The Normafa in 1919 winter was just as beautifully snowy as today, and while the younglings were cheerfully riding their sleighs down the mountain, serious events took place in the city: a funeral was held for Endre Ady, war veterans were fighting for fairness and new political organizations formed.
Endre Ady's funeral
Endre Ady passed away on January 27, 1919 at the Liget Sanatorium. „He wrote about, dreamed about his funeral in many ways, many times, imagining he would die at the Breton shores while listening to the sound of the sea; or at the Hungarian prairies under the clouds with crows feasted on his heart. He also envisioned floating down the dirty Seine. Now he gloriously rests on his high hearse above us, just like in life when he flew above the masses' grey, sweaty foreheads, like a sorrowful seagull above the dark Hungarian waters.” – wrote the Az újság.
The government commissioned the Vörösmarty Academy with the funeral's organization, which took place on January 29. Massive crowd attended the impressive ceremony to pay their respects to the famous poet. The service was held at the National Museum's entrance hall, which was completely covered with black garments. The government's wreath included the following message: „From the government of the Hungarian Republic to the new Hungary's poet.” There was another beautiful wreath from the deceased poet's widow labeled „from Csinszka”. The State Opera choir sang and a reformed pastor performed a sermon. After that, Mihály Babits, Zsigmond Móricz, Zsigmond Kunfi and Oszkár Jászi said a few words, but Sándor Bródy, Ferenc Molnár, Gyula Krúdy, József Rippl-Rónai, Árpád Ódry, PM Dénes Berinkey, Ernő Garami, Vince Nagy and Szende Pál ministers were also in attendance. High schools were closed for the day and pupils who were still forced to study had to protest to attend the ceremony. The crowd was humongous, and even a dangerous scuffle broke out at the National Museum's entrance while everyone wanted to get into the entrance hall. The crowd followed the coffin to its final place in Kerepesi cemetery, facing Jókai's tomb, where Károly Kernstok, Aladár Schöpflin and Oszkár Beregi spoke and the laborers' choir sang.
The non-commissioned officers' march
The same day, on January 29 morning the national free organization of demobilized non-commissioned officers had a gathering at the Vigadó's main hall and wrote a memo of their demands to the government: 5400 crone severance pay, clothing, free land and tools for laborers. After the meeting, a crowd of 4000 marched in 4-men lines from Vigadó to the Castle to hand their memorandum to the Defense Minister. War widows and disabled vets were marching on the front. István Tóth gave their memo to Defense Minister Vilmos Böhm, was unable to promise them anything on the spot, but assured them he won't differentiate between soldiers and non-commissioned officers while figuring out a solution. Disabled vets asked for their next 10 year pension to be paid in one sum as severance, redeem of the gallant emblem surcharge and easily acquirable jobs. The minister told them he understands and sympathizes with their issues, but disapproved of the pressure and asked them to stop protesting, as it negatively affects their work. The minister gave new clothing to a disabled veteran and the delegation left.
Police forces at the Awakening Hungarians' assembly
The Association of Awakening Hungarians was founded in November 1918 by far right politicians, such as Gyula Gömbös, Tibor Eckhardt, Pál Prónay and Iván Héjjas. The organization's main goal was to protect the borders, christian-nationalist values and go against jews and socialists. Their January 19, 1919 assembly was disturbed by angry sailors who came to take revenge for their two fellow sailors who were previously beaten. Members continued their meeting at night at a coffee house in Pest, but their anti-semitic slogans and aggressive demeanor was not welcomed anywhere. The news report was recorded next Sunday on January 26 at Trefort kert at another meeting, to which authorities came prepared: the police arrived on several cars with mounted machine guns, and guards, marines and soldiers were also present. The event was supposed to start at 10:00 but a crowd of social democrats, communists, butchers, metalworkers and laborers from Csepel already filled up the garden by 09:00 in protest. When the Awakening Hungarians realized they were overpowered, they fled the scene and the event became a communist and social democratic movement. Due to the intense situation, the Vienna chief rabbi's afternoon lecture at Vigadó was cancelled, which resulted in a protest at the Egyenlőség's building initiated by the Zionist youth. The Association of Awakening Hungarians was banned in the 1920s but several future far right organizations were linked to it.
Wintertime on Svábhegy
The Svábhegy cogwheel, which started operations in 1874, did not always work in wintertime. The Budapest-Svábhegy society was founded to revive the area. It took a lot of effort for them to keep the cogwheel operating in wintertime, as heating the wagons and locomotives, and cleaning the tracks meant additional costs and no one could predict if people were going to use it enough to make the operation cost effective. After a long period of negotiations the city made a deal with the railway company: if the company will operate with at least four railways during wintertime, the city will cover all damages if it turns out to be a failure. The cogwheels started their winter season in 1910 for which a couple wagons were winterized with windows and small heaters. It not only turned the resort into a residential area but also helped popularizing winter sports.
The world famous 1250 meter long sleigh track on Svábhegy was made by the Hungarian Athletics Club the same year between the Széchenyi-hegy and Svábhegy stops of the cogwheel railway along Karthausi út - at the end of the slide, riders could take the cogwheel back to the top of the track, as the railroad company's trains ran non-stop between the two stops. The track was closed during World War I, but reopened as soon as the war ended. When enough snow fell, sleigh races were held. The place was flooded during these races and on weekends. To avoid any accidents, they had to come up with some regulations, so each rider had to wait at least 30 seconds before sliding down the hill after the one before them took off.
Svábhegy became quite popular during in 1918 even for the most elite. By then the Tatra was occupied by Czech and Slovakian soldiers and it became almost impossible to travel to the resorts of St. Moritz and Engadin. Besides Budapest locals, foreigners also enjoyed visiting Svábhegy, which they called the Hungarian St. Moritz. It had one of the most beautiful sleigh tracks in the world, and the Svábhegy Resort was famously elegant and comfortable. Another fan favorite winter sport, skiing also became fashionable at the time, so much so that several ski races took place in February 1919 at Normafa on Svábhegy. On February 2nd the Hungarian Tourist Association and a week later the Hungarian Lawyers' Sport Association held races there, and the next weekend a Budapest District Championship was organized at the same place. Those were the first major ski competitions in Budapest including cross country skiing, women's downhill and ski jumping. A 1.6 meter high ramp was built on the upper third of the track. A sports magazine of the time complimented on the sport's prosperity, while only saying a few words about the ramp: „Unfortunately, the run is too short and the slope below the ramp is not steep enough, therefore it is impossible to perform longer jumps on it.”
This week's joke: weekly newspapers
During the Aster Revolution on October 31, 1918 afternoon the Budapest Journalists Association's committee held a public meeting to celebrate the victory of the national revolution and the unrestricted freedom of press. They demanded in their proclamation the immediate termination of the press monopoly which was nationalized by decree during the war, and lifting the ban on launching new newspapers and any reactionary measures.
The paper decree issued during war, which was amended several times, was necessary as the country was suffering from paper shortage. The material became expensive which gave way for illegal paper trading. Still, a lot of people thought the regulations were simply based on politics. It became the Newsprint Center's task, which was founded in 1916, to carry out the Commerce Minister's orders regarding paper manufacturing and paper consumption. The last paper decree was issued before the Revolution on March 14, 1918, including a ban on publishing new periodicals and inspection and regulation of paper consumption at newspapers.
„Every human being shall be free to share their thoughts in the press” – stated the first paragraph of the II. free press act, which came to force on December 4, 1918. Officially securing the issue became one of the most important measures for the revolutionary government. But production was still down in the country, and paper shortage was a constant issue for the media. After the Revolution, the new government managed to secure a couple weeks worth of material with their rapid and effective measures, but supplies were still low and paper was impossible to come by. The Newsprint center not only did not lift the ban but introduced further regulations on November 25, 1918. A government regulation also stated that papers which failed to produce any new issues since March 15, 1918 shall not be supplied with more paper.
Despite the hardship, an unprecedented amount of fresh newspapers were published. In the name of free press and freedom of speech, people from all political sides and anyone who was eager to express themselves and spend their propaganda started a newspaper. Some obviously had to violate the paper consuming regulations by buying illegally obtained materials, for which some of them were caught. Such papers were the Vörös Ujság, Ifjú Proletár, the incredibly short-lived Vörös Katona, and non-political papers such as Divat, Művészet és Szerelem, and theater magazines like Rivalda and Komédia. The streets of Budapest were plastered with posters advertising these new newspapers, as no authorization was needed to put out posters according to the press act.
Newspaper Az Est published a rather indignant article in December 1918 about the deceptive posters and indecent papers, saying: „Hideous weeds are growing in the young Hungarian republic's soil on each and every corner. Reputable, ordinary citizens would call the taste police when coming by those posters and gag while reading those new "papers". The poster advertises the paper and the paper advertises immorality, indecorum, savagery and unrestraint with its name, voice and lack of language skills.” The unstoppable publishing obsession kept on being ridiculed by the papers for months.