By Linda Emley
In a lengthy proclamation, the president set out the background for Thanksgiving and explained why it’s celebrated as it is:
“I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Thursday, the 24th of November, 1938, as a day of general Thanksgiving. Our Fathers set aside such a day as they hewed a nation from the primeval forest. The observance was consecrated when George Washington issued a Thanksgiving proclamation in the first year of his presidency.
“Abraham Lincoln set apart ‘a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.’ Thus from our earliest recorded history, Americans have thanked God for their blessings …
“We have cherished and preserved our democracy. We have lived in peace and understanding with our neighbors and have seen the world escape the impending disaster of a general war. In the time of our fortune it is fitting that we offer prayers for unfortunate people in other lands who are in dire distress at this our Thanksgiving Season. Let us remember them in our families and our churches when, on the day appointed, we offer our thanks to Almighty God. May we by our way of living merit the continuance of His Goodness …”
The proclamation fits the modern world. I randomly chose 1938 and I find it ironic that Thanksgiving is on Nov. 24 this year, just as it was in 1938. Since Thanksgiving Day is the 4th Thursday of November, it could be anywhere from Nov. 20 to the 28th so we had a one in nine chance of it being on Nov 24.
In 1938, Richmond had a community service for Thanksgiving. The Richmond News said, ”Union services will be held at 10 o’clock Thursday morning at the Christian Church. The Rev. Ernest Jones of the Methodist Church will give the sermon.” We still have a community-wide service, but it’s not held on the actual holiday.
The price of turkey was a bit less in 1938 and there were a few other things that were different in the good-old days. “Ray County Thanksgiving gobblers will be served for about 10 per cent less cost than last year. The traditional Thanksgiving turkey will grace Ray County tables at a cost of only 18 cents a pound, while the 1937 retailing price was 20 cents a pound. In addition, there is the usual charge of 50 cents for dressing the bird.” I’m glad our turkeys are already dressed.
I’m a county girl and one of our neighbors raises turkeys. My grandmother and her mother -in-law raised turkeys and sold them to the stores in Richmond. My mother and I were talking about the turkeys and she told me that one year she and her sister were getting on the school bus just as their chicken house full of turkeys caught on fire. I asked if they stayed home to help and she said they went on to school. They did not have a garden hose or any way to put the fire out. I guess there were a few less fresh turkeys in Richmond that year.
I was surprised to see that the Richmond High School held its annual homecoming box supper on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving day. Miss Mary Louise Riggs was crowned the 1938 popularity queen. The program included a tap dance by Martha Jean Farris and Anna Rose Clevenger, an accordion solo by Clark Smith, a flute solo by Permeila McNeish and songs by Marjorie Clark. Donald Jackson’s band provided music for the dance.
After reading the 1938 newspaper, I realized there some of the local groups had dinners on the actual holiday: “Ladies of Rock Falls church are preparing for their annual Thanksgiving supper Thursday evening,” and “The Russellville Extension Club will hold a 6 o’clock dinner Thanksgiving day for club members and their families.”
There were lots notes in the newspaper about who was joining who for dinner, so maybe they had the noon meal with their family and the evening meal with a group. Some of the personal notes were, “Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods, Louise Woods, Bob Farris will be guests of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Hunt … and “Mr. and Mrs. Claude Reed will entertain the following guest at Thanksgiving dinner, Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Ross and daughter Patricia, Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Shotwell and son, Mrs. Lou Reed, and Mr. and Mrs. E. Thurman and son, Levan.“
Football was a big part of Thanksgiving in 1938 because many people spent the day with their favorite team. “Mr. and Mrs. Jim Jackson and son, Donald, will attend the Central-William Jewell football game at Liberty Thanksgiving day. Judith Jackson is a twirler with the Central College band.” And, “Mr. and Mrs. F.G. Weary are attending the Missouri-Kansas game at Columbia. The game is an annual Thanksgiving event. “
Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that is full of family traditions and one of my favorite things to do is watch the parades on TV. I don’t really care if we have turkey or ham, but it is not Thanksgiving dinner unless we have scalloped oysters and olives. My grandmother Schooler always fixed oysters and my other grandmother always brought the olives. They are no longer here to share Thanksgiving dinner with us, but I will keep their traditions going and make sure we always have these two items with our Thanksgiving feast.
I hope everyone has a safe holiday and gets to enjoy all the traditions that make Thanksgiving a special day with family and friends.
Write Linda Emley at firstname.lastname@example.org.