As 1917 came to a close, it had been a cold Christmas in Columbus, with the temperature hovering around 10 degrees.
It would be even colder for New Year's Day. A cold blast of Canadian air hit the Midwest hard in the week after Christmas. By Dec. 30, the temperature had reached 8 degrees below zero. The record for that date was 9 below.
By New Year's Eve, the temperature had begun to moderate. Then it began to snow.
But even with the inclement weather, a lot of people in Columbus were determined to celebrate the arrival of 1918.
The United States had been directly involved in World War I for most of the past year. Thousands of young men were either in training camps across the country or preparing to leave for the place a popular song simply called "Over There."
The war was directly affecting residents, as well. Wartime restrictions and rationing of some commodities were complemented by the urging of federal food administrator Herbert Hoover to observe at least one meatless day each week. His advice apparently was followed. By December 1917, a local meat-packing company spokesman noted that meat consumption in Columbus was down by 20 percent over the previous year.
All the disruption, privation and personal sacrifices of wartime Columbus seemed to make people more determined than ever to enthusiastically celebrate the new year.
The holiday was celebrated 100 years ago in many of the same ways it is celebrated today. But there were some differences above and beyond the necessities of wartime.
One hundred years ago, football still was more of a pastime in Columbus and across much of the country. The center of activity was on New Year's Eve and the celebration of the arrival of the new year. In an era without television, radio or social media, people came to downtown Columbus to celebrate the arrival of the new year.
A local newspaper on New Year's Day described some of the activities of the previous night:
"Master 1918, all pink and rosy, bowed to this war-ridden old world with a smile of good cheer, Monday midnight, amid a riot of hilarious and festive noises. These included the musical ringing of church bells, blasts from sirens and whistles, clangor of all kinds of bells and the laughter and tooting of horns and a myriad of other sounds emanating from citizens making merry at hotels, clubs and other downtown places of amusement. Many citizens were to be found at New Year's Eve church services and a few church watch parties are reported.
"The clubs and hotels provided amusement of varied forms, giving horns, confetti, paper hats and other souvenirs to their patrons. All were brilliantly lighted and decorated. Order at all of the places of rejoicing was of the best and the 'lid' remained untilted. The gatherings were lent a tone of the military by the presence of many fighting men. There were many patriotic features on the various programs."
Another local paper described the arrangements at local hotels and clubs in more detail. Capacity crowds were reported and "reservations have been more numerous than ever before, it is said."
"The Virginia Grill has been decorated with smilax, evergreen and holly. All lights have been shaded. A 'Hooverized' (meatless) supper was planned for 9 p.m. New Year's Eve."
At the Winter Garden at the Great Southern Hotel (now the Westin), there was dancing. The novelty of the evening was a "Spider Dance during which many white paper balls, one containing a prize," were dropped from the ceiling of the ballroom.
At the Deshler Hotel at Broad and High streets, a late-evening supper was served. An advertisement in local papers described the planned event:
"New Years Eve Celebration Supper in the Ionian Room -- A highly entertaining program has been prepared for this evening by the Deshler Entertainers. Special Features and new music will be rendered. Dinner will be served promptly at ten o'clock. Three dollars (a) plate."
That may not seem like much, but a dollar was worth a bit more in those days.
Yet another paper -- Columbus had a lot of newspapers in 1917 -- reported a high point of the evening at the Deshler, then the newest major hotel in town:
"At the Deshler, a new song entitled, 'Columbus We Are Proud of You,' was given to the world at midnight, in the presence of merrymakers in the Ionian Room. It was written by Manager Warner of the Deshler Grill."
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.