Thanksgiving in 1914 Atlanta

You know the holiday season has begun when a leading grocery store advertises “rich fruit cake, just like you used to have for Thanksgiving.” The 5-pound staple mentioned here came in a decorative tin and was only $1.50 in the ad,
which should tell you right away that this is Thanksgiving many years ago — to be precise, Atlanta in 1914.


What might surprise you, however, is that the fruit cake and a full line of groceries from fresh turkey [24 cents a pound] to cheeses, flour, spices and nuts were sold in the “food court” of High’s Dept. Store. One of Atlanta’s lead-ing and most elegant retailers, High’s also was gearing up for the Christmas shopping season that Thanksgiving weekend. All the great department stores proclaimed sales to lure overfed shoppers into their emporiums so that Thanksgiving this year would be a “two day affair.” Sumptuous furs from muffs to capes were 25 percent off at an-other store and everyone offered bargains for the whole family with a special emphasis on the fact that there were only 24 shopping days before Christmas. The great age of advertising had reached Atlanta.


All this excess was fairly new one hundred years ago as the holiday became a time to splurge in all areas. Abun-dant food remained the day’s keynote. While some tables might groan under the weight of 20-pound turkeys, many city people escaped hot kitchens and piles of dirty dishes for the seemingly endless entertainment options. First of all, you didn’t have to eat at home since the great and small hotels offered full Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings for about $1.00 (the more elegant Piedmont charged $1.25 with dancing in the Palm Room). The venerable Kimball House vied with newer hostelries like the Imperial, Ansley and Winecoff with musical offerings to help your digestion.


To satisfy your cravings for sweets, there were the three stores of the local Nunnally Candy Company. Although you could get lunch also, the real attractions were the sugary goodies made in-house. Thanksgiving “specials” included mints and spun candy balls in any color, individual angel food cakes iced in multiple hues (75 cents a dozen), ice cream in bricks or fancy shapes, layer cakes, and, of course, fruit cakes.


There were a few church services on Thanksgiving day but more people seemed attracted to sports on their day off. The country clubs were scenes of golf tournaments for both men and women. Grant Field at Georgia Tech was also jammed for the annual “Turkey Day” (Yes, it was called that way back in 1914) contest. That year, Tech faced Clemson and emerged the winner. The same will not be repeated 100 years later. The Jackets do face Clemson at Grant Field in November but it will be on the Saturday before Turkey Day with no game scheduled on the holiday.


By Dick Funderburke

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