With Thanksgiving Day fast approaching, I am reminded of how we celebrated that holiday when I was in my early teens in Quincy, Mass. The family got up early for breakfast, and got ready to go to church for the 8 a.m. service. In our area, Thanksgiving Day was usually cold, so warm clothing was the order of the day, because we were going to a football game after church. Not just any game, but a special one.
When the church service was over, the family headed home so my mother could get the 20-pound turkey in the oven. The kids headed off to the football stadium to watch the pregame activities. The stadium was not far from our home, so we would walk there.
Quincy had two high schools: Quincy High and North Quincy High. Each had a football team. Every year on Thanksgiving, the teams played against each other. It did not matter about their records during the season. This was the important game that really counted.
There were two reasons why we were interested in the game. First, our cousin, Munroe MacLean, was the head coach for the Quincy team. Second, where we lived meant we would attend Quincy.
The mayor of Quincy, Charles A. Ross, did the coin toss. On one particularly memorable year, Quincy was the home team. North Quincy won the toss and elected to receive. Both teams played hard the whole game. Halftime activities included both marching bands and some floats with each school’s king and queen.
My older sister, Winnie, who was attending Quincy, was dating a young man, Carl, who was attending North Quincy. This presented some problems, such as where they were going to sit. They solved this by sitting on North Quincy’s side of the stadium until halftime, and on Quincy’s side for the rest of the game.
The stadium had a red brick wall around it. For me it looked about 20 feet, but in reality it was only 8 feet. There were gates every so often, but you had to pay to get in. Sometimes my friends and I would try to scale the wall, but the police would come around and make us get down.
Once the game was over, we would head home, joyous if Quincy High won, which it did on that day. As we opened the door to the house, the first thing that hit us was the aroma of the turkey roasting in the oven. We could hardly wait to sit down for dinner.
Depending on who won the game, the table talk was loud or soft. That day it was loud. Our father always wanted to know if we were able to talk to Munroe. We managed to say, “hi” to him. The rest of the conversation was about the game, and the plays that “Shorty” Fleisher, the quarterback for Quincy, made.
Our dinner consisted of turkey, which our father carved, gravy, mashed potatoes, homemade stuffing from our grandmother, squash and green beans (not the casserole we see today). Dessert was homemade apple pie with real whipped cream.
I always looked forward to supper because of the turkey sandwiches on my grandmother’s bread, and more apple pie.
When I was in college and seminary, I always made it home for Thanksgiving and the football game.
It was not until after I was ordained and had moved to Rochester that I found out that not every place had a local football game on Thanksgiving Day. What a disappointment.