My grandparents never had much money, but they would always throw the biggest Thanksgiving dinner they could manage, and invite everyone they cared about. There were often more than 40 people at the table in the house in the Avenues.
The best job at Thanksgiving was setting the places at the long table that stretched from the dining room to the middle of the living room -- it was a table top on a couple of saw horses, but with Lida's linens and the good china, it looked lovely. If you were well-behaved and careful, you were allowed to help lay out the silverware. There were two long wooden benches that ran the length of the room on either side of the table. Younger folks usually sat on the benches. Read on to find out why.
Grandpa was in charge of picking the bread for the stuffing a day in advance. If you were very good and careful, you could help with that too.
This was a big group: the Postons, the Zaros, the Lynches, the Karas, the Weilands, the Crosbys, plus all the kids, plus sometimes a priest or two, plus sometimes the Terheydens; plus sometimes the Jensen brothers (Al and Doc); and sometimes Ray Bishop; and sometimes Auntie Joy and Uncle Blackie Puglesa, Sheriff of Lake County.
There were very, very complicated seating arrangements (descriptions based on reminiscences from years past):
1. Uncle Ed and Aunt Loretto had to be in chairs with backs--otherwise if they were sitting on a bench, when they had too many drinks they would lean back, and fall off the bench.
2. Auntie Eleanor could not sit next to Uncle Bob Weiland because of his roving hands and other things.
3. Auntie Helen could not sit next to Uncle Bob Weiland because of his roving hands and other things.
4. Auntie Dodie could not sit next to Uncle Bob Weiland because of his roving hands, etc., etc.
5. Uncle Freddie could not sit next to Auntie Louetta because of amorous undertakings that developed with wine (as opposed to roving hands, etc., etc.).
6. There was someone Auntie Joy could not sit next to, but nobody can remember now who that was.
7. Uncle Bert had to be in a place where he had room to do the carving. He was always in charge of carving the turkey.
8. Grandma did not like the bottles of red wine to be too near the far end of the table where grandpa would sit.
9. Grandma and Auntie Dorothy and Auntie Helen had to be near the end of the table near the kitchen because they needed to get into and out of the kitchen. Auntie Louetta usually did not join the ladies in the kitchen -- sometimes she had had too much wine by then. Grandma always sat on the piano bench at the end of the table closest to the kitchen. Good girls got to sit next to her.
10. The stuffing and the mashed potatoes had to start at the opposite end of the table from Uncle Bob Weiland (he of the roving hands) because otherwise he would eat them all and not pass them around and they would be gone before the turkey came out.
11. When the priests came, they would have the places of honor, right alongside grandpa. If this were the case, the wine was really kept far away from that end of the table.
12. In those days, instead of bringing a bottle of wine for the hosts, guests usually brought along a bottle of bourbon.
12. The kids were sort of spread out and squeezed in where there was room, and sometimes if the big table was too crowded at the breakfast room table.
What else do you remember?