A 1950s Thanksgiving meditation, by Ronald H. Tammen, Jr.

Vintage graphic courtesy of Antique Images

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Despite the fact that (hopefully) most of us have adjusted our usual Thanksgiving plans and are keeping things small and meaningful this year, it’s still my favorite holiday. To commemorate this tumultuous year, I encourage you to use the comments section to tell us how you are—or aren’t—spending the holiday due to covid-19. (Send pics too!) I’ll go first: we won’t be making our annual trek to NYC to visit my brother and his partner this year. It sucks—it really, really does. But, for the good of the country, we’ll just have to wait until 2021 for my brother’s stupendous stuffin’ muffins (see my Thanksgiving 2018 post for recipe).

But I also have a surprise for you: an editorial on the topic of Thanksgiving that’s brought to us by our very own Ronald Tammen. So cool, right?? When Ron was a senior at Maple Heights High School, he oversaw the editorial page of the student paper, the Maple Heights Herald. Although I can’t say with 100% certainty that Ron wrote all of the editorials while he was in charge, they do sound a lot like Ron—or how I picture Ron’s writings to sound: serious and responsible and loaded with patriotism and advice about the importance of hard work to better oneself. If he didn’t write an editorial for a particular issue, at the very least, he would have given it a final polish and stamp of approval. But this one totally sounds like something he wrote.

The editorial I’m sharing with you was published 70 years ago—on November 16, 1950—and it certainly sounds that way in places. Plus, there’s nothing like reading the deep and earnest and not-quite-gelled thoughts of a high schooler on deadline. To provide additional perspective, in June of that year, the United States had entered into the Korean War. For a young man like Ron who would be registering for the draft in eight short months, the world was getting scary. (And if you think this editorial sounds somber, just give a read to this excerpt from the one he ran at Christmas: “As conditions are shaping in Korea, the atomic bomb may well be brought into use. And, if it is, assuredly, there are those of us who may not be around to celebrate the next Yuletide.”) Yikes. Despite the differences between then and now, some aspects still ring familiar, and, for this reason, I thought it would be worth posting.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

The window view that has come to mean Thanksgiving to me, along with last year’s stuffin’ muffins and corn pudding. Feel free to share your photos of either this year’s or a prior year’s Thanksgiving in the comments section.

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Holliday [sic] Explains America

Thanksgiving is a simple word—as simple and straightforward as the small band of Pilgrims who first gave it meaning over 300 years ago. They had given up every bit of security and even risked their very lives to come to America. And why did they sacrifice almost everything? They believed in having freedom from tyranny and despotism and were willing to give anything for this privilege.

Those first few years were very painful for the Pilgrims and they faced hardships never before encountered. Some died while they were in sight of shore and were buried before there was even thought of shelter. The Pilgrims had determination however, and still more important they had faith in God and in themselves. They had faith that if they worked hard enough things would brighten and take a turn for the better. They had faith in an ideal and nothing that happened would sway them from it.

Little by little they gathered strength and with the help of the friendly Indians, they were able to produce a crop large enough to maintain life. It was decided to set aside a day in which they could all feast and give thanks to the Lord for helping them.

It would be well for us to compare this Thanksgiving with the first one, in that we are experiencing a similar sense of uncertainty. Progress has changed our way of living, but we are still devoting our strength and faith to the same principles of freedom. We are the Pilgrims of the twentieth century and must stand as firm as they for our beliefs. Thus is Thanksgiving—the holiday that explains America.

Masthead and editorial for the Maple Heights Herald on Nov. 16, 1950. Note that Ronald Tammen is listed as editor of the editorial page.

9 thoughts on “A 1950s Thanksgiving meditation, by Ronald H. Tammen, Jr.

  1. I meet with 2 different families. One cancelled long ago. The other one, I haven’t heard anything, and don’t expect to. A sister had planned to come to Ohio from South Carolina, but she bailed out on that after seeing Ohio’s covid numbers. So, it’ll be a day of football and relaxation.

  2. I’m just celebrating with my immediate family, which is what I usually do anyway. So, luckily, I didn’t have to change my plans.

    Thanks for sharing that editorial!

  3. Jen,
    Thanks for sharing the Thanksgiving article from The Maple Heights Herald! On point for then and now and brought a tear to my eye! Like most everyone else, we will be a small group of only 4 this year at the table. Will be missing my grandkids and many others – but best to be safe! My youngest son revamped his wedding plans in September from 150 at a barn venue in Charlottesville, VA, to an intimate group of 5 at an overlook on Skyline Drive. While we are all making adjustments, I hope everyone stays well and enjoys their scaled-down holiday season.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Deb! I’m sure there will be lots of zoom calls that day. 😊 Also, congratulations to your son! That was a very cool and selfless act they did to change their wedding plans…

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