Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – Thanksgiving in 1943
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
This week in Sapulpa history, observing Thanksgiving Day during World War II had a different meaning. In 1943, the week of the holiday had many happenings in and out of town:
“Thanksgiving in Sapulpa this year will be much in contrast to past Thanksgivings when turkeys were in abundance, prices much less than today, and a roast hen would take the mighty place on the table instead of a fat turkey.”
It was announced in Sapulpa that businesses, houses, and offices would be closed. Most grocery stores would be closed for the holiday, too. The Sapulpa Herald announced the staff would not have an issue out for the holiday. “Thanksgiving in Sapulpa To Be Observed - Union Church Service Thursday Morning.” Even though places were closed over the town, churches joined together for a Thanksgiving service.
Headline news was all about the war in Europe and Asia. “Berlin Pounded by Devastating Raid Last Night - Nazi Capital is All But Paralyzed in Battering Assault.” “Nimitz Claims Pacific Victory - Battle of Gilbert Islands is Won; Jap Fleet Challenged into Open Combat.” Soldiers returned home for the holidays; some only were able to write home; some not at all.
In the Democrat News, a column was dedicated to the military members from Sapulpa and Creek County. The “News of our Men and Women in Uniform” informed the area of what was happening to our local heroes. For instance, the Kelly family shared what Kathryn and Thomas, believed to be siblings, were doing during the 1943 Thanksgiving. “Pvt [Kathryn] Kelly, who is with the Women’s Marine Corp, is stationed at Camp Elliot, San Diego, Calif.” “Thomas Kelly [Jr.] is attending officers candidate school at the Harvard business school at Mellon Hall in Boston, Mass.*”
*Note: it is believed they are brother and sister; their addresses in the 1940 city directory are the same, and are listed as “students” with Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Kelly Sr. However, in the column for these updates, it has Kathryn misspelled as “Catherine.” But while Thomas [Jr.] was listed as “son of Mr. and Mrs. T.G. Kelly” in his update, “Catherine” did not have that listed with her update. Previous articles that mention Kathryn state she is a PVT in the Women’s Marine Corp in San Diego.
Many of the names listed people who were “somewhere overseas” and people who are being promoted, in training, or reassigned to a new station in the states.
Another way to keep friends and families informed was to read about our local students. Students got out of classes early that Wednesday before the holiday; some college students returned home to visit, too. Some had their name in headlines during the holiday for their achievements. “Young Sapulpa Artist is Home for Thanksgiving - Richard Ruhl.” “Former Chieftain Wins New Honors on Seaman Squad - Dale Wortman, Second Class Petty Officer and Seaman Guard at the U.S. Naval Air.”
Richard Ruhl had graduated from Sapulpa High in 1943. He came home for the holiday after he began work in California to work for Walt Disney Studios as a student animator. “His first assignment would be on Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. His selection by the Disney Studio came after two months of training.”
Dale Wortman was stationed in Corpus Christi, and made headlines in the Beam paper published in the U.S. Naval Air Training, “for his participation in football activities. Wortman one of the best performers on the lineup for the Seaman Guard.” He had graduated from Sapulpa High in 1942, and enlisted after graduation.
Football season came to an end for the Sapulpa High School. Sapulpa Chieftains would take the football field for their annual Thanksgiving game. “Chiefs Wind Up Grid Season in Pre-Turkey Day Game Here.” And if high school football wasn’t enough for the football fans “entertainment for the holiday would find football fans motoring to Tulsa to view the annual Tulsa-Arkansas game.”
Sapulpa would face Okmulgee for the Turkey game. “The two are equally matched and as a result the game should be a most interesting one.” Even though a large local crowd showed, the Chieftains ended their season with a loss, 13 to 7.
The 1943 Thanksgiving holiday had a lot of focus on the war, local heroes, and student lives. The town itself had another success for the town was Sapulpa’s drive to reach their War Chest Drive quota. “Sapulpa has gone over the top in its $10,000 quota.” Sapulpa was able to bring in over $12,000 for the war cause. There were a lot of hardships and a lot of triumphs, but Sapulpa always found its way through.
The information found on this page has been researched through Sapulpa (and area) newspapers, Sapulpa Historical Society archives, books, and photographs, Sapulpa yearbooks, city directories, and other local authors. Any other sources will be labeled and named as the research continues. Any mistakes will be noted and adjusted as needed.