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New Year's 100 Years Ago

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Ardmore, Oklahoma

The New Whittington Café invited Ardmoreites to start the New Year right by dining at the closest hotel and café to the Santa Fe Depot. Their menu featured:

Cream of Asparagus Soup
Perfection Salad
Roast Young Turkey
Old-Fashioned Oyster Dressing
Cranberry Sauce
Snowflake Potatoes Corn Fritters
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Asparagus Tips on Toast
Whittington Special-Made Rolls
Hot Mince Pie

G. O. Alexander’s grocery cut the high cost of living with special sales on ten pounds of black eyed peas or pinto beans for $1.00. Kellog’s Korn Krisp Corn Flakes were the best, thick corn flake you ever tasted. Scott’s Emulsion declared that 40-year-old men and women stand at the portal of a crucial period, but the elixir didn’t beam anyone up. Instead, it nourished and invigorated the body. The Lady’s Aid Society served refreshments at the Baptist Watch Party. The Knight’s of Columbus invited members in good standing to attend their Annual New Year’s Dance.

An Ardmore lady complained to the Daily Ardmoreite asking them to announce that spooners attending local theaters are allowed to spoon without protest. The newspaper opined: “The censorship of the movies should not end with the film. It should be extended to the body of each individual theater”. A young couple’s want ad read, “Wanted: two or three-room furnished apartment with or without bath. Must be first-class”. (1)

Grayson County, Texas

Between 1890 and 1930, Denison’s population outnumbered Sherman’s in Grayson County, Texas. Farms in Grayson County covered 553,527 acres of Grayson County’s total 602,880 acres. The Sherman Fish and Meat Market received daily shipments of fresh meat and oysters. The Sanitary Grocer sold creamed chicken ala king, or you could buy mackerel in tomato sauce at Cash Grocery Company. Lea and Perrin’s Sauce added piquancy and zest to eggs. Cotton Boll Soap was the whitest soap ever that would not make hands rough or injure the most delicate clothes. Twenty-five interurban trains to Denison and fourteen trains to Dallas ran every day. Vaudeville acts played at the Lyric Theatre.

By 1919, Kidd Key College had “built a music school of solid quality” which described the junior college and music conservatory. The Handbook of Texas Music reports that after the end of WWI, young educated ladies of culture were less inclined to follow the strict rules of behavior embraced by Methodist Bishop Key’s soon-to-be-wife and head of Kidd-Key, Lucy Ann Thorton Kidd. The young ladies deemed Lucy’s policies of off-campus chaperonage, compulsory church attendance, dress code, and lady-like behavior excused. (2, 3, 4)

Durant, Oklahoma

People could pay bills by check and have the best receipt in the world on December 26, 1919, advertised the Durant Daily News. “Many a man has saved paying a bill a second time by producing a canceled check bearing the payee’s endorsement as evidence of payment.” Boys received air rifles, target guns, shotguns, and carpenter sets from the hardware store that Christmas. The John Phillips Sousa Band played a musical feast at the Liberty Theater. You could still buy the “World’s Best” horse-drawn wagon. Willhoite’s Bakery made Christmas and holiday pastries from the purest ingredients.

The most exciting conclusion to the year 1919 in Bryan County came with the discovery of the remains of a man who went missing in August. After having dinner with him at Finlay’s Restaurant, the wife of Loren Bleeker of Durant last saw her husband leaving for a poker game. He never returned home.

Ollie Toland found Bleeker’s remains near the Lone Oak school house in a patch of woods east of Durant. Ollie informed his relatives and friends that he found some human bones. On December 21st, authorities immediately began an inquest when a Lone Oak resident contacted the sheriff’s office with a report that Ollie had found some human bones. Ollie’s hear-sayers “were severely grilled and criticized by the county attorney for not contacting the proper authorities”. Drinking booze, shooting craps with a new-found friend, and money led to a murdered victim.

Loren Bleeker won all of Frank Sawyer’s money shooting craps after buying bitters from the local drug store. In his buggy, Frank took Loren out of town to a little hill to shoot craps and then took Loren a little further out in the countryside to continue their game near a culvert. The inevitable argument that ensued ended with Frank shooting Loren twice with a .45 caliber Colt. Using that popular iconic WWI weapon makes relevant sense even today since Frank was a member of the National Guard unit stationed at Ft. Sill. By the time Ollie found poor Loren, Loren was only bones and clothes.

After his murderous deed, Frank struggled to pull Loren into his buggy, stopped by a neighbor’s barn to pilfer some wire, put one wire around Loren’s neck, one around his body, and had no more trouble keeping Loren in the buggy. Frank moved on with dead Loren making this turn after turn on many roads. He finally stopped near a fence somewhere, pulled Loren out of the buggy by wires, used the wires to roll Loren under the fence, crawled between the barbed fence wires, and then used the wires to pull Loren through. Frank’s confession revealed that he only got a little blood on his clothes and his buggy cushion.

The Bryan County sheriffs took the high road in procuring Frank’s confession. Frank told them that he might want to make a statement in front of his father, a respected Lone Oak farmer. They allowed Frank to have a long conversation with his father. The officers stated that they had never heard a more horrible statement from the lips of a man. The coroner’s jury ruled that Loren Bleeker came to his death at the hands of Frank Sawyer. (5)

New Year’s Eve and Day

After President Lincoln freed southern U.S. slaves on January 1, 1863, December 31, 1862, New Year’s Eve became Freedom’s Eve for many slaves. Slaves all over our nation joined together in homes and churches to await the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. The watch night tradition actually began in 18th century Moravian Churches as a vigil to reflect on the past year and think about the coming year. Later, the founder of the Methodist movement, John Wesley, encouraged his followers to adopt the service. (7, 8)

In the south and southwest U.S., food researcher John Egerton reports that black eyed peas possess a mystical and mythical power to bring good luck when eaten on New Year’s Day. But Jewish people may have eaten black eyed peas for luck as far back as 500 A.D. to celebrate the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashshanah, in September. Eating black eyed peas with rice is of African origin. Collard greens are symbols for wealth—coins and green folding money. Ham and pork represent prosperity and cornbread stands in for gold. (6) Some people in eat 12 grapes, one for each month and hour on the clock.


D.S. Mixell:

"Many years ago, I made a New Year’s resolution to never make new year’s resolutions. . . It’s been the only resolution I’ve ever kept!"

1. Daily Ardmoreite [Ardmore, OK], 31 December 1919, pp. 1-8.
https://gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc158410/m1/8/zoom/?q=December%2031,%201919&resolution=32&lat=791.3292329464675&lon=4389.3579931351405

2. McIlvain, Myra. Texas Tales, Stories that Shaped a Landscape and People. Santa Fe. Sunstone Press, 2017.

3. Jasinski, Laurie. Handbook of Texas Music. College Station. Texas A&M University Press, February 22, 2012.

4. Sherman Daily Democrat [Sherman, TX], 13 November 1916, pp. 1-8.
https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth719392/m1/1/zoom/?resolution=4&lat=6094.461485647963&lon=2439.847689331126

5. “Frank Sawyer Confesses to Murder of Loren Bleeker.” Durant Weekly News, [Durant, OK] 26 December 1919, p. 1
https://gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc82867/m1/1/zoom/?q=Durant%20December%2031,%201919&resolution=1&lat=4880.7296013513005&lon=2105.1832762163262

6. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/watch-night/

7. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Watch-Night

8. https://www.southernliving.com/new-years/new-years-traditions-black-eyed-peas

 




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