The year was 1939 and World War II began in September with the German invasion of Poland. Two days after the invasion, Britain and France declared war on Germany, and other countries would follow, choosing sides in a war that would eventually ravage much of Europe and Asia and kill more than 52 million people.Â
Spain had seen nearly three years of Civil War by 1939Â and in April, General Francisco Franco, took over as dictator of the country, declaring the Civil War over. He would rule until his death in 1975, when Prince Juan Carlos took over, restoring the monarchy.
In Victoria, Australia, 1939 was a year of disaster as on Black Friday, 13 January, wildfires raced across Victoria, killing seventy-one people. Small sawmill villages within the forests suffered the worst of the firestorm that came after weeks of extreme high temperatures.
In New York City, a World’s Fair was held and although the investors lost money on the event, it brought development in Queens.Â With the theme of the future, industrial giants like General Motors, GE, Eastman Kodak, and AT&T allowed depression-weary visitors to take a glimpse into what might be.
The movie industry gave audiences a glimpse into another time with the release of Gone with the Wind, which won eight Oscars that year. In another landmark film, a young girl from Kansas finds herself in an imaginary land with the Wizard of Oz.
And finally, 1939 was a year of confusion when it came to Thanksgiving. Since Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863, Thanksgiving had always been celebrated on the last Thursday in November. But in 1939, there were five Thursdays, and this put Thanksgiving on November 30th. Even back then people started their Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving and with only twenty-four days to shop, businesses feared it would affect sales negatively–a serious concern during the Depression years. So in 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed November 23rd to be Thanksgiving. The last-minute decision was a problem for schools that had already scheduled vacation time and football games. Some defied the proclamation which meant that families in one place may have had a day off on the 23rd, while other family members had the 30th off. Calendar-makers, who created their products years in advance, had the wrong date. The confusion continued until Congress passed legislation in 1941 that settled the issue–the second to last Thursday in November became Thanksgiving.Â