A Family Thanksgiving Celebration in the Ozarks

Even during the Depression Era, one Ozarks family threw a Thanksgiving celebration that would be fondly remembered for years to come.

| Winter 2014

  • Mrs. Crouch adds water to her 20-plus-pound holiday bird in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner.
    Photo by Library of Congress/Jack Delano
  • T.L. Crouch of Ledyard, Connecticut, carves the Thanksgiving turkey in 1940.
    Photo by Library of Congress/Jack Delano
  • The children enjoy themselves at the kids' table at their 1940 Thanksgiving Day dinner.
    Photo by Library of Congress/Jack Delano
  • The older boys come home hungry after a morning of hunting in 1940.
    Photo by Library of Congress/Jack Delano
  • Dessert awaits the family after a delicious Thanksgiving Day meal in 1940.
    Photo by Library of Congress/Jack Delano
  • A youngster checks to see if the puddin' is done and ready for eating.
    Photo by Library of Congress/Jack Delano
  • The Crouch family works together to prepare their Thanksgiving Day dinner.
    Photo by Library of Congress/Jack Delano

In the Ozarks of my childhood, Thanksgiving marked the beginning of the cozy season. After long, hot days spent planting, cultivating, harvesting and canning, the holiday was the beginning of a winter rest.

My mother used to say, “When nights begin to lengthen, cold begins to strengthen.” She looked forward to the colder days of the year, knowing there would be more time for visiting with neighbors, piecing quilts, and attending meetings at the church.

The men in my family looked forward to putting their hunting dogs to work and/or trying out new guns in the tattered corn fields and layered hills surrounding their farms.

Thanksgiving meant a lot of things for the children, too. For me, it meant there would be a family reunion at my grandparents’ home, and it meant the beginning of a sort of magic that wouldn’t end until after Christmas.

Before the holiday, children at my two-room school heard the story of that first Thanksgiving, and the windows were gaily decorated with cut-out pilgrims, turkeys and pumpkins. When at last, the teacher reached for the bell that summoned us to put away our books for four whole days, we were already on our feet. Other times she might have made us sit down for a less hurried exit, but it was Thanksgiving eve, and she was as eager to go as we were.

On the way home, I noticed that all the purple leaves had fallen from the gum trees, and October’s scarlet leaves had turned to brown. There was a crisp, frosty smell to the woods now, and in my excitement my feet skipped over the crunchy, leafy carpet on the forest pathway. Thinking about the family gathering on the following day, I joyfully whispered a poem that my teacher had taught the third-grade class that day: “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandfather’s house we go …”



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