The last Thanksgiving of World War II

Thanksgiving lies about halfway between June 6 and May 8.

That placed Thanksgiving 1944, 75 years ago this week, about halfway between D-Day and the end of World War II in Europe.

Everyone knew the D-Day invasion of France was coming before it happened; only the date was unknown.

By Thanksgiving 1944, everyone also knew the end of the war was on the way.

The Germans were being pushed out of occupied Europe and Japan’s offensive capabilities had been largely destroyed.

After the all-out effort to gear up for the battle against the Axis powers, life in the United States was starting to show signs of a return to normal, but the Denison newspapers, in the weeks surrounding the holiday in 1944, provided many reminders of what Americans had sacrificed - and ample evidence that the war was not yet over.

The November 16 Denison Bulletin featured an advertisement for used cars at the Gaulding Motor Company on Main Street. The newest car for sale was a 1937 Lafayette.

Automobile manufacturing plants had been converted into assembly lines for tanks, trucks and aircraft early in the war.

“We used to ride a lot,” an ad for Philips Motor Oil reminded readers in the November 16 Denison Review.

“Wistful young America may not be able to understand why those long, lovely rides in the country are now only a memory.”

High-quality motor oil was necessary to keep an older car on the road.

Civilian automobile production would not resume until after the war ended.

“Your country is still at war. Are you?” asked a First National Bank advertisement on another page of that issue of the Review.

The bank urged residents to buy BIG BONDS – not little bonds – to support the war effort.

A story in the November 16 Bulletin told of 4-H girls saving money for War Bond purchases.

“Money for the bond may be earned or accumulated by doing without articles that are not absolute necessities, Stella Miller, county 4-H bond chairman, suggests,” the story relates.

“O.K. Given Hike in Milk Prices,” a front page story of the same issue reported:

“Effective Saturday, Nov. 11, the retail price of fluid milk could be raised to 12 cents per quart in any town under 10,000 population in the Sioux City OPA district, which comprises Crawford county, W.D. Mundt, county war price and rationing chairman, reported this week.”

The OPA was the Office of Price Administration, which controlled rationing and subsidization of scarce commodities through the war.

A large Safeway advertisement in the November 16 Review showed that groceries, in a wide variety, were available.

The ad would not have looked out of place in a year without war.

Link sausages, ground beef, tomatoes, green beans, Ritz Crackers, macaroni, olives, roasted peanuts and a range of other items were advertised.

The items were not available in unlimited quantities, however.

The war was still on and the ration schedule in the November 23 Bulletin listed the rationing of meats and fats, processed foods, sugar, gasoline, fuel oil and shoes.

Violating the rationing rules brought serious consequences.

For selling gasoline without ration coupons, Brown’s D-X Service, of Sac City, was “suspended from dealing in gasoline for a period of one year, according to M.E. Rawlings, Sioux City District OPA director,” the Thanksgiving Day Review reported.

Strict government control of the economy was a source of concern for many as the end of the war neared.

An editorial on that subject, in the November 16 Bulletin, asked, “Are We In For Trouble?”

“During the war, production has been maintained with little thought of cost,” the unnamed writer noted. “As industry moves into competitive peacetime activity subject to the normal laws of supply and demand, cost will become a ruling factor.

“If the regulators intend to set up a permanent price control system on the obsolete theory that industry is going to look for excuses to boost prices after the war, the country is in for trouble. The very thing we warned against will happen. A return to normal equilibrium in costs and prices that will promote trade will be blocked by arbitrary intervention.”

With all the concerns of the day, Thanksgiving was not forgotten.

An ad in the November 16 Bulletin announced a Thanksgiving dance at Denison’s Columbia Hall. Charley Kucera and his orchestra were scheduled to perform.

Don Strickland and his orchestra were to perform at a Thanksgiving dance in Westside, according to the Bulletin.

The Royal Café, on Broadway, announced itself in the Review to be “Headquarters for the Thanksgiving Feast.”

The Safeway ad in the Review suggested that shoppers should grace their Thanksgiving Day tables “with a Norbest Turkey, of U.S. Prime Grade (the best available).”

The ad included instructions on “A new way to carve,” from a book by M.O. Cullen of the National Live Stock and Meat Board.

Both newspapers, following the holiday, noted many of the visitors homes in the area had received.

An ad in the Bulletin from the Chicago and North Western Railroad reminded readers to be thankful for a break in the clouds of war:

“The Thanksgiving season, perhaps more than any other, should be a time for giving thanks to a kind Providence for the good things that have come to us. There’s much for which to be thankful. Our industries have met the challenge of war. With fortitude and skill, workers have labored long hours, producing all the things needed to wage victorious battle.”

The front page of the Thanksgiving Day Bulletin took time to remind Denison residents about the spirit of the holiday.

“Most thankful, of course, will be the mothers and fathers of sons who will be able to join them in the intimacy of the family circle on Thanksgiving Day this year. But there will be many homes in which service flags hang, where vacant chairs will be mute evidence of the fact that sacrifices must continue – sacrifices that are making it possible for us to give thanks that our cities have not been bombed, that our people have suffered no starvation, that our children are safe…. Yes, there is much for which we can give thanks this year, and especially to those who have given their lives that we may continue free.”

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