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H&T looks back to past Thanksgivings

The annual Turkey Toss has been a longtime tradition in Jonesborough as the town celebrates the holiday season.


Associate Editor

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A look back at Thanksgivings past during the years 1945 and 1980 in Jonesborough provides a glimpse of how the holiday was observed. The year 1945 saw hope for peace in the ending of World War II while 1980 ushered in the Herald & Tribune’s computer-age and an era of prosperity for residents in Tennessee’s oldest town.

The United States had entered into a recession in January of 1980 but returned to growth six months later. Growth continued through 1990 creating what was at the time the longest peacetime economic expansion in the nation’s history.

The optimism of the time was reflected in a Forum printed in the H&T on November 26, 1980 asking the question “What are you most thankful for?” Mrs. Sherman Huffine from the Greenwood Community said, “For my family, my country, my friends and neighbors in my community…”

Mary Slagle of Boones Creek said, “For my good health. The Lord has been good to us and gives us many blessings.” Fall Branch resident Frank Bloome said, “That my wife, who has been very ill, is getting better and now I can get out and visit the people in my community.” Another Boones Creek resident Blaine Gilliam added, “To live in a free country and have freedom of speech and religion; also, that we are free to go and come as we please in our country.”

The feeling of thankfulness in 1980 was foreshadowed by a proclamation by Mayor Robert May in 1945 as World War II came to a close. It read in part as set out in the newspaper’s November 12, 1945 edition, “TO THE PEOPLE OF JONESBORO.

“WHEREAS, Again we approach the day which by custom, tradition and proclamation is annually set aside to be observed by all… namely, that of Thanksgiving…Perhaps not in recent years has it appeared that so much overt cause exists for gratitude than in this year which witnessed the triumph of military might…

“NOW THEREFORE, as Mayor…I do most sincerely have the very happy privilege to proclaim Thursday, November 29, 1945, as the first Thanksgiving day in Jonesboro since the recent war; and in so doing to call upon every person to observe the day in a manner most appropriate to the occasion; and do implore all to engage in Divine Worship on that day according to the dictates of the conscience of each.”

On the front page along with the Mayor’s Thanksgiving Proclamation was a story about “Saving The Old Chester Inn.” On other pages HOUSEHOLD MEMOS by Lynn Chambers told readers looking forward to Thanksgiving meals, “Now that food rationing has loosened up most of the eatable goods that we are once again able to get back on prewar standard, cooking problems need not be pressing. However, in spite of this lifting of restrictions, we still have at least one major problem—that of sugar. Little relief is in sight right now, and the situation will probably prevail for some months. What shall we do about dessert?” She then suggested recipes for Peach Sponge Cake, Open-Faced Apple Pie and Black Walnut Pie.

An advertisement told Thanksgiving shoppers, “Say Folks! When you are looking for Quality Groceries at the very best price, come in and see what we got — BENNETT’S in Jonesboro.” The recently opened Jackson Theater provided holiday entertainment. Open daily at 3:30 p.m., “Jonesboro’s Entertainment Center” said BRING ALL THE FAMILY to see productions like “Sweet and Low-Down —  Starring Benny Goodman, Linda Darnell, Lynn Bari and Jack Oakie — It’s ‘Solid’ Entertainment From the First-Down-Beat to the Last Kiss!” Other features were “Wild Bill Elliot as Red Ryder in Lone Texas Ranger” and “The Fighting Lady in Technicolor” plus “Laurel & Hardy in The Big Noise.”

Turning to 1980, ‘IRON MOUNTAIN: A HOLIDAY TRADITION” was a featured article. The owners of Laurel Bloomery produced a hand-crafted ceramic ware sold in 600 stores coast-to-coast. Resident artist Nancy Patterson Lamb, trained at the Art Center School in Los Angeles, said, “This is really a very logical place for a stoneware plant. This region is right in the middle of several good sources of clay. We are also near transportation to almost every section of the country…”

She continued, “Last year the Thanksgiving sale attracted over 8000 people. We had customers from Atlanta, Memphis, Washington, D.C. and New York.”

On November 19, 1980, the newspaper reported that “MAYFLOWER DESCENDANTS HOLD SESSION. – The Governor William Bradford Colony, Tennessee Society, Mayflower Descendants, convened recently in semi-annual meeting at the home of Mrs. Doris Lee Potter, Top O’ The Town Apartments, Johnson City. Mrs. John Howze, secretary-treasurer, Telford, conducted the business meeting… Through the courtesy of General Shale Products Corp., Johnson City, members were privileged to examine a brick which was used as ballast in the Mayflower ship in 1620 and afterwards in the house at Plymouth Plantation…” The story ended by stating, “The Mayflower Compact, signed in the cabin of the Mayflower, November 21, 1620, has been called ‘the cornerstone of civil and religious liberties in the United States.’”

A two-page grocery advertisement from Wright’s said Butterball 4-10 pound turkeys were 99 cents a pound – over 10-pounds were 95 cents a pound. Shenandoah Turkey Breast was $1.59 a pound; Fresh pack Ocean Spray Cranberries were 67 cents for a 12-ounce pack and an 8-ounce Pumpkin Pie was 89 cents. If you wanted the pie topped with Bird’s Eye Cool Whip, an 8-ounce package was 69 cents. Cranberry sauce was on sale at two cans for $1.09 while Pepperidge Farm Stuffing Mix, regular or cornbread, sold at 59 cents a package. Telling customers “Have a Safe Thanksgiving,” the store’s special was Armour Grade A Turkeys, 10 to 14 pounds, for 85 cents a pound.

A new typography and make-up was the Herald & Tribune’s Thanksgiving gift to readers. In explaining the newspaper’s new format, the front page article on Wednesday, November 26, 1980 read, “We have re-designed our publishing package to make it easier for you to read… Our headlines are computer-set in Chelmsford – a distinct traditional type style which we believe conveys the flavor and feel of heritage-rich Jonesboro and all of Washington County. Our body copy, computer-set in  U n i v e r s, is crisp and contemporary, and indicative of forward motion and growth…Enjoy us…we’re exclusively yours!” Below the announcement of the “New and Renewed” Herald & Tribune available by subscription for $8.00 a year or 25 cents a copy, was a Thanksgiving pictorial containing produce of the season including pumpkins, apples and corn with a caption that read: “Come, ye thankful people; Come Raise the Song of Harvest-home; All is safely gathered in; Ere the winter storms begin.”

“Strong Prices Open Sales” at the tobacco market according to the H & T, with top amounts at $1.65 at Grower’s Co-Op in Johnson City. A report from last year’s Progressive Dinner sponsored by the Jonesboro Civic Trust “by popular request” repeated recipes that dinner guests enjoyed including a Cranberry Ring, Cornish Hens with Orange Glaze, Mary Todd-Lincoln’s Vanilla-Almond Cake and directions on how to prepare White Frosting.

Hamilton Bank with an office in Jonesboro told readers it would close on Thursday, November 27th in observance of Thanksgiving. Their ad read, “Long ago on a brisk clear day in a sheltered, wooded clearing, a harvest feast — a humble meal of wild turkey and Indian corn, was shared by native and newcomer… Today, in observance of this commemorative day of Thanksgiving, we shall be gathered together again in thanks for the blessings of a land bestowed upon a people, as it once was and as it is now.”