Holidays in 1918

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LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Does history repeat itself? As the holiday season begins, Eyewitness News photojournalist Joseph Butash, with the help of the Lackawanna Historical Society, takes a look back to the 1918 Spanish Flu and its similarities to today.

“People keep drawing that comparison to the 1918 epidemic. And when you look at the old newspapers, a lot of times you’ll find very similar things-about schools closing or reopening, the desire to get back to some sort of normalcy, especially around the holiday season,” Mary Ann Savakinus of the Lackawanna Historical Society said.

“The theaters, interesting to see the articles about the theaters reopening and trying to find a positive twist on things. Where the politheatre talked about how they did some repairs that were needed when no one was in the theater. It was the first time in four or five years that the theatre had been closed down for any length of time,” Savakinus said.

“This is November 27 (1918), this is Wednesday the day before Thanksgiving. There is an article about the drop in the number of cases. 6:00 last evening representatives of the health department had placarded 3,370 homes, wherin there are 5,568 cases,” Savakinus said.

“Do your Christmas shopping early, the government requests it. It’s Clarke Brothers stores.
In Pittston on December 6, 1918, they are discussing the opening of schools. It is possible that sessions will be resumed next Monday morning (1918),” Savakinus said.

“Plan your Thanksgiving dinner or some ideas for (Christmas) gifts, you’re seeing still the obituaries for the people who are dying from influenza (1918), so it is still a daily part of their life. But it seems not unlike today, a lot of people are trying to find the normalcy of it,” Savakinus said.

Lackawannahistory.org is collecting experiences and feelings about how you’re coping during the current COVID-19 pandemic. There is a survey, or you can download your own journal entry.

They tell Eyewitness News they have already received more than 400 responses so far.

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