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Thanksgiving 1917


Today is Thanksgiving. On this date in 1917, the people of North Dakota were planning for the first major holiday with many loved ones away, awaiting transportation to the battlefields of Europe. Although it was a more subdued and solemn occasion than past Thanksgivings, with most of North Dakota’s servicemen still stateside, it was not a grim occasion.

Most families planned to celebrate with a Thanksgiving dinner, but what kind of dinner? Many were tempted to dine on the traditional turkey, depending upon their ability to obtain, or afford, the necessary ingredients, but most turkeys were destined for the military. For the patriotic, there was the Hooverized dinner, recommended by Herbert Hoover, the US Food Commissioner. The Hooverized dinner called for a wheatless, meatless, fatless and sugarless meal, but for this occasion, most avoided the meatless option. One menu proposed chicken, potatoes, carrots, a green salad, cornbread and honey, with fruit for dessert. Beets and turnips were suggested as substitutes for potatoes. Oysters and fish were other popular items. Better yet, a variety of meals could be found at local hotels, including Hooverized versions, with the added benefit of on-site entertainment.

For many soldiers of the 164th, as well as the 116th. Engineers and the 114th Infantry, which contained former units of the North Dakota Second Regiment, Cupid, not Tom Turkey, was King. Along with the normal trappings of the season, Thanksgiving week was a time for weddings prior to the troops’ departure for France, and the weddings took all forms, from regal, to simple ceremonies, and even elopements. The wedding of Capt. Charles Rouse of Crosby and Myrtle Kreiser of Minneapolis was an elegant but quiet affair that took place in the Martinique Hotel in New York City. On the other hand, the wedding of Walter Zuber of Harvey and Myrtle May Allis of Cleveland, Ohio, took place using a tent with a makeshift altar at Camp Mills. The Rev. H. G. Markley, the Fighting Chaplain with the 116th, performed the ceremony, and the former Second Regimental Band, conducted by Harold Backman, played the Lohengrin Wedding March. The regiment’s ukulele band then serenaded the couple. Following that, the couple passed between two lines of soldiers to a waiting taxicab at the end of the street. Over sixteen hundred soldiers showered them with rice.

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis


The Williston Graphic, November 29, 1917

The Grand Forks Herald, November 26, 1917

The Evening World, New York, November 26, 1917

Evening Capitol News, Boise, ID October 26, 1917