Thanksgiving 1955 – an unusual church service

It’s Nov. 24, 1955. St. George’s is having its usual Thanksgiving day service. These were held here on Thanksgiving day until 2008.

It had been a busy time for St. George’s for the Rev. Thomas Faulkner who had been at St. George’s since 1946. The suffragan bishop Robert F. Gibson, Jr. had baptized and confirmed 19 a week before on his first visit to St. George’s. In November, 1955, they would have used the 1928 Book of Common Prayer which related Sundays at this time to Trinity rather than Pentecost as we do now. Services were Eucharist at 8am, Christian education after that then Morning Prayer at 11am. It was a much smaller place – 479 communicants in 1951, the closest year we have compared to 1,104 as recorded for 2015.

What is unusual is not there is a Thanksgiving service but who is attending. Teenage boys looking their best as one of the participants remembers, “in their Sunday finest.” But that’s not unusual – we always have youth at services. However, there were many more of them on Thanksgiving and many were not St. Georgians but members of the James Monroe (JMHS) and Stafford football teams. This would be a full day for them especially the boys from Fredericksburg in orange and black.

Starting in the mid to late thirties James Monroe High School would play their homecoming football games at what is now Maury stadium on Thanksgiving afternoon, just 5 blocks from St. George’s. The opponents would vary until beginning 1949 JMHS began playing Falmouth High School, which in the early 1950’s became Stafford High School. Thanksgiving 1955 was the last time JMHS held their homecoming on Thanksgiving.

That year the two teams went together Thanksgiving morning to services here at St. Georges; the football game was played that afternoon at Maury stadium; and that night JMHS held their Homecoming Dance at the JMHS Gym from 8pm to 11pm. Yes, it was a full day for the JM Yellow Jackets. Tommy Fines who played guard for JM remembers that it was “expected “for them to be here at the church. He remembers that most were here. (Notably, Chip Houston and Charlie McDaniel were hunting and got lost in the woods and barely made it to the foodball game). Fines also remembers being here in both his junior and senior years. The service was early – 8am! At 10:30am was the community Thanksgiving service at Fredericksburg Baptist, a block away. At least 8 ministers participated. Rev. Faulkner provided the prayer.

A picture was taken of the team at Maury
From November 2013 – Front Porch Fredericksburg
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The photo is a group of seniors taken after the 1955 game.
1st row–Donnie Foster, Ivan Harding, Earl Hollibaugh, Chip Houston, Billy Gayle.
2nd row–Tommy Fines, Jimmy Jones, Charles McDaniel, Billy Timberlake, Billy Clift.

 

A second picture was taken at the new James Monroe School with the hospital in the background, this time with the cheerleaders.
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1st row: Jean Thomas, Faye Young Kaufman, Barbara Kendall Allen, Virginia “Ginna” Gravatt Seay.

2nd Row: Charles McDaniel, Stuart Doggett, Bobby Estes, Robert Harris, Earl Hollibaugh, Richard White, Tommy Fines.

3rd Row: Carroll Bruce, Jimmy Jones, Donnie Foster, Chip Houston, Ed Allison, Billy Gayle, Bill Clift.

 

It was a very exciting game. Neither team was in the bid for the championship. Stafford hadn’t won a game and JM was coming off a 2 week losing streak. As the newspaper wrote,”there’s nothing at stake in this one except school prestige.”

It was a very defensive game and low scoring game. JM had gained just 69 yards to Stafford’s 39. Chip Houston said that the game had not been going to plan – they expected Stafford to be an easy victory.

On the last play of the game reserve quarterback Chip Houston threw a 41 yard pass to end, Donnie Swift which won the game for JM, 13-6.

Houston became the quarterback at half time when Coach Jake Maynard made the switch. Chip Houston told me the pass was not a “Hail Mary” but a set play – go long and throw it as far and hard as he could. He was amazed it worked. The receiver Donald Swift remembers the play went on forever with Houston running all over the backfield,avoiding tackles before he threw it. The play in his mind broke down so it may have been closer to a “Hail Mary.” He said if the officials had judging the game carefully they would have noticed illegal men downfield. Nevertheless, most of the crowd of 1,940 was probably thrilled except the Stafford people!

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Probably after the game there was a caravan down Caroline Street as usual the case with a bunch of rowdy JM fans on the way back to the High School, a new building in 1955. One favorite hangout was the R&S Snackbar near the college. The larger picture above would be taken there in the late afternoon of Nov. 24.

Fredericksburg, 1952 - Members of the Fredericksburg Rescue Squad, led by Capt. John Heubi, parade down Caroline Street on Sept. 27, 1952, during the annual convention of Virginia rescue squads here.

Fredericksburg, 1952 – Members of the Fredericksburg Rescue Squad, led by Capt. John Heubi, parade down Caroline Street on Sept. 27, 1952, during the annual convention of Virginia rescue squads here.


So what was Fredericksburg like in 1955 ? In 1955, there was no I-95, no major subdivisions on Route 3 in either direction or on Route 17. The Route 1 Bypass was only 9 years old in 1955. Allman’s Barbecue had only been opened the year before in 1954. Historic Fredericksburg was raising funds to restore the old kitchen formerly in the back of the National Bank building that had been moved to Route 1. During the week of the game, the Free Lance-Star reported that the new Hot Shoppes seating 105 would be ready in Dec. On that side of Princess Anne, the Carl’s building had only been opened since 1953. The 2400 Diner had just opened in 1955.

Downtown Fredericksburg was still the main center and St. George’s was right in the middle. Walking the street was popular with the kids. There were no one way streets in downtown and that’s where you went for all your shopping. Expansion was going on – as Chip Houston said it was growing in all directions. J. C. Penny was here and Leggett’s had just acquired the building at 1008 Caroline. W. T. Grant was seeking a new location at 925-927 Caroline. F. W. Woolworth was ready to buy the old Opera House and move from their location where the future J. J. Newberry would be located. Merchants probably had a good week with teenagers preparing for JM’s homecoming. If you weren’t going to the homecoming dance there was entertainment through the Pitts Theaters (The Victoria and Colonial). Since it was Thanksgiving, you could get a good Thanksgiving dinner for $1.75 at the Pony Restaurant on Kenmore Avenue.

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The large food chains didn’t exist and the town was dotted with a number of small markets. This included Jones Market on William Street. Jimmy Jones, halfback on JM team, worked there with his father and two brothers and was embarrassed when the football guys came into the store.

For those staying at home, people could watch on your black and white TV the Macy’s Parade (first broadcast on TV in 1948) or others in the morning and then enjoy Detroit Lions football. (They beat Green Bay that year 24-10). If football wasn’t your interest possibly “Art Linkletter’s House Party” on CBS followed by the “Big Payoff” may have been of interest in the afternoon. In the evening there was a choice of the “Bob Cummings show” or “You Bet Your Life.” “Dragnet” was on after that. There were no cable channels or for that matter 24 hour channels. You could count the TV shows available on one hand. Yes, a far simpler time.

 

High school would end for these seniors in 1956 and the rest of the life beckoned. Looking back several players I talked to said Fredericksburg was a wonderful place to grow up. In a decade after World War II and a decade before the explosive 1960’s it was perhaps an idyllic time. As Donald Swift told me he had no worries.

So what happened to them and others on that team ? This article is indebted to Tommy Fines, a guard on the team, for filling in the details despite over 60 years since that day in November and also Chip Houston and Donald Swift who helped with this article as members of the team:

1. Billy Timberlake went to UVA and became captain of the baseball team and ended up coaching baseball Maryland and was very successful. He was recently elected to the JMHS Hall of Fame.
2. Bill Clift went to Randolph Macon and later sold automobiles in Alexandria.
3. Donnie Foster went to the airforce for 4 years and later entered the CIA and retired from that organization.
4. Earl Hollibaugh’s father was an assistant coach and Earl later coached himself semi-pro football.
5. Ivan Harding later became vice-president of a Christmas tree company in Washington State.
6. Jimmy Jones worked as a DJ at WFVA and was employed as a teacher and coach in Stafford Schools and later became director of athletics.
7. Charlie McDaniel enjoyed a successful career as president of Hilldrup Transfer and Storage and also was an avid real estate investor.
8. Sandy Levinson one of the managers on the team, not a senior, became a surgeon at MCV and so did his brother. Levinson was one of the early heart surgeons.
9. Tommy Fines became a programmer with FMC and then in Dahlgren with the Sperry Corporation.
10. Ed Allison became a banker and advanced to become president of Virginia Heartland Bank.
11. Chip Houston graduated from Va. Tech, retired from the Marines and became president of Afton Services, Inc. in Richmond, a truck brokerage company. He said he moved 27 times in that business.
12. Donald Swift graduated from Hampton Sydney, served in the National Guard but made a living as a civilian overseas working with the miliary. He is retired in Naples, Fla after his wife got a job in Miami.

Two have since passed away, Ivan Harding and Billy Gayle.

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