Christmas 1919 was a time of peace and prosperity in Columbus.
As they do today, officials at the Salvation Army, Volunteers of America and other charities noted a number of families needed help in the holiday season. But that number was much smaller than it had been only a year before, when World War I came to an end.
A worker with one of the charities explained why he thought those in need were fewer in number that year: The United States had recovered economically in the wake of the war, and the country had begun to enforce a constitutional amendment banning the manufacture, sale and distribution of alcohol for personal consumption.
In short, the decline in poverty was due to prosperity and Prohibition:
"They are working this year," said Maj. Walter Collins of the Volunteers of America to a local newspaper. "Prohibition did it. There was not near the request for baskets that there was before."
Adjutant Courtney of the Salvation Army agreed: "There has not been near the need this year that there has been in other years."
He also observed less duplication of effort because of successful coordination of efforts by the relief groups in the city.
It should be mentioned that although Prohibition might have had an effect on poverty levels, it was not as effective as the national Anti-Saloon League of America -- based out of Westerville -- would have liked. Although it was illegal to make, sell or distribute liquor, it was not illegal to drink it, and a number of people continued to do just that -- either by patronage at local "speakeasies" or by simply keeping a hip flask in one's pocket. But it was clear that Prohibition, at least initially, was having some positive influence.
Some reminders of local participation in World War I still existed. A number of wounded and disabled soldiers were in care at a nearby military base. In 1922, it would come to be called Fort Hayes, but for now, it still was Columbus Barracks.
It was to the barracks that a local school choir and charities came to offer company and uplift to the troops. Theatrical star Elsie Janis came from Columbus and had become "America's sweetheart" by entertaining troops in war-torn Europe during the war. Now, at Christmas a year later, she was still at work.
"I wish a very, very merry Christmas to every man who has been, is or one day will be a soldier," she said. "And if it is a merry Christmas to civilians, certainly we must thank the soldiers for it, as peace is the best thing about Christmas and the soldiers gave us that. My love and admiration to them all."
In the meantime, Columbus enjoyed the Christmas holiday in most of the usual ways. In an era with no freeways or shopping centers, most people came downtown to shop for gifts. Large department stores lined High Street, as did many smaller stores selling the widest variety of goods and merchandise. More automobiles were appearing on the streets, but most people living in nearby suburbs took a local streetcar to work, to shop or to play.
In addition to the stores, the hotels and restaurants did a booming business during the holiday season. The Deshler Hotel at Broad and High streets advertised its Christmas dinner for "Patrons and the Public -- Both Dining Rooms -- $2.50 per person." That might not seem like a lot, but it would be roughly $35 in modern purchasing power.
Residents also spent some of their dollars at one of the many theaters downtown. The Lyceum Theater promised a "Merry Christmas Bill with Tommy Shydee, formerly the 'Piano Mover.' " It is not clear exactly what Mr. Shydee did or how he did it, but the playbill noted he would be accompanied by "a bevy of the prettiest girls in a musical extravaganza."
Not to be outdone, the Broadway offered three shows daily featuring the "Larramore-Hudson Troupe -- The Pinnacle of Picturesque Pedalry."
For those more inclined to a movie, the Majestic offered the legendary Will Rogers in a silent epic called "Jubilo." The theater proudly claimed the silent film was based on a story in the Saturday Evening Post.
The churches of Columbus were open, as well, with special services that were well-attended on a Christmas when the weather was cold but cooperative.
Recipes in the local newspaper tempted the culinarily daring. One publication featured an offering called an "apple porcupine," for which one needed a few large apples, several cups of mincemeat and a half-cup of almonds:
"Core apples and scoop out centers. Fill the cavity of each apple with mincemeat. Stick the almonds in the sides of the apples letting them stick out in all directions. Place in baking dish adding a small amount of water. Bake."
Perhaps we should be thankful for turkey and ham this holiday season.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.