Good Old Days Newsletter
|In the Good Old Days||Antiques Corner||This Week in History|
When was Thanksgiving declared an official government holiday in the United States?
At one point or another in nearly every American child's elementary school experience, he or she has played out the story of the first Thanksgiving, thought to have occurred in November 1621, a year after the pilgrims landed near Plymouth, Mass. We were taught at an early age how the brave settlers struggled, how they were helped by the Native Americans, and how the two groups celebrated together after the first harvest in the new land. What was the focus of the party? Food, of course!
While no record exists of the historic three-day banquet's exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a "fowling" mission in preparation for the event. Was wild turkey on the menu? Perhaps.
Turkeys have been an oddly revered part of American history. In fact, Ben Franklin advocated that the turkey become our nation's official bird. In a letter to his daughter written in 1784, Franklin suggested that the wild turkey would be a more fitting national symbol for the newly independent United States than the bald eagle (which had earlier been chosen by the Continental Congress). He argued that the turkey was "a much more respectable Bird," "a true original Native of America," and "though a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage." President Lincoln is rumored to have granted a "pardon" to his son Tad's pet turkey for their upcoming Thanksgiving feast. Another presidential turkey pardon followed in 1947, under Harry Truman. And on Nov. 20, 2007, President George W. Bush granted a pardon to two turkeys named May and Flower at the 60th annual National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation, held in the Rose Garden at the White House. The two turkeys were then flown to Orlando, Fla., where they served as honorary grand marshals for the Disney World Thanksgiving Parade.
I hold no such regard for turkeys. When I was a child, my best friend's family operated a turkey farm. Whenever I visited her, I was put to work right alongside their 10 children. We went out to the coops every three to four hours, beginning early in the morning. I learned to shove the grouchy, obstinate hens out of their nests and quickly gather the oversized eggs before the hens hissed and pecked at my hands. When I walked in the open area of the coop, the turkeys enjoyed swarming around me, blocking my steps, picking at my feet and heckling me with waves of gobble-gobbles. My heart would race and I would have to flail my arms to keep the annoying birds away from me, much to the entertainment of my friend and her family. I was always eager to get out of there and felt lucky if I left unscathed.
I will be hosting my family's Thanksgiving get-together this year, and I plan on continuing the tradition of food taking center stage on the holiday. My mom will bring her famous stuffing, my sister her garlic mashed potatoes and my sisters-in-law their various special side dishes and desserts. But I will be in charge of cooking, carving and serving the main attraction -- the turkey. And I will do it with great pleasure.
A turkey gets no pardons from me.
Happy Thanksgiving and 'til next time,
Mary Beth Weisenburger,
Good Old DaysŪ magazine
Were you ever pestered by a chicken or a turkey when you were a child? Send a brief response to me at Editor@GoodOldDaysMagazine.com and it could appear in a future newsletter or in Good Old Days magazine!
Keep your replies coming! Here are a few email responses from past newsletter questions:
(From the Oct. 16, 2013 newsletter) Did you ever use an Underwood typewriter?
Kathy and Neal M. wrote: "As you describe, my father learned to type in the Marine Corps, and we had an Underwood. I used it as a kid and on through to high school. Already knowing how to type served me well when I did my hitch, although I still drive the keys on a PC like there is a 3-inch key travel! My wife carried her dad's Army surplus 'portables' around the country through her own Army service and for years afterward (that's portable as in a slightly smaller anvil than the Underwood -- our generation's form of texting from an iPad). But as you said, we wouldn't want to use it for everything. We both enjoy reading Good Old Days."
Marilyn W. wrote: "Yes, I learned to type on one of those, sort of. I always typed too fast and made too many mistakes. It always amazed everyone that as class valedictorian I had D's in typing. Guess that's why I love my computer word-processing ability so much; it's so much easier to correct typing mistakes."
(From the Nov. 6, 2013 newsletter) How did you know it was time to come home when you were a kid?
Sharon L. told us: "I had to laugh out loud when I read this article. Too funny! At least you had a bell; my dad blew the car horn long and loud for us. We knew, too, that we had better get home in a hurry because dinner was on the table. Since he raised us alone, I guess the car horn was as good a way as any to get our attention. You could hear it over the entire neighborhood. All the neighbors knew that the Shiver children were on their way home, and it was dinnertime at the Shiver residence. I miss my dad and all the quirky things we enjoyed growing up. He never ceased to amaze me with his talents."
Lorri F. replied: "At our house, we had an Army-issue 'army green' whistle. Mom would blow it a couple of times, and we (and the kids we were playing with) knew what it meant: Get home quickly! It could be heard for a half mile or more, which covered most of the area we were allowed to go from home before dinner. This was fortunate, as we didn't have a phone at our house until I was about 8 to 10 years old. Your story brought back many memories, as most of them do. I do love the Good Old Days newsletter. Thank you for keeping it going."
Mary Beth Weisenburger has been with Annie's since April 2011. She has 25 years of experience in the marketing, advertising and publishing fields. In addition to her job as editor of Good Old Days, she has been writing a family humor column for over a decade. She and her husband, two college-age kids, two dogs and various other critters, live on five acres in the country, where she enjoys reading on the back porch, refinishing furniture, feeding the birds and digging in the dirt of her perennial gardens.
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On Oct. 3, 1863, expressing gratitude for a pivotal Union Army victory at Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln announced that the nation would celebrate an official Thanksgiving holiday on the last Thursday in November, which in 1863 fell on the 26th. The last Thursday of November remained the annual day of Thanksgiving from 1863 until 1939. At that point, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the third Thursday in November, hoping to boost the economy by providing shoppers and merchants a few extra days to conduct business between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. In 1941, however, Roosevelt bowed to Congress' insistence that the fourth Thursday of November be set permanently, without alteration, as the official Thanksgiving holiday.
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