By the Tuesday before Thanksgiving we were anxious for the next two days to end since our Thanksgiving Day holiday was a four day weekend. Attending Wilson Elementary, I could see my house from the classroom since the only thing between the school and the house was a street and a big vacant lot with a pathway through it for neighborhood students. I wondered what Mom was fixing and how the kitchen would smell and when school was out, I found out. She was baking all the goodies to go with dinner and my appetite immediately appeared, but I was told to go out with friends and play football, then she might give me a sample. Two hours later, coming home with grass stains and dirty hands, she directed me to bathe first. Complying, I returned to have one of her special Thanksgiving sugar cookies awaiting me, large and tasty, then it was off to homework followed by dinner. Seeing all the workings for Thursday made dinner seem like we were paupers but we knew that was all part of Mom's plan to get us good and ready for the feast.
Wednesday morning, up early to read the paper, I turned to see the hype for the big game the next day. With my big sister a high school student, I started following the Typhoon, our sports teams at Newport News High and the Thanksgiving Day game was a classic. The opponent, the Hampton Crabbers, our next door neighbor arch rivals and a team that had quite the record in high school football, beat us much more often than they lost. Yet the game, which had been played on Thanksgiving since 1947 and, before that, an annual event since 1903, built spirit and tradition and therefore Old Newport pulled the surprise on quite a few occasions. The local sports page in the Daily Press did an excellent job of covering high school sports and in the case of this game, attended by as many as ten thousand sports fans, it got the limelight of that day. We even discussed it at school and the teacher allowed it, knowing how important it was to everyone in the old city. The anxiety was building.
Back home after school, the house was overcome with the aroma of Thanksgiving, yet Mom served us soup and sandwiches with a twinkle in her eye as she saw us keeping an eye on what was underway in the background. And then, on the morning of Thanksgiving, she gave us oatmeal before we all hopped in the car to go to the special Thanksgiving morning service at our downtown church, First Presbyterian. Driving on the bridge to enter downtown over multiple tracks of the C&O Railway leading into the Port of Newport News, we could see Saunders Stadium, home of the Typhoon, with the blue and gold streamers being attached to the goal post. I must admit that it was hard to pay attention to the sermon and get the always superb message from Dr. Buckles since the game and dinner was on our mind but he knew and understood. He smiled at me on the way out of the church and asked if I was going to the Newport News game and I just smiled with a big shake of yes with my head, garnering a big smile and a tousling of my hair on the way out.
At home, it was a quick sandwich a change of clothes, dressing warmly when it was cold, and off we went to the game, except for Mom. She said this was the time that she could get things done and ready, then she would sit down, relax and listen to the game on the radio like just about everyone in Old Newport News would do back in those days. Dad, also a graduate of Newport News, would take us all and my sister would go and sit with her friends in the student section. My brother and I and Dad sat in a good spot, he always got his tickets early and he adorned his fedora with blue and gold ribbon to cover the hat band. He had played football back in his day (Class of 1922) at the school and was like a big kid for the game.
Coming home was either joyous or sad, but once we walked into the house, all concerns dropped as we looked at the gorgeous dining room table with Mom's finest linen and a fall assortment of flowers courtesy of Dad's surprise delivery, and we prepared for a great meal. One I especially remember was when my Uncle Burr, an active Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer had liberty in port and he spent Thanksgiving with us and that was super special. So, how was the feast? Well, this blog was about the lead up and that is for another time but I can tell you this much. As I sit here right now thinking about those glorious times, I'm getting quite the yearning for a turkey dinner with all the trimmings and I just hope I can wait until Thursday. I guess that means I haven't changed much, doesn't it? How about you?