A Catskill Catalog: November 23, 2011

The day after Thanksgiving, 1948, the Catskill Mountain News reported on several fires in the previous week. The Arkville Laundry burned, suspiciously, at midnight, the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Fifty-thousand dollars worth of equipment and machinery were lost. In the river hamlet, Pepacton, a chimney fire took John Shaver’s farmhouse, destroying 500 quarts of canned fruits and vegetables, and the winter supply of potatoes.

Stan’s Tavern, in Arena, advertised steamed clams, “fresh from natural Long Island clam beds,” and platters of French fries.

In Fleischmanns, Herbert and Benedict Feldman, chiropractors and naturopaths, offered consultation and case analysis. Therapies might include mineral cabinet baths, colonic irrigation, and X-ray service, as well as massage, foot and body manipulations, and spinal adjustments.
The Margaretville Artificial Breeders Association assured readers that “the surest way to improve your herd is to use superior Holstein, Guernsey, Ayrshire, and Jersey sires.” Kelly’s Drug Store urged locals to “build up that resistance,” to coming winter cold, with Squibbs Cod Liver Oil, only $1.19 for the big bottle.

There would be dancing at Kass Inn on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, just as there was every Saturday night, with “all legal beverages” available. The Joe Golden and Charles B. York Orchestra provided the swing, and, with “dinner served at all times,” dancers were reminded, by the proprietors, to “try our lobster dinners.”

Today, of course, Kass Inn is a memory. That iconic country inn, on the Margaretville-Roxbury Road, furnished in eclectic antiques, has morphed into the sleek and airy, hillside Hanah Mountain Resort & Country Club.

Our Thanksgiving, today, butts-up hard against the Black Friday opening of the selling season, and no one can blame hard-pressed consumers for taking advantage of the savings retailers offer at inconvenient hours. Wasn’t so, however, at Thanksgiving, 1948. Consumers, then, might consider holiday purchases over the Thanksgiving weekend, but there’d be no holiday-evening trip to Walmart, groggy from the turkey and way-too-much pie.

Maybe the Motorola radio advertised in the Catskill Mountain News would catch the eye. It’s a real nice one, a “furniture styled table model,” at Babcock Electric, in the Galli-Curci Theatre building.
A bit pricy, at $69.95, but frequency modulation was cutting-edge radio, and TV was more talked-about-than-experienced, here in the mountains, so maybe a new radio would be nice. Babcock’s would be open the Friday after Thanksgiving.

If you were lucky, celebrating Thanksgiving in the Catskills, in 1948, you’d sit down to a turkey dinner that featured a local, farm-raised bird. Farm families might roast the tom they raised for just that purpose. Village families might buy farm-raised poultry, perhaps, an Aknusti turkey, raised on the Aknusti Farms, in Delhi, on the Robert Gerry estate. Available at L. Bussy & Co. in Margaretville, or through the Andes or Roxbury American Legion posts, the six- to 20-pound turkeys were “scientifically fed and scientifically bred.”

At the central school in Margaretville, students Bill Hubbell and Dave Taylor had recently returned, that Thanksgiving, from their train trip to Kansas City, where they represented their school and state at the national convention of the Future Farmers of America. Bill was first vice-president of the New York state chapter.

The boys traveled with Mr. Charles Holdridge, agriculture teacher at the school. The train trip was two days each way, and Roy Rogers, the movie cowboy, entertained the 15,000 boys who attended from all over America. They also heard from the Secretary of Agriculture; interesting, but Roy Rogers was cool, daddy-o.

The Friday after Thanksgiving, Bill and Dave and the other central school kids could attend a Thanksgiving Dance, at the school. The Melody Boys were playing, Hilton Kelly calling the squares. Proceeds would benefit the senior class, raising money for their traditional spring senior trip to Washington.

Those who didn’t want to dance might go to the movies, at the Galli-Curci, where the back end of the double feature starred George Reeves, an actor few would have recognized at Thanksgiving 1948, long before that new-fangled TV turned him into Superman.

Halperns’s store, in Fleischmanns, must have seen some hard times in the months and weeks before Thanksgiving, 1948. They ran an ad in the Catskill Mountain News that said: “Thanksgiving is a day of giving thanks. So all of us, no matter how we look at it, must be thankful for something. So, on Turkey Day, 1948, let’s be thankful for everything we have, no matter how little.”

Not a bad way to look at it, on our flood-rattled Thanksgiving of 2011.