Thursday, November 15, 2012

This has surely been a beautiful day: Thanksgiving 1918

The holiday season is almost upon us.  At the museum, decorations are going up for Five Places of Christmas, our annual holiday open house on December 1. However, before the rush of the season takes over, we will celebrate Thanksgiving.

1917 Postcard - front
1917 Postcard - back
 To "Ma" (Mrs. M.L. Trask) from Jessie 

This post highlights Thanksgiving Day 1918 as celebrated by the rural Harvey County family of George Kline.  In 1918, the Kline family lived on a farm in Macon Township.  Family members were parents, George & Linnie Kline, and sisters, Grace & Waive.  A son, Maurice, was serving in the Navy. The letters between Waive Kline, and her fiance, Glenn Wacker, who was with the AFE in France, are featured in the exhibit, Harvey County on the Homefront.

Waive Kline, 1915

Peace had been declared on November 11, 1918, but American troops were still in France. Often the families at home did not know where their loved one was and mail service was sporadic. Glenn Wacker was with the Motor Transport Corps and the Grave Registration Bureau in France during the winter of 1918-19.  Waive's Thanksgiving Day letter expressed uncertainty and concern regarding his location.
"I have been wondering where you were - in England or France and now I know. Your father called up yesterday and said he had just rec'd a letter from you and that you were in France. . . . they surely took you there in a hurry.  I am glad to at least have an idea where you are."
Another anxiety mentioned by Waive was the increasing fear of the "Flu". Officials urged people to stay home and several schools were closed.
"The schools in Halstead, Burrton, Hutchinson have closed again on account of the Flu. Also heard that Normal at Emporia had closed until the first of the year."
Weather also influenced the family's Thanksgiving Day plans. Overnight it had snowed a great deal.  This meant that the rural roads were impassible and any guests that had planned on joining the Kline family would not be able to come.  
"We had invited Aunt Elva's here, so we were rather disappointed when the roads had to get so bad."  
Despite worries about Glenn, the flu and bad weather, the Kline family enjoyed a quiet Thanksgiving at home.  Waive wrote:
"This has surely been a beautiful day.  This morning when we got up everything was covered with snow.  The evergreen trees in the front were so full of snow that they bent almost to the ground.  The sun shone all day and it was so warm that most of the snow melted.  The roads of course were bad."
Waive to Glenn Wacker
Thanksgiving Day 1918
"As it was the Kline family ate their Thanksgiving dinner by their 'lonesomes.'  We didn't have an especially big feed but had a plenty.  We had enough so that this evening we didn't get supper as no one wanted much."
Heart of the Blue Ridge
by Waldron Baily
"I read a lot and tatted some.  I started to read a book last night after supper entitled "Heart of the Blue Ridge."  It is a southern story and very exciting.  I just finished it before I started to write this letter." 
Waive gives us a brief peek into life during the winter of 1918, a time without TV (so no after dinner football), the internet or passable roads.  Even the telephone was  relatively new to rural Kansans in 1918.    Waive was able to see the beauty around her and be thankful during an uncertain time.

Postcards from HCHM Postcard File
Letter -Waive Kline, Harvey County, Ks to Glenn Wacker, AFE France, Thanksgiving Day 1918.  Glenn & Waive Kline Wacker Collection, Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives, Newton, Ks.

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