By Linda Emley
In 1929, the stock market crashed and the “Great Depression” started. Franklin D. Roosevelt became our president in 1933 and started the “New Deal” which provided the three “Rs” – relief, recovery and reform.
In August 1934, Adolph Hitler became the chancellor of Germany and World War II would start in 1939. It would help end the depression, but times were still tough for many as Christmas Day approached in 1934. A free turkey for Christmas dinner would be a welcome addition to any holiday table.
The Richmond News tells the following tale of “Flying Turkey.” “Turkeys Fly On Saturday. Ten Big Birds for the Christmas Dinner – Free to Captors. Merchants Offer Birds for Christmas. Off the Courthouse at 2:30 and 4. Ten families in Richmond, or vicinity, are going to have a great big fat turkey for their Christmas dinner absolutely free. The way they are going to obtain the turkeys is through the generosity of the Richmond merchants who have made arrangements to turn loose ten turkeys from the top of the court house this coming Saturday.
Whoever catches one of the elusive birds will be the sole owner and what a “grand and glorious feeling” the captors will experience when they walk away with the main part of their Christmas dinner, theirs for the catching. And will you be among the large crowd here to see the fun, and give the winners a cheer for a beautiful Christmas dinner? We expect you will. There is always a large crowd in Richmond when the merchants give away turkeys.”
The following Saturday was a grand and glorious day on the Richmond square. “As was expected, the Turkey Day Saturday brought to town the largest crowd that has visited Richmond during the Christmas holidays. The street was packed when the first turkey was turned loose.
The first lucky one was Daniel Spurbeck, of this city; the second turkey went right into the arms of Clay Shelton, Orrick rural route 2. Mrs. Ed Shipley, of this city, had just come out of a store on the south side of the square as the third turkey sailed through the air and alighted directly in her arms. Tom Watson Jr., of this city, was the lucky fourth. Three persons had hold of the fifth bird, two boys and a girl. Those nearby, however, stated that Edward Stein, of Henrietta, was the first one to grab the turkey. The 4 o’clock distribution went to “Butter” Moore, Richmond; Jim Smithey, rural route out of Richmond; Bert Deer, Richmond; J.W. Scherlinger, Knoxville, and Delbert O’Dell, Richmond.”
I wondered how they got the turkey home and where they put it once they got there. Some of the country folks might have a chicken house, but even in 1934, you would not find many chicken coops in town. Since Little Eddy Stein was from Henrietta, he couldn’t walk home with his turkey. I can just see him walking around the square holding his turkey while he goes from store to store looking for his mother.
So who were the Richmond merchants in 1934? The Richmond News listed all the stores that sponsored Turkey day. You could pick up your money from the Exchange Bank or Hughes Bank. Head off to buy new shoes at the Marshall Shoe Store or Rimmer’s Shoe Store. The ladies would go to Child’s Ladies Ready-to-Wear and the men to Duval Clothing. If you needed your clothes cleaned, Richmond Stream Laundry was always ready. You could shop for the man in your life at Mansur Radio, J.P. Wall Dry Goods, and Miller’s. Darnell Dry Goods, Mattingly Brothers Store, J.C. Penney’s and Weary Variety Store. A ring could be purchased at L. Megede Jewelers, which later became Pointer’s Jewelry Store.
Your Christmas dinner groceries could be picked up at Fletcher and Simms, Lonnie Watson, Safeway, Consumer Market, Jay Meat Market or J.F. Renick Meats and Groceries. You could take the family out for Christmas dinner at Hamner’s, Cates, Ogg’s, Waller’s or the Country Club Café.
There were two places to shop for cars; Arnote and Walker-Brady Motor Co. Primrose Oil Company would fill up your gas tank and Tabor Auto Supply had parts. Your hardware supplies could be found at the H.C. Jones Hardware and Furniture, H.B. Smith’s or C.C. Powell’s. There was also a Powell Brother’s Implement store. Richmond had two lumberyards in 1934, McGee’s and Daniels.
Richmond Drug, Central Drug or Spencer’s Pharmacy provided medicine for that winter cold or flu. Other merchants were; Joiners Funeral Parlor, Weber Brothers, Hamacher’s Grain and Produce and the Standard Store.
The Jones Store and Pointer’s Jewelry are the only two merchants still around 77 years later. I remember the 1970s when we still had places to shop on the square. It would be nice to have them back and then we could have a “Turkey day” and watch the big birds fly right into someone’s waiting arms but then again we would have the same problem as they did in 1934. How do you get a live turkey home? I don’t plan on letting ‘Tom Turkey” ride home in my car.
You can write Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org