22 November 2020

In 1918, SLC residents largely curtailed Thanksgiving festivities during the Spanish Flu pandemic

Cooks at the Ft Douglas Hospital prepare
for Thanksgiving, SL Trib 1918-11-28.
In Nov 1918, the second wave of the Spanish Flu was spreading throughout SLC and Utah. 

The mass gathering events of the State Fair and LDS General Conference the previous month and the large public gatherings on Armistice Day of November 11 1918 were taking their toll and flu case counts and deaths were on the rise.

SLC had closed the schools, churches, clubs, and theaters and had limited the number of people in stores and on public transportation.

Restrictions were still in place on Thanksgiving, Nov 28 1918. All public gatherings that would normally be celebrated had to be cancelled including church services, club gatherings, and all sporting events.

Even the 13th Annual Newsboys Thanksgiving hosted by Russel L. Tracy of the Tracy Loan and Trust Company (and now know for Tracy Aviary) was cancelled for 1918.

The large public institutions such as the jails, orphanages, and hospitals still provided a festive feast for their residents but mostly Thanksgiving was celebrated on a smaller scale in people’s homes.

Churches adapted to the situation and many pastors prepared and sent out a program for people to observe within their own homes including Bible readings or a short sermon read by members of the family.

Charity organizations were still active and delivered turkeys, geese, ducks, roasts, vegetables, and pies to needy families in SLC. The ducks having been donated by the Elks’ Lodge from their recent hunting expedition.

The Fort Douglas Military Hospital, which was one of the isolation hospitals for flu victims, planned a large feast which included more than 200 ducks and turkeys.

However, because of the high price of turkeys in 1918, the County Jail provided chicken and the State Prison provided pork with all the normal Thanksgiving fixings.

Sources: SL Trib 1918-11-28, Des News 1918-11-30

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