Thanksgiving Day 1919 in Columbus was, for the most part, like many others the city had seen.
The conflict then called the Great War and now known as World War I had been over for a year. Most of the troops had come home. Some of the seriously wounded doughboys still were recovering in a place called Columbus Barracks, now Fort Hayes.
The economy had seen a slight recession when wartime spending ended in 1918, but business had bounced back and so too had public enthusiasm for the holiday season.
But the spirit of the holidays was different in at least one respect: After two generations of protest and struggle, the movement calling for Prohibition had succeeded.
Early in 1919, a law prohibiting the "manufacture, sale and distribution" of alcoholic drinks was passed by Ohio's leaders, before Prohibition's national enforcement began the following year. Sometimes honored more in the breach than the observance by patrons of shadowy places called speakeasies, the banning of alcohol had come to be accepted by many people for much of the time.
A local newspaper observed that "being without brandy or its equivalent, many folks abandoned mince pie on the Thanksgiving menu and fell back on the pumpkin variety.
"In spite of this (alcoholic) deprivation and the lowering skies, Columbus celebrated Thanksgiving Day with gusto. There were many visits to paternal tables and many boards there were laden with holiday fare. At the hotels and restaurants, business was brisk, turkey dinners being a specialty. Many began their day with a visit to the house of worship. In many cases, union services were held."
Local businesses were pleased with an increase in trade, the paper noted:
"Thanksgiving shoppers this week are fairly raiding Columbus stores for things to make the 'feast' day more attractive. ... Business last year was an improvement over war torn 1917, but the Thanksgiving buying last year only covered the short period between the Armistice (Nov. 11) and Thanksgiving Day. Holiday buying this year started November 1st and earlier.
"Decorative linens are proving most popular. Many people permitted their table linens and decorations to deteriorate during the war and now are forced to replenish. ... Trade in silverware departments and jewelry stores is at its height. It is said that the demand for silverware is unprecedented. ... Furniture stores are reporting a brisk business with a demand for every conceivable household article. Odd pieces like console tables, easy chairs, and smoking stands have been going with rapidity. Talking machines are having a large sale."
Columbus residents who were not indulging in shopping or dining in a downtown restaurant may have been visiting one of the theaters.
In an era when many people still lived close to downtown and rode the streetcar to get there, it made sense for the major theaters and other places of amusement to be situated in the center of things. Downtown Columbus in 1919 was home to more than a dozen theaters.
This was before the Ohio or the Palace theaters had been built. Most theaters were smaller and more on the scale of the Southern Theatre, which was built in the 1890s.
The center of the Theatre District in Columbus in 1919 was the corner of Broad and High streets. Looking west on Broad Street at night, one beheld a Great White Way of dancing lights coming from a series of theaters on both sides of the street.
This was an era in which theaters mixed vaudeville acts with silent movies and even the occasional animal act from a local circus. Some theaters were expensive, others were not -- but all of them tended to be filled during the holiday season.
Then there were the people who needed help. Charitable and religious organizations distributed food baskets to many families in need, then "turned their attention to the preparation of the dinners which were to be served at their headquarters to ... homeless unfortunates."
At the Ohio Penitentiary on Spring Street, there was no turkey on Thanksgiving Day, the newspaper noted: "At the current price of gobblers, it was found to be impossible to supply the whole prison at the current food allowance."
But not to be denied, prison officials came with an alternative meal to celebrate the holiday. The menu included roast pork, green beans, celery, apples, raisin bread and coffee.
At Columbus Barracks, the troops still on duty in Columbus were guests at a dinner sponsored by residents and which seated more than 300 people. The only speech of the evening was made by William Oxley Thompson, president of Ohio State University.
"After dinner, musical selections were contributed by Miss Lillian Stocklin, leader of the Patriotic League Glee Club," the newspaper recorded. "During the evening in the big mess hall, the boys in khaki enjoyed a dance, which was attended by many Columbus girls."
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.