants for jobs and many are destitute. I am stating it conservatively when I put the number of penniless ex-soldiers in Denver at 200. A lot of the men are married and have children. A married man in the army cannot save, for his pay goes to support his wife. When he is discharged from the army and his pay stops and he is jobless he is up against it. Every day I hear facts that would melt a heart of stone.
            “I have just returned from Cheyenne, where I managed to place a few men in machinists’ jobs with the Union Pacific. But Wyoming has a considerable number of jobless men herself. There is a scarcity of machinists throughout the country. The large majority of our ex-service men were general office clerks, stenographers, salesmen, night watchmen, and these are hard jobs to find right now. Besides, we have quite a few who want work on the farms. These men are eager to get any work at which they can make a livelihood.”

Not long after—evidently, his plea in the newspaper was widely read—Harry was once again referenced, providing a progress report in the December 1 issue of the Post:
            …At the demobilization bureau, in the Chamber of Commerce building, Harry Sullivan, manager of the employment bureau, announced at the close of the day twenty jobs and ex-soldiers had been connected. In addition, there were many inquiries from employers…
            “People are beginning to call up by phone and offer assistance,” said Mr. Sullivan…

Following on the heels of that report—and just in time for Christmas—the Denver Post, on Sunday, December 21, 1919, published this headline:
State Will Continue Bureau For Getting Jobs for Ex-Yanks.
Governor Shoup Sets Aside $1,000 From Soldiers’ Contingent Fund for Maintenance of Work Under Harry A. Sullivan.

Harry continued serving as manager of the employment bureau of the Denver demobilization bureau from the time of his appointment, shortly after arriving home from service in France, until he offered his resignation at the end of January, 1920.

At that point, the task was not yet over. Harry was just taking the opportunity to move to a position from which he could access even greater possibilities to serve. He was now taking on the new role of Colorado state organizer for the American Legion.

After his resignation, a February 1, 1920, Post article highlighted Harry Sullivan’s accomplishments on behalf of returning soldiers after the war:
            Mayor Bailey has received the resignation of Harry Sullivan, manager of the Denver demobilization bureau, effective immediately. Mr. Sullivan accepts the new position of state organizer for the American Legion and already has entered upon his duties of organizing posts of ex-service men throughout the state. The mayor has not indicated whom he will appoint as the successor of Mr. Sullivan, to what has grown to be a joint state, city and federal office devoted to the bringing of the job and the soldier together.
            Since he entered the work as manager, Mr. Sullivan has supervised the placing at work of more than 6,000 men. He has handled a difficult and onerous position so successfully that in the report of Governor Shoup’s committee for the relief of ex-service men and women special commendation was paid him personally.
            Before the campaign for the relief of the destitute discharged soldiers last November and December, Sullivan had distributed all his savings, about $500, to the needy, and was devoting the major portion of his salary as manager, $150 monthly, to the same purpose. He has tried law suits for the ex-service men, obtained their allotments, mileage and transportation when some mistake or red tape had brought about an impasse, and has kept the Colorado delegation in Congress busy seeing that red tape unwound rapidly.
            Altho the crisis is passed, there is great need for the continuance of the demobilization bureau for the next three or four months and Mr. Sullivan so recommends to the mayor.


  1. So things haven't changed much for soldiers returning from war and leaving the service.

    That "victory drive" might have been any kind of effort, like "Victory Gardens" which were promoted as a way not just to boost food production but also to boost morale. "We're in this together" kind of thinking. Maybe it was just a fund-raising drive to help support those homeless and out of work soldiers.

    1. Sounds likely, Wendy. I was thinking that kind of designation indicated something more official, but I just couldn't find any mention of it online. The Victory motif was likely a morale booster in more ways than that one. And, seeing all that Harry accomplished in those years after the war, there certainly was a great need!

  2. The veterans had a really hard time after WWI - the US government "welshed" on its agreement so badly one would think the Vets were troublesome Indians. MacArthur made one of his first "claims to fame" using tanks against American Vets protesting the raw deal in Washington DC.

    1. That's awful! Revisiting these episodes in our past from a "micro-history" vantage point certainly can be eye-opening.

  3. Hard times and jobs were scarce, so I think your Harry was a heck of a guy! I suspect that the Victory Drive may have had something to do with employment of returning soldiers.Utah was heavily German during those days...some even left Utah to return to Germany to fight. Others stayed and worked hard for the war effort fun raising...etc to show their support of their new home here in America. Not sure that this info helps..Harry had a big heart for the Germans in Utah:)

    1. Did not know that about Germans in Utah, Far Side. Interesting. Wonder how many German-American families found themselves splitting over their view of the war...


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