Major Fred Simonds, contracting quartermaster, recruited Mexican labor at 25 cents an hour for an eight-hour day. A 10-hour shift yielded time and a half for two hours.
The camp’s water requirements amounted to 2 million gallons daily. In the event of fire an auxiliary plant was utilized to pump heavy quantities for short periods. Storage of water was contained in two huge wooden tanks each with a capacity of 100,000 gallons.
As the 34th Division was building itself to full strength in mid-1918, downtown Deming was peaking in its wartime prosperity. There were eight theaters in the traditional business section. A proliferation of billiards parlors, soft-drink establishments, lunch counters and novelty stores dotted the area. Watermelon stands offered the ripe-red fruit, packed in ice. A nickel bought a U-EAT-UM pie with a scoop of ice cream.
War is mankind’s most wasteful enterprise. It is lavish in its execution; it is dissipative in its aftermath. The half-million dollar sewer system in Camp Cody was hardly finished when World War 1 ended. Orders were issued to disconnect and abandon the network. Today, the spillway remains in formidable condition after 80-plus years. As it lies on private property anyone considering a visit to it is advised to request permission from the owners. Guard dogs keep a watchful eye on the area.
Another viable relic of the Camp Cody days lies a little west of North Eighth Street. It is a swimming pool that was used by soldiers. Only the skeletal ruins remain, also on private property. John C. O’Leary will long be know in Deming annals as the one who coined the phrase “Kingdom of the Sun.” In 1918, he was covering the news of the town and camp for the Associated Press. He received word by wire at 1:15 am Monday, November 11 that the armistice was signed.
J.C. rushed to the fire house to arouse the custodians on duty. Soon the fire siren was shattering the midnight silence. Engines in the railroad yard added their blasts to the bedlam. The few automobiles on the streets joined in the din.
The jubilation gathered momentum as half-clad citizens filled the streets, shouting, laughing, crying and waving flags. Before noon, town officials declared a half holiday. A parade formed about 3 pm. Jack Adams of the telephone company sported a car overflowing with pretty girls, while the Harvey House hastily produced a decorative float that was drawn by a black horse.
A group of young muscle men took a truck to the Catholic church under construction on South Ruby and confiscated the huge bell that awaited hanging. Its deep tones added to the jubilant atmosphere.
A crowd gathered at Pine and Gold about 4 pm to listen to Brigadier General James Lindsay, commander of Camp Cody. He was more prophetic than those who hailed World War I as the “war to end war.” The general said, “This is not the last war, nor will nations cease to make war as long as human passions endure. Until the end of time when diplomacy fails, resort must be had to arms.”
So ended a propitious and prosperous chapter in the history of Deming. Although not verified by census count, it was a time when the town was likely, for a short period the most populous in the state.
C.A. “Gus” Gustafson is a historian and free-lance writer. He lives in Deming and has been writing for “Desert Winds” magazine since 1987. – Desert Winds magazine/Fall 1999