Guest Column: Thanksgiving before television

Guest column by Norma Haynes
Special to The Newnan Times-Herald
I’m not quite old enough to remember this, but I am told that many years ago on the Court Square where Cook’s Office Supply is now, there was a store called Boone’s Dry Goods.
Every Thanksgiving, Mr. Boone climbed up on the top of his building and released several hundred live turkeys. People gathered on the street below to try to capture one of the birds for their Thanksgiving meal. It was quite an event that was looked forward to each year at Thanksgiving. Of course, once the turkey was caught, it became some family’s delicious meal on that Thursday long ago.
When I was a young girl, Thanksgiving was truly one of my favorite holidays, and it still is. It was a day set aside to be thankful for the freedoms with which we are so blessed in this country, but somehow the real meaning of Thanksgiving and so many of the real traditions of Thanksgiving have given way to “just getting through the day so you can get on with the business of buying Christmas gifts and decorating for Christmas.”
Back then, we got out of school at 1 p.m. on Wednesday (which was called a “one session” day). We only had Thanksgiving Day, returning to school the following Monday. My early Thanksgivings were truly family oriented. There was no television until later in my teen years. We never dreamed of putting up a Christmas tree on Thanksgiving Day. Many Thanksgiving mornings, I got out of bed around 4 in the morning, dressed warmly and went with my daddy foxhunting.
Foxhunting in that day had nothing to do with riding horses or gathering for hunts. Rather, the men (one of his best foxhunting friends was the late Sheriff Lamar Potts) would put their dogs in the backs of their cars, drive way out in the country, turn the dogs loose and let them chase a fox if they were able to sniff one out. The men would stand around and listen as the hounds barked in their chase. I remember well that Daddy could name every one that barked. He would say, “There’s old Reuben,” and another man would say, “Yeah, Rachel right there with him.”

The dogs never caught a fox, and when they lost the scent, they would go up under somebody’s house and rest until Daddy and the others went looking for them later on in the morning.

I so well remember the beauty of the mornings, the sun just coming up, the frost on the ground, the peacefulness of being in the middle of nowhere surrounded by old trees and pastures. You couldn’t help feeling a sense of gratitude that you were allowed to be there.

When we returned home, we had our homemade biscuits and jelly, along with eggs and sausage. Then after we read the paper, it was time to sweep the leaves in the yard while Mother fixed our Thanksgiving dinner.

I can still smell that delicious dressing and taste her melt-in-your mouth sweet potatoes. After we ate dinner, if the day was pretty, we would all get in the car and ride out in the country again. It was truly a day of being together and of being thankful for all our blessings.

Later, when television appeared in our lives, if there were football games early on, I was not aware of them. The only time on Thanksgiving that we turned on the television was to watch the lighting of Rich’s great tree. That was such a magical moment. In those early days, Rich’s had church choirs who sang the beautiful hymns of Christmas and then, when “O Holy Night” was sung, and lights came on, it was truly a moment to remember.

We are so blessed to live in a country where we can celebrate Thanksgiving, and I hope that special day is never totally pushed aside. It is a time for memories and for sharing moments with loved ones, and I hope that for a few hours, the televisions will be turned off and friends and families can share a time together, and that those who are lacking food or families will be remembered by those of us who can help them.

I am glad I don’t have to go to town and catch a turkey dropped off the store, but I surely do like remembering the days of old when Thanksgiving was truly Thanksgiving, a day of counting our blessings.

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