Thanksgiving 1921

A Recollection by Catherine Graham Burr

“A cherished Thanksgiving memory I treasure more each year.”

My daddy was a piano tuner and technician and was on the road a great deal tuning pianos. I say, on the road, but actually we did not have a car in those days and my daddy travelled by train and would often stay in boarding houses.

Thanksgiving 1921, Dallas, Texas; a terrible storm came in and it rained so hard there was flooding in the streets and of course the trains were halted. My daddy called to say he would not be able to make it home for Thanksgiving.

As I remember…I was 8 years old, my daddy couldn´t get home due to heavy rain and flooding. My mother looked at me and said, “We are going to have a fine Thanksgiving no matter what.”

Mother went to the pantry to see what she could find. We had good pantries in those days. She found a can of salmon and announced that we were going to make a turkey and “you can help”, she said.

Mother had me get out a mixing bowl while she got out the food grinder. She found some saltine crackers and 2 biscuits and a can of cream of chicken soup. I turned the handle on the food grinder (I loved the way the handle felt in my hand) while mother broke up the flakes of salmon and added the crumbled saltine crackers and biscuits to the mix. The smooth wooden handle glided through my hand until the mixing bowl was full of a well blended salmon and crumb mixture. Mother mixed in enough of the cream of chicken soup until everything began to stick together. She then formed the salmon mixture into the shape of a little turkey. The wings of the turkey lay neatly against the body and separately she formed the drumsticks and attached them so they would stick out a little from the sides. Our little salmon turkey was ready for the oven.

Mother went to the pantry again and found some candied cranberries and an apple. She had me shred the apple with one of those metal graters that could make little strips of apple. Mother cut the candied cranberries into small pieces and dotted them into the shredded apple to which she added some of her home made mayonnaise and blended it all together. This was our Thanksgiving salad. I remember how the cranberries made the mixture turn a pinkish color. Mother sent me out to the garden to snip some sprigs of mint to garnish the salad. There was just enough for each of us to have our own little bowl of salad. Mother had also found a can of peas and carrots in the pantry. She added what was left of the cream of chicken soup to the peas and carrots and heated this up. The creamed peas and carrots were also portioned between us in small bowls. The table was set with a beautiful while cloth and the Haviland plates and special glasses filled with ginger ale. Now it was time to check the turkey. Mother browned the turkey lightly under the broiler before she pulled it from the oven. The turkey was plattered and garnished with sprigs of mint. Mother had made 2 pumpkin pies the day before in anticipation of daddy being home for Thanksgiving. Mother was at her best, our Thanksgiving feast was ready.

Whether a few of her saltin tears fell as she wished for my daddy to be with us, I was unaware…our feast was one of the most delicious I can remember.

Catherine Graham Burr
Bainbridge Island, WA
November, 2012