Thanksgiving Feasts in Marin

by Carol Acquaviva

Sunset Magazine, November 1903.

George Washington first proclaimed Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday on November 26, 1789. Abraham Lincoln revived the custom in 1863. Although the turkey became a symbol of the Plymouth Colony feast, Americans have long taken their own “spin” on the Thanksgiving dinner menu and festivities. Like most of the country, Marin celebrated with turkey, whether it endured a perilous journey, was prepared with oysters, or served by someone else.

The Marin Journal reported in 1861, “Thanksgiving day was appropriately observed,” with “pleasant parties assembled at various residences in town and country. They discussed the luxuries of a bountiful Providence, under which the tables groaned.”

In 1889, the youth of Bolinas held a party on Thanksgiving. “Every one seemed to have a fine time, except Mr. Crick who did not know how to dance.” In 1908, the students in Tomales entertained an audience with a song titled “Turkey Lurkey.”

In the spirit of dancing, the Journal described the “Thanksgiving Dance” in 1900. “The drumstick figure is especially appropriate for the Thanksgiving dance. Tiny drums are handed the ladies, and the drumsticks given the men. Each man selects his partner by executing a vigorous tapping on the drum suspended about the fair neck. Then the dancing is done to military music and ceases at the sound of the bugle call.”

“Soldiers Eat Turkey” was the headline in the Sausalito News on November 28, 1908, as members of the 161st Company coast Artillery Corps, stationed at Fort Barry, enjoyed an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner. “The orchestra played popular airs while the soldiers ate turkey, and pumpkin and mince pies like mother made. [The soldiers] said it was the best meal they ever ate with apologies to no one.”

Sausalito News, November 22, 1913

In 1913, the Journal suggested, “a cornucopia formed of nougat or white candy makes an effective table decoration and has the added advantage that the children can break it up and eat it afterward. It may be filled with candied oranges and grapes, marrons glacés and other nuts.”

The report from the Sausalito News in 1956 was that “there will be no turkey for vegetarian Helen Bromfield who bemoans the fact that she’ll have to prepare a special feast for her not-too easy-to-please cats.” It is not explained why Helen is vegetarian, what she will feed her finicky cats, or how the News got ahold of this noteworthy announcement.

Thanksgiving has always been symbolic of something much larger than the meal itself. In 1890, the San Francisco Call described the holiday as having “a special social meaning in California. As the fruit and garden State par excellence, it falls at a period delightfully suggestive of material good…. The interests of the country and city are indissolubly interlocked, and we may join hands and unite in Thanksgiving this year.” In that spirit, we encourage you to consider those who are affected by the Camp Fire. The Independent Journal has provided information on how to help victims.

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