World War I in Lawrence: Armistice means a happier-than-normal Thanksgiving
Editor’s note: Local writer Sarah St. John compiles reports of what it was like to be in Lawrence during World War I.
Hearts were undoubtedly full at the first Thanksgiving of the post-war era, which occurred on Nov. 28, 1918. According to the Journal-World for that day, “there was not a period of the day in which there was not some sort of Thanksgiving day celebration. It was not the Home Coming day that it has been on former occasions nor the Home Coming day that is expected, but all gave thanks because of the Home Coming day that is now in the near future for many Lawrence homes.” Services were held at nearly every church, with the Catholic church holding Masses for those who had fallen and singing a Te Deum for the ending of the war. Lawrence grocers indicated there was “a plenty of all the usual ‘fixin’s'” except for celery, for which shipment was for some reason delayed.
Many of the student-soldiers who were still part of the Student Army Training Corps had left the university to enjoy Thanksgiving feasts at their homes. Others were “given invitations to assist Lawrence families to dispose of the dinner that Johnnie or Willie will be back home to eat for himself before another twelve months has passed.” For those who remained in the barracks, the Army had not thought to provide a Thanksgiving dinner, but E. C. Bricken and Billy Hutson, who had been running the mess hall, took it upon themselves to plan and serve a noontime meal consisting of “59 birds, baked a golden brown with dressing, cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes, giblet sauce, celery, and on top of all that, ice cream, mince pie, and hot chocolate…. ‘There won’t be any ‘eggs on the square’ or beans, or prunes, or bitter coffee within a million miles of the mess halls as far as the boys’ dinner is concerned,'” Bricksen said. “‘We want to give the boys a real Thanksgiving dinner, one that will taste like mother’s cooking and one that will leave a good taste in their mouths for their S.A.T.C. life.'”