Holiday is treasure trove of memories, traditions
When I was a young boy, in our family, I had three sisters. But our Thanksgiving was spent also with my uncles and aunts, we had a very, very close family. While I grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, my parents originally were from Wilmington. On affairs like this, they got together. We either went to Wilmington and shared Thanksgiving, or my uncle and aunt would come up to Bethlehem, and we would share those together. The big thing I remember, at that point in my life as a boy, was of course the turkey and the filling! And sitting around the table and even as a little boy, just enjoying the talk of that Thanksgiving period.
As I went through my life, I remember when the war broke out of course and I had graduated from high school and went into the service. While I was overseas, Thanksgiving occurred. I had the unfortunate responsibility that day of being placed at a crossroads, and I was a rifleman at that point, in a division, of directing some of the troops and others who came back, the direction that they should go, heading up to wherever their unit was.
There is one event I can remember about that Thanksgiving day that still is in my mind, for while I was on duty, doing this job, a GI came by with a German prisoner. And I said something to him, I don’t recall what it was, he responded. He was taking the prisoner back to a prison camp. But he wasn’t very
long gone before I heard a shot and I knew what happened. However, can’t do anything about it at that period of time. This was on Thanksgiving day.
I then stood there and at the end of the day I still was on duty. We were supposed to get a Thanksgiving day feast and it looked like I was forgotten. Eventually, in the late evening, my sergeant showed up and took me back to join my squad.
So I got to eat a very, very nice, cold Thanksgiving turkey leg, (laughs) and that’s about all I remember about that Thanksgiving meal!
I can remember as a child having family Thanksgiving and we had quite a large family and we always got together on Thanksgiving day, and we always looked for the big turkey that we were going to have. My mother would always set it on the table first without cutting it. Then she would take it back into the kitchen and carve it, and
we really were very, very thankful for our family all being together on Thanksgiving day.
I always liked pumpkin pie … my mother would make apple pie and pumpkin pie, and the mince pie was left for Christmas time. We always put off eating the dessert until later in the evening because we were too full after the turkey dinner to have dessert.
I met my wife here at Hershey’s Mill in May of 1944 and we were married the following year in September. Hershey’s Mill has quite a place to remember
because we started together and we’ll end up together here. When I got married, we would alternate the Thanksgiving day dinners; my wife’s sister’s was one year, then her mother’s was another year, then we would take the following year. We would alternate Thanksgiving day so we would all be together, just at a different location.
Well, the thing that stands out in my mind is my father preparing the turkey to be baked on Thanksgiving. And he had a special recipe for the stuffing, of course each family does, but we thought ours was the best. And it was a very traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I happened to live near a high school, and so we could hear the football game going on at the local high school, which was always fun to hear in the background. It was several blocks away but the sound carried.
Other than that, the other
thing I remember is my family basically is … Well, my mother is first generation in this county and my father actually came from Europe. And so after a big dinner we would walk in the neighborhood, and walk off that dinner, and feel more comfortable. And then there would be conversation afterwards, my father and myself basically would talk, that’s about all I remember, there was nothing super special, you know, other than just Thanksgiving.
The usual was turkey, probably a sweet potato casserole, a vegetable, and a bought pie since my mother did not bake, so it was something purchased. And maybe a little bit of wine, although they weren’t big drinkers, but that was a special holiday so there might have been a small glass of wine.
We were a very small family so it was just our own nuclear family, which was comprised of my parents, my sister and myself. But that was fine, we didn’t
have extended family so that was fine. It was basically the same every year. It was very predictable, but it was fun, it was fun. And I do think in a smaller group, there’s more bonding if you will. We were a pretty tightly knit family. It was a good experience for me.
My family, my two brothers, my sister, my parents and I always had Thanksgiving. An aunt and uncle would come, they really weren’t an aunt and uncle though, we just called them that (laughs).
We would always, if there was a football game or something, we would always of course always watch the football games on Thanksgiving. We had a good life, and we always then would play cards or something afterwards, the family. And my brothers and my sister and I were very competitive (laughs) playing cards!
Then when I went to nursing school of course we always had to work at the hospital on Thanksgiving so we had dinner at the hospital cafeteria. And then after that when I got married, I always went to my husband’s sister’s and brother-in-law for Thanksgiving dinner. That was always very nice to be with his side of the family, my husband’s side of the family.
My parents were Scottish, and I was born in Scotland, but I came here when I was six months old, that’s why there’s no accent, no brogue. And my mother would make not your normal pumpkin pie or pecan pie, she would make something different. It was fruit and whipped cream and lady fingers, but I can’t remember the name of it. My mother was a great cook and she was tiny, and she could eat anything! At any rate, that’s what we did on Thanksgiving.
Compiled and submitted by Danielle Paterno, Director of Community Relations, Wellington at Hershey’s Mill, West Chester.