Historically Speaking: Thanksgiving Day memories
Thanksgiving Day was celebrated years ago as it is today with great thanks for all our many blessings. However, then it seemed more of a personal and family holiday with stores not having the commercial touch as today. Oh, yes, I love the pretty wreaths and lights and leaves decorating stores and homes; but as I think back to years ago, there is a feeling of sacredness about the holiday as we than our God for his bountiful blessing, somewhat in the manner of our first settlers in America.
In the rural school where my brother and I attended, we would be busy coloring and cutting turkeys, pumpkins, and pilgrim borders to be used about the blackboards in our little schoolroom. Teacher did not have a formal program the day before the holiday but in the upper classes, units on the pilgrims were studied and in the lower grades the turkey farm and pumpkin patches were studied with discussions on how turkeys were raised and pumpkins were grown. There was the assignment in the seventh and eighth grades for an essay to be written on “what we are thankful for” and along with this we were judged on spelling, correct sentenced structure and content. I was judged “second winner” when I was in seventh grade; but when we had this assignment again when I was in my last year in grade school, I finally came out a winner! I learned that we can’t all be winners and hard work does pay off! We made turkey favors using a red apple, raisins, marshmallows and toothpicks; I continued to use this practice with my own children and grandchildren. It makes an interesting “turkey” for table decoration. The day before Thanksgiving we were dismissed from school until the next Monday.
It was at home that things were really shaping up for our special meal on Thanksgiving Day. We didn’t have turkey (I did not taste turkey until I was going to high school and living with a family I worked for); the roaster was used for a large venison roast. My mother was an excellent cook and knew how to fix wild game properly so it did not have a “wild” taste. I remember when she prepared the roast she included in the roasting pan some carrots. She claimed they absorbed all the “wild” taste and then later she discarded those first carrots and filled the pan with new carrots and onions. The holiday meal consisted of venison roast, carrots, creamed peas, squash, mashed potatoes, and of course for dessert we had a choice of either pumpkin pie or mince meat pie. There was always cranberry sauce, using berries we had gathered earlier in the year. We grew our own pumpkins for the delicious pumpkin pies. Fresh baked rolls with fresh churned butter and several varieties of home-canned pickles were also enjoyed. Before the meal, we sat quietly while mother gave a special prayer thanking the Lord for bountiful feast before us. My father ended the prayer with a reverent “amen!” In later years when my mother lived alone, she would come to my house for Thanksgiving dinner and she would say a special prayer in which she first gave in Danish and then in English.
Before Thanksgiving Day, my mother would have my brother and I make a list of all the things we were thankful for and she would put it on the kitchen wall so we would be reminded to be thankful every day. My mother was not a teacher but did her very best to teach us the important things in life.
If there was an early snow and enough snow on the ground, the afternoon was spent outside skiing and sledding. This was a day we didn’t have to help with chores on the farm. In the evening after supper we played games such as Chinese checkers, Monopoly or “Old Maid.” My brother was quite an artist even at a young age, so we would draw pictures of pilgrims or turkeys; my drawings left much to be desired so I would write poetry. I still have a poem I created when I was ten, entitled “THANKS.”
Most Thanksgiving days my parents had a friend, a bachelor, to our home for dinner, He lived off Hwy 47 in the American Legion Forest area. He would walk to our place often in the summer for a Sunday dinner of chicken with all the fixings. For the fall holiday my father drove over to get him for dinner. He lived in a place partly underground and didn’t have many friends. He was a blacksmith and my father had him fix some of our equipment on the farm. Another good-hearted man, Hollis Thayer, a Watkins man, looked after this man every so often to see that he was alright. This was a good lesson for my brother and I, as we realized we had so much and he had so little and needed friends. He is the person who, in the summer, would volunteer to come to our place and tend the cows and foxes so that our family could go visiting for a day. This was his way of saying thank you to my parents and was a good lesson for us to see. Friendship in those days meant a lot to people as we all needed each other in different ways.
We are thankful for friends and family. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!