In 1944, there were two Thanksgivings in Georgia.

It wasn't that there was too much to celebrate in one day; rather, it was a political move that left the state wondering when it should celebrate the annual day.

Since Abraham Lincoln declared the first official Thanksgiving in 1863, the tradition had been to hold the day on the last Thursday of November. But in 1939, president Franklin Roosevelt came under pressure by the retail industry to change the date to help bolster Christmas sales amid the Great Depression.

So Roosevelt  moved Thanksgiving up a week, a move that created a lot of controversy and pushback. Democrats supported the move while Republicans were largely opposed. The change in date also messed up college football since many teams and leagues had games tied to Thanksgiving Day.

In 1941, Congress set the date to the fourth Thursday in November, but not all states followed that idea. Georgia, like several other states, set it own date.

In 1944, there were five Thursdays in November. The Georgia legislature had set the date for Thanksgiving on the last Thursday while Congress had it as the fourth Thursday. Thus, that year the state had two official Thanksgivings.

This newspaper wrote about the situation, saying it wasn't sure which day Jefferson would celebrate Thanksgiving in 1944, but noted that the school, bank and post office would be closed on the fourth Thursday, the national date.

"The editors of The Herald will spend the day in Atlanta where they are invited to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner," the newspaper said.

•••

One of the happiest — and saddest — Thanksgivings was in 1918.

It was a happy time because WWI had just ended earlier in the month.

There was a celebration in Jefferson on Nov. 11, 1918 when the war ended:

"At six o'clock Monday morning, the whistle of the Jefferson Mills, with loud blasts of noise, announced that German had signed the armistice, and peace again reigned in the world. These blasts caused a thrill of  joy to fill every heart and every soul forgot their sorrows and lifted their thoughts to the Almighty in a prayer of thankfulness that a wonderful victory had been won, and peace reigned.

"In the afternoon at 4 o'clock, the business houses were closed, and the people assembled on the public square to express thankfulness. Automobiles decorated in the flags of our country blew their horns; the small boy ran riot over the streets with his noisy powder guns and fireworks; the schoolgirls sang patriotic airs and all joined in the celebration."

But it was also a sad time:

"There was an air of sadness with the joy for there are some who will never return..."

Celebrations like that were held all around the world on 11/11/18. The grandfather of Jeffersonian Bill Curtis, who was in Paris as a wounded soldier when the war ended, wrote a beautiful letter to a woman in New York about what happened that day:

"I had been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Veiled Prophet crowds in St. Louis and Election crowds in New York, but I must admit now that I have never seen before any real crowd anywhere," said Harry C. Curtis in his letter. "The streets downtown last night were simply full from building line to building line and only a narrow lane for vehicles was maintained by the police with extreme difficulty....The crowd felt so good that they could not or did not try to restrain themselves and there was a warmth of feeling and spirit shown that I never expect to see equaled again as long as I live..."

•••

Of course, the fall of 1918 was also the time of the first large wave of the Spanish Flu. The disease killed millions around the world, including a lot of people in Jackson County.

The spread of that disease was linked to WWI and the movement of people and troops around the globe. 

You have to wonder if these celebrations, too, caused the spread of the flu. Another wave hit in early 1919.

This year, that is the worry about Thanksgiving as the Coronavirus appears to be spreading across the country. Locally, the virus is reaching a new high infection rate.

Will family gatherings in the coming days make that even worse?

It will take about three weeks for that data to show up. 

Meanwhile, many people around here are fatigued with dealing with the virus and have given up on wearing masks in public and in social distancing. 

Several vaccines are now in sight and could begin distribution in early 2021.

Seems like a shame to have come this far with light at the end of the tunnel, only to let our guard down with protocols that could save lives.

Mike Buffington is co-publisher of Mainstreet Newspapers. He can be reached at mike@mainstreetnews.com.

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