Ancestors, Legends & Time

Here’s to happy Thanksgiving memories

Jeanne Newby

Thanksgiving… just the word conjures up memories! When you hear the word Thanksgiving, your mind often jumps to food or family… a perfect combination. Now in years past, let’s go back all the way to the 50s, Thanksgiving was a holiday on its own. Thanksgiving did not have to share the weekend with Black Friday or be the beginning of the holidays. The only thought that went with Thanksgiving was stuffing ourselves with Turkey, taking a nap, and enjoying the company of family. Everyone tried to make it to the family dinners. The question was always on the tip of the tongue, “Where are you spending Thanksgiving?” Oh wait…we can’t forget the annual Carthage/ Webb City Thanksgiving Day football game to add a bit of activity to the holiday.

The Thanksgiving menu was adapted to each family according to tradition, heritage, locale, and favorites. The common food theme included the old Tom Turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. The house would be decorated with children’s drawings of pilgrims, Indians, and turkeys. Some children even brought home their paper Pilgrim and Indian costumes to wear at the dinner table. And some homes would be decorated with the brown, yellow, red and orange stripes of construction paper linked together to make a wonderful garland of fall colors to drape across windows and door ways. Remember the paper turkeys you could buy that would unfold and fan out into a 3-D turkey. They were so cute, and we would carefully fold them and put them away for the next year. They lasted forever since you only used them for one or two days of the year.

Activities ranged from napping to telling favorite family stories to looking at old family photos. We only had two television stations so there was only an occasional football game on the tube. During the 80s, my family teenagers would head to the local bowling alley for some fun memories with their cousins. Sometimes they would throw in a movie. The adults would play a game of cards or a board game.

Remember when “The Wizard of Oz” made its annual viewing on the Thanksgiving holiday. I have fond memories of a niece who was terrified of the witch in that well known movie. She would sit in the dining room with the adults so she wouldn’t have to listen to the movie, but she would be so in tune to what was going on in the living room that she would sit there and cry that she could still hear the movie!  She is proud to say that as an adult,  she was finally able to watch the entire movie. Way to go, Kiddo!!

When I asked some people what they remember most about Thanksgiving as a child, one common thought was “a four-day weekend from school.” Then they included food, sleeping in, and playing and visiting with family and friends.

A few of my friends recalled some fun memories of the 60s in high school. Do you recall the long chains made from gum wrappers? How about the spirit sticks for cheering the loudest during the football game? You had to carry that spirit stick wherever you went. If you were caught without it, you lost the spirit stick. If you successfully held on to the spirit stick, you were able to keep it.

One friend recalled that her elderly aunt would bring out her charm string from that dear aunt’s old school days. The charm string consisted of buttons or gems from special events in her life, such as a special date or dance, a wedding, a graduation, etc. She said to look at the charm string was fascinating but to see the glow in her great aunt’s eyes as she recalled her many memories held in each button, charm or gem was the most enjoyable moments of all. And her aunt must have had lots of fun in her young days, as the charm string was really big and was a memory from high school days through her early 20s, which included a button from baby’s first dresses, anniversaries, and birthdays. What a neat way to hold memories.

Will you have a mixture of family members with varied personalities? Do you have an Aunt Penelope who smells a little strange and wears lots of makeup? Or do you have a cousin who has lived a wild life and shares the details at dinner? Do you have the sweet little grandma whose eyes twinkle when she smiles and that dimple in her cheek deepens? Even if she is no longer with you, her memories linger near during dinner. And dear old granddad, is he with you or does his memory shares the holiday with you, he is an important part of the day. Do you have the darling child who has an attitude and rules the parents, or maybe you have that cute little elf of a child who says the cutest things and gives the best hugs and kisses? We all have a variety of family members, and even if they might be strange or common, the family Thanksgiving dinner would not be as interesting if they were not there. (Are you thinking of one right now?) We need those different flavors of life to add spice to the annual memories we share. And sharing memories is an important part of the day… that is if you can get the family to put down the technical gadgets long enough to help share the memories.

So let’s think of an old fashioned Thanksgiving and pull out the photo albums, family movies and memories that are laying somewhere deep in our thoughts waiting to escape! And when one person starts in with “Do you remember the time…?” it will open a memory for someone else, and what fun and laughter will fill the house. We have lots of things to be thankful for, but it is up to us to count them and make them memorable.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, awesome memories and a loving family!!

Jeanne’s new book, “The Zinc City, Webb City, Missouri” is now available at Webb City Chamber Office.

Jeanne Newby

A lot of us appreciate the Bradbury Bishop Fountain, but Jeanne actually worked behind the counter making sodas while she was in high school. She knows everything about Webb City and is a member of the Webb City R-7 School Board.