Reminisce: Back to normal: Remembering Thanksgiving 1945

Barely three months after marking VJ Day and the end of World War II with a raucous celebration in a driving August rain, Lima settled in for a quiet Thanksgiving in 1945.

“Lima’s first peacetime observance of Thanksgiving since 1941 will be marked by special church services, a football game and closed down factories, offices, stores and schools,” The Lima News wrote Nov. 21, 1945, the day before the holiday.

“For countless numbers of combat veterans,” the newspaper added, “it will be the first holiday they have had with their families since their entry into the armed forces. For many others, eligible for discharge but not yet arrived home, it is the hope that it will be the last holiday they’ll miss.”

Although temperatures had climbed steadily and reached into the mid-40s by noon Nov. 21, forecasters predicted colder weather would move in that evening and continue Thanksgiving Day. “Spectators at the Central-South football game are warned to tote a blanket for extra comfort as the early-morning air is expected to be on the nippy side,” The Lima News wrote. Nonetheless, the newspaper predicted 7,000 people would turn out for the annual Thanksgiving game.

Both high schools planned pep rallies Wednesday evening in advance of the game at Lima Stadium on Thanksgiving morning. “Schools are planning snake dances from the schools uptown through the Public Square and back to the schools again for the usual bonfire rally and speeches by the coaches and players,” the News wrote. “Central will march on Wayne Street to Horace Mann School for its bonfire shindig while South will retrace its steps to the Tigers’ own lair.”

News sportswriter Joe Halberstein noted that a special page in the 40-page program arranged by boosters of the rival schools was dedicated to the memory of 54 Central graduates and 42 South graduates who died in World War II. “When the two teams line up for the opening kickoff at 10 a.m. Thursday it might be well for the thousands in attendance to reflect for a moment on the boys they knew who as men made it possible for the annual Turkey Day fray to be contested once more with war clouds banished.”

The war, however, continued to cast its shadow on everyday life. Rationing of staples like meat and sugar remained in effect, though turkey was abundant and available with one grocer telling The Lima News he had 30 percent more turkeys than in 1944. And newspapers were still dotted with stories connected to the war.

The front page of The Lima News on the day before Thanksgiving carried articles on the trial of Nazi leaders at Nuremberg and the pending trial of Japanese war leaders in Tokyo. Another story revealed that prominent war-time leaders Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Admiral Chester Nimitz had been appointed to lead the peace-time Army and Navy, respectively.

Closer to home, The Lima News reported that in Wapakoneta, St. Marys and villages throughout Auglaize County “a large percentage of ex-soldiers are taking up their old jobs in stores, small machine shops and on farms.” Across the region, lawyers and physicians were returning from the military to resume their practices. In wedding and engagement announcements, men and women often appeared in military uniform.

And, on the Monday before Thanksgiving, the News estimated that more than 20,000 people crowded the northwest corner of the Public Square to view Adolf Hitler’s personal Mercedes-Benz roadster. “The powerful, low-slung, bullet-proof convertible was the center of attraction from noon to 4 p.m. on the Square, accompanied by five paratroopers, veterans of the 326th Engineer Battalion, 101 Airborne Division, captors of the auto, two driver mechanics and an escort of three military police,” The Lima News wrote.

Thanksgiving dawned cloudy and cold with temperatures in the low 20s, which held down attendance, but not enthusiasm, at Lima Stadium as South defeated Central. “Reserved sections of the stadium were slow in filling Thursday as those ticket-holders stayed in the warmth of their homes until the last moment,” The Lima News wrote, adding that the “biggest roar of the game went up at halftime when Old Sol broke through for some 10 seconds. The field lit up as though the lights were turned on for the game. The tremendous yell probably scared the sun away.”

The halftime show by the two bands was “short and impressive,” The Lima News wrote. “The musicians formed ‘VE-VJ’ commemorating Victory Day in both Europe and Japan. Then the bands formed a block ‘C’ and ‘sHs’ on their respective sides of the field and played their alma mater songs.”

That evening, after the game, after Thanksgiving services, after the turkey dinners, the snow arrived. “Winter roared into the Lima district with a vengeance Thursday night, carpeting the terrain with brittle snow and giving city, county and state sand crews their initial workout of the season,” the News reported that Friday.

The same day, in the same spot where Hitler’s car had been on display at the beginning of the week, Santa Claus was greeted by 5,000 children. Santa Claus, “riding atop a State Highway trailer laden with the plane which had brought him to Lima, drew a tumultuous cheer when he rounded the corner at Market Street and Public Square” The Lima News wrote, adding that the arrival kicked off Lima’s Christmas shopping season.

“To the tune of ‘Jingle Bells,’ and ‘Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,’ supplied by a loud-speaker system, Lima’s younger generation stomped its feet and sought protection from blustery winds in doorways around the roped-off section of the northwest corner of the square, as Santa made his appearance,” The Lima News wrote.

Although it was not delivered by Santa Claus, Lima’s housewives received a gift that same day. “With the government’s announcement Friday that all meat rationing would terminate at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Lima housewives heaved a sigh of relief and threw ration points to the winds,” The Lima News reported. “For they now will be able to purchase lush, juicy steaks and a pound of bacon for the asking and without the usual ‘Pal Joey’ pampering of stubborn butchers and over-the-counter winks.”


This feature is a cooperative effort between the newspaper and the Allen County Museum and Historical Society.


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