A look back in time to Thanksgiving week in 1909, shows how much things have changed, as well as how much they have stayed the same.
In the Monday edition of The Daily Progress delivered Monday, Nov. 22, 1909, it was reported how Virginia’s highest court was dealing with the holiday. The members of the Supreme Court of Appeals would take Thursday off.
But not wanting to lose a day’s service to the citizenry of the commonwealth, they planned to make up for their day off by working the following Saturday. One can imagine how appreciative Virginians were of such conscientious judges.
It’s in the mail
In recent days, there has been considerable news about the possibility of slower mail service in the area. This has been prompted by a U.S. Postal Service study recommending the shutting down of a local mail-processing facility.
Mail service also was making news a century ago this week. On Tuesday, Nov. 23, 1909, the headline “Aggravating Delays at Post Office” got front-page play in The Progress. Facts and figures were presented for all to see.
That very morning, the mail from the No. 25 train from the north had arrived in Charlottesville at 7:15 a.m., right on schedule. About 10 minutes later, the No. 20 train from the south had delivered its mail on time as well.
But when Miss George arrived at the general delivery window of the Charlottesville Post Office at 9:30 a.m., she discovered to her great annoyance that all the mail hadn’t been put up yet. And who could blame her for being upset, seeing as how a full two hours had passed?
The woman immediately demanded the attention of the postmaster in order to query him as to the reason for the unpardonable delay. He patiently explained that he was shorthanded that morning, and it wouldn’t be very many more minutes before all the mail had been sorted into the proper boxes.
She wanted answers
This explanation apparently didn’t satisfy Miss George, who promptly stomped off to the nearby offices of The Daily Progress. After hearing the story of woe and doing some checking, the reporting journalist reached the following conclusion.
“It is perfectly apparent, therefore, that the clerical force at the Charlottesville Post Office is entirely inadequate,” the journalist wrote in wrapping up the story. “These two mails are among the most important that come to the city.”
The story was presented in a serious vein, which says something about the times.
Obviously, people had come to rely on prompt and dependable mail service, and weren’t afraid to speak up when they didn’t get it.
A hundred years ago, a local salesman was speaking up too, but for another reason.
These days, many auto dealers are offering all kinds of promotions to move stagnating cars off their lots.
Back in November 1909, W.T. Martin was in a similar position. The only difference was that he was trying to move buggies off his lot at 213 E. Main St.
Martin used the age-old sales technique of reducing prices until all his 1909 models were sold. Nothing new about that.
Nothing new about running foot races during Thanksgiving week, either. The University of Virginia’s track team was scheduled to run a 9-mile “Baby Marathon” on Nov. 23, 1909.
The course started at Lambeth Field, went over Observatory Mountain and out to Maury’s Mill. From there it headed out to the end of Ridge Street, over to Fry’s Spring and then back to Lambeth Field. A final two laps around the quarter-mile track brought the distance to exactly 9 miles.
Except for the trail up and over Observatory Mountain, and the laps on the track, the entire route was along city streets. On race day, officials postponed the contest until the following week, because of muddy conditions.
While Charlottesville was being inundated with rain, the eastern part of the state continued to suffer through one of the worst droughts in years. Forest fires just west of Norfolk were raging. A report from that city on Nov. 21 described conditions being caused by a massive fire in the Dismal Swamp region.
“Showers of ashes have fallen in Norfolk and the sun this afternoon appeared through the smoke like a red ball,” the report stated.
Although local folks had to deal with muddy roads, most would have agreed it was better than what their neighbors to the east were having to withstand. Of course, all the rain didn’t bode well for a few people who had lost items in the quagmires that were passing for roads.
For example, a carpenter reported the loss of a 10-foot folding steel rule on “the road near H.H. Haskin’s new house on Marshall Street.” And a certainly distraught woman was offering a “liberal reward” for the recovery of her black lynx neckpiece lost on Scottsville Road about two miles south of Charlottesville.
One has to wonder if the neckpiece even would have been salvageable if found. The ad ran in the “LOST” column of the newspaper for several days, so it could have been an heirloom with sentimental value.
When Thanksgiving Day arrived that Thursday — Nov. 25, 1909 — most people had plenty of blessings to count. Then, as now, the good parts of life usually outweighed the bad.
Even Miss George probably had calmed down by that point in the week.