What am I thankful for? Simple: my membership in the most powerful species in all of creation. God may have “made” the universe with old-fashioned thick-fingered manual labor, but humans may have sealed its fate simply by looking at it. It’s a grand development, I say; at the very least, it means we can deploy goggle-eyed Marty Feldman Brigades to stare at the sun and make it cool down.

That’ll help in the short run, but it won’t do anything about the eventual end of All Things. At least we’ll know who to blame. We can turn to the scientists, and say: you peeked! Of course, there will be art history academics who will blame it on the Male Gaze, but at least we won't have to listen to them. All will be wiped away in the great upending of the cosmic Etch-A-Sketch, and we can begin anew. Preferably with blind stump-limbed eels who won't screw it up this time.

Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s some retro fun from the distant part to fill out the day. I’ll be dropping in at buzz.mn a few times as well – it’s Lance Lawson Mystery Thursday, holiday or no holiday.

Editorial cartoon in the Star for Thanksgiving 1947:

Well, good to know we’re beyond those worries. Must have been all those people using their Diner’s Club cards to invest in television stocks.

There aren’t many Thanksgiving photos in the old archive; there’s something about the holiday that simply does not lend itself to interesting photography. There’s the bird, there’s the table, there’s the family, and that’s it: a never-changing tableau that was captured perfectly by Norman Rockwell, shaming all other attempts.

The other examples of the genre are the Poor, bedraggled but mutely grateful, and Thanksgiving in places that seem the opposite of the usual family setting. This is a good example of the latter: GI s enjoying a bit of home in the European theater In 1944.

Note the close-up detail: the arrival of turkey was not, as thought, a latrine rumor.

Who is this man? What became of him?

I am thankful for him, whoever he is - and his counterparts today.

A 1947 ad: the obligatory Quisling, happily serving up his kith for us to tear apart with our hands and eat with our sharp, sharp teeth.

Eat them, not me! Can’t you tell by my posture and expression that I identify with you? I’m better than those stupid birds. They deserve to be eaten. Here – let me go get you some gravy. Later, I can whistle Mozart, if you like. I love Mozart, don’t you? All of us smart bipeds love Mozart! Those stupid birds couldn’t sing two bars of “Turkey in the Straw.” Me, I’m not fond of the tune – it’s a little simple, don’t you think? Of course, if you appreciate folk music as an expression of the people – there was an article in Life magazine about that last week, did you read it? – then I suppose it has its place, but frankly I just think turkey culture is just too low, too base – yes yes, I’ll shut up, of course! Anything you say. Shut up it is.

This was the newspaper’s house ad for 1947: all the Morning Tribune personalities, gathered around the bird. Smorgy was a local comic about an enlisted Minnesotan with horrible nasal deformities.

The columnists included George Grim, who wrote “I Like It Here.” He seemed to disprove the point by traveling a great deal, and from what I understand he moved away when he retired, but he was quite popular. As was Will Jones; he was still writing for the paper 30 years later when I came to town.

Another ad: Peter Pain hates Thanksgiving! (New window goes to comics site.)

The cartoon in the 1947 Tribune is as timeless as the one in the Star:


As it was then, so it is now. Sixty years is a long time. Yes, I know, blink of an eye, et cetera, but it’s only short when recalled; lived out, it has a long slow stride. Sixty years ago so much was different, but hardly unrecognizable. Few had TV, but most had heard about it. The new comedy act coming to the Nicollet Hotel the day after Thanksgiving in 1947? That hot new laff-riot sensation, Senor Wences. I don’t remember him from the Sullivan show, but like so many things in life, I learned up the reference before I knew what the reference referred to. If you know what I mean. Years later I learned that one of Wences' characters lived in a box and said "S'awright." And when I learned that, all was clear.

It’s right at the end:

Anyway. Some things stay the same. Many things stay the same. Sometimes we can’t see the trees for the forest; we look up and see all the leaves turning new shades – impudent, saucy, shocking shades that simply don’t respect the old ways! – and then we not only realize that the trunks and roots are really what count, but that this is a bathetic and saccharine metaphor best abandoned now, before we start talking about how squirrels running around represent the internet, or something. Sorry; I’m a bit tired. But you know what I mean. meals haven’t changed much, and I’ve the newspaper ads here to prove it. Okay, there’s less “ludefisk” to be had. (Nineteen cents a pound in 1947.) But everything in the big ads would belong on a table in 2007, and it’ll probably be there in 2057. It’s food with tenure, and that says something good about the nation behind the tradition.

The papers were full of post-Thanksgiving shopping ads in 1947, too.

Whatever your tradition may be, enjoy. Drop over to buzz.mn for a few more thoughts on the matter. Enjoy your feast!

Still here? Buy the book! Thank you very much.