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Eighty years ago: 2 Thanksgivings, and death of a grandson of The Shire


Since Civil War times, the annual Presidential Proclamation set the last Thursday in November as a day of thanks -- until Franklin D. Roosevelt and 1939 came along. At the behest of a national retail merchants' association, FDR rather belatedly (in late October) set the date as November 23rd, the fourth Thursday instead of the traditional fifth.

The reason? You'll be shocked -- shocked, I tell you! -- to learn it was to give merchants more days for Christmas sales, for in those quaint olden times, it was considered poor taste to display Christmas decorations or to hawk holiday merchandise before Thanksgiving. Still, glimmers of dawn finally had begun to dispel the long night of the decade-long depression, and any chance to nudge the economy along was worth a try, even if it meant upsetting any number of already planned Thanksgiving activities. (Calendar makers expressed justifiable anger, and in that gentler era, most collegiate football seasons ended with a Thanksgiving weekend game. As a matter of fact, some conferences forbade any games after that date, and since the schedules had been set months in advance, all was chaos.)

Needless to say, confusion ensued.

Of the then-48 states, almost half folded like a cheap tent in a high wind and went with the earlier date (this a couple of years before federal law specified the fourth Thursday); governors of most of the other states proclaimed the 30th, the traditional fifth Thursday, as the holiday; and the remaining two or three rebellious, spineless, or brilliant (that debate continues) governors declared both dates as holidays.

Almost two and a half thousand miles west, a young man with strong ties to Adair County -- a grandson of The Shire -- lost his life on November 23, Thanksgiving Day in California. Dr. Boyce Young Hatfield was graduated from medical school in June 1939 from the University School of Medicine and immediately took an internship at the Marine Hospital in San Francisco.

He and two friends, both doctors, and, according to at least one newspaper account, his fiancee, Miss Betty Lindemuth, of near Lebanon, Ohio, had gone on a seaside outing that day. Newspaper accounts vary, but in essence, he drowned "in the surf off Devil's Slide near Montara, on the south coast," despite heroic efforts by his companions to save him.

He and Miss Lindemuth planned to be married on December 1st, on what would have been his 26th birthday. Dr. Hatfield's mother was the former Miss Eliza Maude Young of Adair County; she was maternal-side aunt of Drs. Louis and Oris Aaron.

Back home, Columbia and Adair County, progressive in so many ways and traditional in so many others, eschewed the Rooseveltian proclamation and held an unwavering course to celebrate on the 30th. That morning, Rev. O.B. Mylum, pastor of Columbia Baptist, preached the sermon at the annual union meeting of the town churches, assembled that year at the Methodist Church, with singers from all the churches providing music for the event.

In the November 29 edition of the News, J. Press Miller and J.T. Booher, proprietors of the Hole in the Wall Market, offered freshly dressed turkeys and chickens for just-in-time shoppers, and the Southern Continental Telephone Company made bargain rates available for long distance calls on Thanksgiving Day.

The Bank of Columbia, Community Public Service, and Paull Drug Co. jumped the season, if ever so marginally, with Christmas ads in the same edition.

This story was posted on 2019-11-24 10:02:29
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Hole in the Wall Market

2019-11-24 - Columbia, KY - Photo courtesy JIM.
This ad for the Hole in the Wall Market appeared in the November 29 and one other edition of the News, the only mentions found anywhere in the paper of the establishment. J.T. Booher was J. Press Miller's son-in-law.

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