Ghosts of Thanksgivings past
The Spirit of Tehachapi
November 18, 2023
"Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through white and drifted snow." A charming children's song. A bit dated, also. No horse, no sleigh and if there were drifts of snow the roads would have been closed. Still, we would come to Grandmother's house and would enjoy not only a fine meal but seeing family and enjoying ourselves. Of course, the horsepower was in whatever car we were driving.
I remember back when I still lived at grandmother's house here in Tehachapi and was only 11 years old. My mother wasn't even a grandmother, then. That year – 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a proclamation that he was moving Thanksgiving to the third Thursday in November from the regular fourth Thursday. The reason was that it would be backed up a week to make the holiday farther away from Christmas. One would have thought our Civil Rights were being taken away. I remember people asking my mother which day our family was going to celebrate. The kids at school asked one another the same thing. I recall a classmate, William Yates, one of the Yates Twins, announcing, " We're going to have two Thanksgivings!" I don't remember which day we had our Thanksgiving dinner. I wish I did recall that piece of information.
Looking back in history, people discovered that George Washington first proclaimed that a day of Thanksgiving be observed each year. Then, old "honest Abe Lincoln" the 16th President, set the fourth Thursday of November as the official Thanksgiving Day for our nation. I'm surprised that President Roosevelt's "golden tongue" could not convince the public but after two fateful years that put this country into such turmoil, he deemed it a poor idea and set the calendar back to the original date. It was a good time for the turkey businessmen though. I wonder if Roosevelt's "faux pas" was written in the history books?
That was the year (1939) that Tehachapi had a grasshopper plague. Millions of them came into the three valleys and ate everything. The next few years the wildflowers were scant as the grasshoppers came before the flowers had gone to seed. Some of the hoppers were very large and if they landed on our porch you would hear them hit. After they ate everything in the three valleys they all flew away one day.
One Thanksgiving my mother (a lady to whom the song refers to as living at grandmother's house) had 22 over for dinner. Being 25 years younger than she and in a moment of madness, I volunteered to have the yearly dinner at our house. Time marches on and 21 years later my son, Father John, was sent to Our Lady of Lourdes parish in California City. Just a hop, skip and a jump from Tehachapi. In miles it's roughly about 30. Being a good son (and a good cook) he offered to do Thanksgiving dinner. I was very agreeable. Besides, he's 32 years younger than I . His parish is now, and has been for 18 years, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Bishop. It's only 200 miles away. A little more than a hop, skip and a jump though, but not a bad drive. He's still very willing and so am I.