Thanksgiving evokes schoolkids’ drawings

Larry Hart reminisces about Thanksgivings past in Classic Tales of Old Dorp.

The Daily Gazette is reprinting excerpts of the late Larry Hart’s long-running column, “Tales of Old Dorp.” With families and friends planning Thanksgiving dinners for Thursday, Hart looks back to ways people celebrated the day in schools, stores and restaurants. This column excerpt originally was published Nov. 22, 1988.

No one is sure just exactly when or even where the first Thanksgiving feast took place in America so many years ago, but we today have perpetuated the tradition of setting aside the fourth Thursday in November (FDR’s ill-fated experiment in 1943 notwithstanding) to give thanks for bounteous blessings.

All kinds of mind pictures come back to us, as we are sure they do to others in the senior age bracket, when Thanksgiving comes around. Somehow, elementary school days figure strongly in those memories and whenever we visit classrooms now we see much the same ways of celebrating the holiday as when we were in those lower grades.

Huge chalk or crayon drawings of strutting tom turkeys, pilgrims and pumpkin pies decorate the walls and windows. Usually, there is a special assembly to commemorate the so-called original feast in 1621, and very often certain classes have their own Thanksgiving repast with pupils dressed either as settlers or Indians.

We did all that, in our consecutive, but fairly brief tenures at various grade schools in Schenectady and Rotterdam, and the only difference in these 50-odd years might be that the electronic age has added a fillip or two with VCR tapes and sound-recording renderings.

Bargain prices

Glancing through the Schenectady Gazette files of 1905, we were fascinated as usual by the pre-holiday ads leading up to Thanksgiving, which fell on Nov. 30 that year.

Imagine getting quality men’s topcoats for $25 and $35, ladies’ cloth coats for less than that and for only $36 with fur collars at H.S. Barney Co. Oak dining room tables and chairs, kitchen stoves, lounges and glassware would be unbelievable values by today’s standards. Likewise, the low costs of foodstuffs would amaze today’s younger generations — such as fresh-dressed tom turkeys at 10 cents a pound.

There was, however, one particular ad in the Gazette’s Thanksgiving edition of 1905 that was outstanding as far as bargains go. It was the one calling attention to a Thanksgiving Day dinner special at Ernie Stoeber’s City Hotel at 233 Dock Street, which would today be a few doors south of Wallace Armer’s on Erie Boulevard.

On Thanksgiving Day, from 12 to 2, the hotel was offering a turkey dinner, complete with trimmings and dessert — for 25 cents. Even in 1905, that had to be the ultimate in dinner treats.

Categories: Life and Arts

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