Wednesday, November 26, 2008


The Autumn Sketchbook
of Bess Stanhope
November 26, 1925

I awoke this morning to the heavenly smell of roasting turkey. It's Thanksgiving Day! Inga let me sleep in this morning – what a dear. We are having Thanksgiving Dinner about 2:00 p.m. and the huge bird needs to cook for hours. Little Tommy Swenson will be happy to eventually discover that the biggest, meanest gobbler in the flock won’t be chasing after him anymore. Let’s hope he doesn’t make the connection between Big Tom and our delicious meal today.

At this moment, all is calm in the household. We are caught up with the dinner preparations, the children are playing quietly and Lars is doing chores. I am catching up with my journal at the kitchen table.

We won’t be traveling "Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother's House", because all four grandparents - the Swensons and the Nygaards - are coming our way! But I did have my pupils learn that fine old Thanksgiving poem this week. It was written by Lydia Maria Child in 1844.

"Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandmother's house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.
Over the river, and through the wood -
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
As over the ground we go.
Over the river, and through the wood,
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring, "Ting-a-ling-ding",
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!
Over the river, and through the wood
Trot fast, my dapple-gray!
Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood -
And straight through the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
It is so hard to wait!
Over the river, and through the wood -
Now Grandmother's cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!”

We had a Thanksgiving pageant yesterday at the school. I have such fond memories of the Thanksgiving pageant held annually at my St. Paul elementary school when I was a little girl. I still have a photo too. It is kind of faded but you can see our Thanksgiving costumes. Can you tell which one is me?

When I showed my pupils the photo, they were eager to hold a Thanksgiving Pageant too. Fortunately for them - and their parents - simple Indian headdresses, Pilgrim hats and collars are easy to make with cardboard and stiff paper.

Last month, President Coolidge issued his 1925 Thanksgiving proclamation. I have copied out a portion of it:

“We have been brought with safety and honor through another year, and, through the generosity of nature, He has blessed us with resources whose potentiality in wealth is almost incalculable; we are at peace at home and abroad; the public health is good; we have been undisturbed by pestilences or great catastrophes; our harvests and our industries have been rich in productivity; our commerce spreads over the whole world, and Labor has been well rewarded for its remunerative service.”

How blessed and fortunate were are to live in prosperous times!

This is our Thanksgiving menu for today:

Roast Turkey
Mashed Potatoes with Giblet Gravy
Sage Dressing (Stuffing)
Scalloped Corn
Candied Yams
Fresh Dinner Rolls
Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream
Caramel Nut Cake

(I was introduced to lefse last year when I moved in with the Swensons. It is a delicious soft Norwegian flatbread made from mashed potatoes, cream and flour, and cooked on a griddle. I like mine spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar and rolled up.)

In addition to helping prepare all of the above, my contribution is the Caramel Nut Cake which I found in the recipe book above.

Here at the Swensons, we will SING grace before our meal. I learned this from the family, who are Lutheran:

“Be present at our table, Lord
Be here and everywhere adored
These mercies bless and grant that we
May feast in paradise with thee.”

I will give thanks for the love of my adopted family, Inga and Lars Swenson and their four lovely children, and for my wonderful parents who are still on their auto tour throughout the American Southwest. I am thankful to have found my calling as a teacher and for my students and their families. I am thankful for the beauty of this countryside and the new friends I have made here.

It is a wonderfully mild day so I am sure that after the dishes are done we will take a walk out on the prairie to work off our dinner. This evening we will just snack on leftover turkey sandwiches. I will add a dab of cranberry sauce to my plate and I will be set. Later, as we all gather around the radio, I will work on my scrapbook, adding some new postcards to my Thanksgiving postcard collection, especially ones from my favorite postcard artists.
John Winsch's Thanksgiving postcards often featured Indians

Adorable children were the hallmark of the Whitney Company

Frances Brundage created some of the most
beautiful Thanksgiving postcards ever

Ellen Clapsaddle was another postcard
artist who often drew cute children.

Finally, I will retire to my room to read this new book my mother sent me. Of course, we who claim St. Paul, Minnesota, as our hometown, and especially those of us from Summit Avenue, are so proud of Scott. I have followed his career avidly and I have read his other books. I think he and Zelda are the berries! I can't wait to start "The Great Gatsby."
NOTE FROM THE FUTURE, THANKSGIVING 2008: How fortunate indeed for Bess and her adopted family, students, neighbors and friends to be living in prosperity. Little did they know that in four scant years the stock market would crash and they would be plunged into the Great Depression, and the Dust Bowl would spread all the way from Texas to North Dakota. I think maybe the very first thanks we should give on this Thanksgiving Day is: “Thanks be that we can’t foretell the future.”

At my home it will be Dan, myself, my sister and her two kids. Our Thanksgiving Dinner is fundamentally the same as Bess’, except for Green Bean Casserole with French’s Onions, which was not invented until the 1950s. (Oh, and no caramel nut cake for us.)

It may have been a lovely mild Thanksgiving Day for Bess in 1925, but here in 2008, winter descended a few weeks ago. It is definitely no longer fall here, and for that reason I think this will be the final virtual chapter in Bess Stanhope’s “Autumn Sketch Book.” It was a blast to write. Thanks for all your kind comments.


Anonymous said...

I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving, and many thanks to YOU for these wonderful stories from your Bess. Terrific! Love the illustrations you chose for each journal entry, too.

Lynn Cohen said...

I love the nostalgia of the pictures you find and post.
One year my husband and I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner and dressed like pilgrims! (like those kids in your photo). ;-)
Enjoy your day with family and good food. Peace for all mankind.

Joyce said...

Great post......I just read it now while waiting on some things to cook. HA!
It's been a good "series" really don't have any stories from Bess about Christmas??? If you do....slip those in......I'm hooked now. HA!
It's been very intersting.
Have a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving Day.
Thinking of you.....
P.S...we are having a similar menu with the Green Bean Cassarole and cake like that but DO add in some "Louisiana Dirty Rice."
It's the South you know.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

OH - my thanksgiving is complete - with another journal entry. Surely there will be a winter sketchbook??? OH please say there will be. I am addicted to reading your entries, it is almost like being there.

Happy Thanksgiving - our turkey is about to go in the oven.

Annie Jeffries said...

What a wealth of nostogia you have given us today, Julie. Wishing you a warm and cozy day. Love and peace, Annie

Rowan said...

Hope you are having a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. I so enjoyed reading Bess's entry about Thanksgiving especially the poem - maybe she could do a Winter Sketch Book???? The recipe books look fascinating, I love old cookery books.

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving :-)

gma said...

Oh Bess, So glad you enjoyed your Thanksgiving day. You should've seen Mama shoot our wild turkey.
She is a sureshot. Then Daddy cooked it in a pit all day on buried coals. It was juicy and tender. Some Hopi friends from NM saw your parents. They are enjoying the southwest. Our friends stayed for dinner. It was like the first Thanksgiving.
love Maryfrank 11-26-25

Mary said...

This was a lovely post Julie - you always light up the day when you write.

Glad Dan helped today - it's a lot of work. Hope you have plenty of leftovers - that's what I miss when I don't cook - and I didn't as we were invited out and it was a treat for me!

Hugs - Mary.

Leanne said...

Hi Julie, I am all behind with blog-visiting - blame it on moving house- but i wanted to pop by and wish you a happy thanksgiving.

leanne x

LW said...

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

I too have enjoyed my time with Bess.
And hope to see her again someday.


a Pocket Angel said...

Time for another of my blog banner give-a-ways..If you are interested please leave a comment on my blog.
I'll draw a winner on
Thursday Dec 4..
Thanks! ~Mary~:-}

Janet said...

I'm late getting here but I still loved reading about Bess and her Thanksgiving.

We had 14 people this year and it all went great. I'm especially thankful for all my blogging friends....and you are one of the best!

couragetocreatewriteandlove said...

yes say how goofy i am I haven't read any books by Scott Fitzgerald, i started watching once the movie the great gatsby with robert redford and fell asleep, lol
i will one of these days and i will let you know.

marthaberry said...

Lovely story, Julie. Makes me feel like I was there.

I hope you had a nice thanksgiving. I have my girls and son in law, the cats, and a wonderful meal, so mine was very nice.

Shopgirl said...

Like others I am loving your stories of Bess, Great work Julie.
Big Hugs, Mary
I have been busy and not on often.

Lila Rostenberg said...

Yes, I think the "Winter Sketchbook" would be a great idea to pursue. You have done a fabulous job on the story and illustrations about Bess!!!!
YOur Thanksgiving sounds very good, I was thinking of you while I was in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Someday I will visit North Dakota!

Lena said...

Another wonderful entry to your sketchbook Julie. You did such a wonderful job with your story, and I really enjoyed it.