The year ahead “promises greater prosperity, greater development and more home building than ever before,” the secretary of Lima’s board of commerce told the Lima News on the last day of 1923.
The day ahead, the newspaper noted, promised a big change from the unusually warm weather the region had been experiencing as a front moved over the states east of the Mississippi dragging with it “decidedly colder weather” and snow.
The night ahead, local officials promised, would be dry.
“Lima on New Year’s Eve will be a veritable Sahara with nary an oasis to drive away the cares of the old year and quench the thirst of revelers planning to watch the old year out and the new year in,” the News wrote.
“Sheriff Harvey B. Crosson and Police Chief Lanker’s cohorts are planning to swoop down on public gathering and place the lid on tight. Liquor parties must go. Prohibition is to be enforced,” the News wrote, adding, “Hip pocket ‘toters’ may escape and spread a little New Year’s joy, but the shipment of large cargoes of whisky into the city will be under surveillance of deputies and police to be stationed on inter-county highways and along routes of steam and electric traffic.”
Lima had reason to celebrate that New Year’s Day a century ago – and did, even managing some surreptitious sips of sin despite Prohibition.
“Locally, it has been the best year Lima ever enjoyed. Factories have been running steadily, if not at the peak. Concerns in receivership are working out of the dark. The railway equipment and shops have experienced flattering prosperity,” the News opined December 30, 1923.
“Stop for a minute and picture Lima’s position,” James E. Morton, head of the board of commerce told the News on New Year’s Eve. “Here she sits, the center, the hub of a rich and wonderfully progressive farming section of the country; she has locomotive works, steel industry, motor truck works, all the big elements of industry, and then she is crossed by great railroad systems, the Pennsylvania, Baltimore & Ohio, the Erie, the D.T.&I., which Henry Ford has made famous; all good systems, all great systems and they are contributing to the prosperity of this city for as they prosper so does Lima. Then we have our wonderful interurban trolley lines. In every direction, Lima can get into quick rail communication with the entire world.”
On top of that, the city’s residents were remarkably hale and hearty in 1923 “without a single epidemic to mar its health records,” according to the Lima Republican-Gazette. “Records of the bureau of vital statistics in the city health department bear out the contention that 1923 was the healthiest year in Lima’s history,” the newspaper reported. “The stork who fills orders for Lima’s parents was a busy bird throughout the year, births totaling 1,014, a record for the city. Death was a sluggard by comparison, only 592 succumbing.” The city’s population, the Republican-Gazette noted, was estimated at about 48,000 in 1923.
One cloud in Lima’s sunny sky was an increase in divorces. “The statistics disclose that more than 37 marriages of every 100 performed in Allen County end in marital discord, and are dissolved by the courts,” the News wrote on New Year’s Day 1924. “Many of the persons divorced, according to court attaches, are soon remarried and within the space of a few years are back in court again asking for freedom.”
Some of those divorces – as well as marriages – likely had their genesis in New Year’s Eve celebrations.
“The young man (the new year) arrived, in all the modern frills, promptly on time at midnight and for the first time in the history of Lima a New Year’s baby was greeted with the music of chimes, pealing their carols of joyousness from the tower of Trinity M.E. church while radio fans, an hour earlier Lima time, listened to the greatest of all American music, the ringing of the Liberty Bell in Independence Hall at Philadelphia,” according to the News.
“Whistles blew, Trinity chimes rang, firecrackers were exploded, blank cartridges were fired, and folks made joyous despite the rule of Volstead (the law which put the teeth in Prohibition), attempted to welcome the new baby with touching melodies sung more or less out of tune,” the News wrote. “Tuesday, being properly observed as the natal day of the newest baby, the public offices were closed and all stores, save those dispensing drugs, kept their doors locked. And the drug stores remained closed during the afternoon. Theaters had special attractions for the afternoon and evening.”
The News reported that more than 200 couples attended the Annual New Year’s Eve party at the Elks, which featured food, dancing and cabaret acts while a dinner-dance at the Hotel Norval drew 100 couples. “The dining room was artistically decorated with palms and baskets of red carnations and greenery were used on the tables,” the News wrote.
The rival Republican-Gazette wrote that “Lima gave the year 1924 a real, old fashioned welcome Monday night and it seemed that most of the city’s population stayed awake until after midnight, in order to take part in the celebration which marked the birth of the new arrival. Hardly a social function but lasted until long after the witching hour. There were watch parties galore and dances and other affairs to add zest to the festivities and hilarity reigned supreme throughout the entire city and surrounding countryside.”
That hilarity, despite the best efforts to keep the celebration dry, involved booze “as hundreds elected to celebrate the night in true pre-Volstead fashion” leaving police and county law enforcement officer with a “stiff proposition” enforcing the law. “The bowl that cheers was conspicuous by its absence but the hip pocket flask, resorted to surreptitiously seemed (an) acceptable substitute,” the Republican-Gazette noted.
“The weather man put a special zip into the atmosphere to liven up the proceedings, but the first cold spell of the winter failed to dampen the ardor of celebrants who, despite morning-after headaches and drowsy eyes, Tuesday voted the celebration one of the best in Lima’s history,” the newspaper added.
This feature is a cooperative effort between the newspaper and the Allen County Museum and Historical Society.
See past Reminisce stories at limaohio.com/tag/reminisce
Reach Greg Hoersten at [email protected].