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Monday, 23 November 2015 16:51

Thanksgivings Past

By | News
Thanksgivings Past

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Have you ever wondered how Thanksgiving has changed over the past few decades?  Many things have stayed the same; football and turkey seem to be classic traditions that aren’t going anywhere. But those that have experienced several generations around the dinner table have their own stories to tell about Thanksgivings gone by. I visited Woodlawn Commons, apartments for older adults in the Wesley Community, to hear from seniors about Thanksgivings of the past. Their stories remind us to enjoy each and every moment with loved ones and to be thankful for each passing year, no matter what age we are.


“We had eight children and lived in Ballston Spa. We had a guest family that would join us each Thanksgiving because they didn’t want to travel all the way to Buffalo for the holiday. After we had them over several times, my daughter asked, ‘How come we’re always the host and we’re never the guests?’ I said, ‘Well, because there are so many of us!”

We never got together for Thanksgiving when I was little. My dad worked late shifts at work, so Thanksgiving was never a big deal in our family. But my children just loved Thanksgiving. We always had three types of pie, pumpkin, apple and mincemeat. It was a tradition that you had a piece of each one. You could never narrow it down to just one piece.

We had a huge table, but I never believed in having a kids table. They’re all in the family; you can’t send them out to Siberia just because they’re younger. Right from the very beginning they always sat at the big table and the other family would just mingle in. My kids liked to be the host, it made them feel important.”

 – Betty McCanty


“I was born and grew up in Minnesota, but I left there when I was eighteen because I was drafted into World War II, and I never lived there again. The town that I lived in, a little farm town with just 1500 people, had two lakes within walking distance and a river that ran through town. I’ve always believed God created Cambridge, Minnesota to show little boys what heaven was going to be like.

I lived in a house with my mother, father, sister, grandmother and my aunt. My uncle also lived with us because he suffered with meningitis when he was younger and never fully recovered. My great-grandfather, who was from Sweden, got too old and eventually had to sell his farm. After that, he came to live with us too. My other aunt and my uncle from Minneapolis, along with their two children, always spent the weekend with us, including Thanksgiving. Sleep for us, the young children, was often on blankets and pillows in the living room. And we loved it. It was never a problem for us.

This was all during the Great Depression. We had a traditional roast turkey with all the fixings. When dinner time came, adults ate in the dining room and the kids ate at the kitchen table. We couldn’t have been happier.

Fortunately, the uncle from Minneapolis had a full-time job as chief engineer. They had the money to take care of having a nice Thanksgiving. We had very little. My father ran a small gas station, but didn’t make enough for us to live independently. My mother, besides taking care of the whole family, she had a full time job as a cook. That’s how we got through the depression. We didn’t have a car until 1940. It’s hard for me to relate these things because it’s so different than it is today. If I sound in any way that we were deprived or missing out, it’s just not true. We were deprived of money, but other than that, it was a good life, a charmed life.”

 –George Moline


“I’m from Delaware and we always went up to New Jersey to my aunt’s house. I loved going there. My brother and I were the only children really. I just liked listening to the adults. They were always telling such interesting stories.

My aunt was a wonderful manager. She would direct all the women in the kitchen, ‘You do this’ and ‘You do that.” Meanwhile, she was out having cocktails! She got everybody going and then she just had a ball drinking with the men.

My funniest Thanksgiving though was when I was all grown up. One of my nephews always did the gravy. He’s pouring the gravy and says, ‘What are these black things in it?” I knew right away. They were bugs! There was all this gravy with cooked meal worms in it. In the other room the men were saying, ‘Where’s dinner?’ ‘Just a minute!” we called back. We had no idea what to do until someone comes up with the idea that we should strain it. The only strainer we had was a tiny tea strainer. It took a half an hour to spoon the worms out. In the end, there wasn’t even a cupful of gravy. When we got to the table, everyone kept asking, ‘Aren’t you going to have any gravy?’ We just said ‘No, we’re dieting.’ We’ve never forgotten that one.


-Doris Lamont 

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