by Jon Wilson
Thanksgiving Day often is a time for reminiscence. On this day, here is a compendium of St. Petersburg events harvested from old newspaper clips, one of which is more than 100 years old, and one of which lives on to the present day. All the events happened on or near Thanksgiving in the years noted.
In 1963: Rev. Enoch Davis, Second Bethel Baptist Church, was the host minister at a joint Thanksgiving service among several churches. Among those participating were New Hope Baptist, Travellers Rest Baptist, Bethel AME and Mt. Zion Progressive Baptist.
Meanwhile, LeeAnna Boynton, Valeria Berrian, Rose Marshall and Ida Bell Robinson, members of the community’s tuberculosis committee, launched a Christmas project to provide gifts for patients at the Southwest Florida Tuberculosis Hospital.
From 1953: Mrs. Alberta Green, president of the City Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, was appointed chair of the 1953 NAACP Christmas Seals Drive. Named to work with her were Mrs. Janie Jackson, the Rev. F.E. Sneed, Mrs. Gertrude Abrams, Mrs. Lessie Bell, Mrs. Eunice Postell and Mrs. Lucy Hart.
Elnora Oliver, Miss Gibbs High School, and Mildred McCoy, Miss Homecoming, were named to represent St. Petersburg in the 21st Annual Orange Blossom Football Classic in Miami.
Santa Claus and his helpers tossed hundreds of chocolate kisses to children during a parade through the community. Newspaper reports said excitement reached its highest pitch during a stop at 22nd Street South and Ninth Avenue.
Here’s an interesting episode going all the way back to 1911: Elder Jordan Sr., who would have been about 60 years old at the time of this incident, was accused of beating up a white man who insulted Jordan’s wife Mary.
Mayor Albert Blocker was the presiding court officer and heard Jordan’s testimony that the man repeatedly tried to talk to Mrs. Jordan, finally coming up on the couple from behind. Blocker at first sentenced Jordan to 30 days of street labor, but immediately rescinded the sentence and simply fined Jordan $10 plus court costs.
An Evening Independent story said that Jordan was widely known and respected in St. Petersburg as an industrious worker and entrepreneur. At the time, he was also working as a porter at the Floronton Hotel downtown. Jordan has become revered as an early African-American pioneer and benefactor.
The week before Thanksgiving in 1951, Gibbs biology department chair, Mrs. M.F. Hart, organized a trip for the 10th grade students to the Tarpon Springs sponge docks. Students got to watch the sponge divers in action.
In 1959: Isaiah W. Williams and Phillip Williams began planning a massive voter registration drive they hoped would reach 10,000 unregistered citizens. Six ward leaders and 30 district leaders were expected to be named at a meeting at the Fannye Ayer Ponder National Council of Negro Women chapter house on Ninth Avenue South.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Annie Lee McCants was named Mrs. Jordan Elementary Parent-Teacher Association and Mrs. Vivian Small was named her attendant at a special tea. The pair reported the most contributions during a membership drive. The event also netted 200 prospective members and $359 for special projects.
And finally, in 1973: The late Rosa Jackson decided to begin offering her free Thanksgiving dinner to those in need. She initially used her own money, but later sought donations. Mrs. Jackson said she got the idea for the dinner after experiencing a vision while sitting on her porch.
She died in 1996, and her grandson Darryl Jones and his mother Eloise Jones continued the event. It was put on hold in 2010, but was renewed in 2011.
Darryl Jones died earlier his year, but his family is carrying on the tradition for at least another year. It will take place this year 1-3 p.m. Thanksgiving Day at the Campbell Park Recreation Center, 601 14th St. S.
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