From Arlo Guthrie, to the Pledge of Allegiance to a flask of hooch, LL-C staffers share their memories
Jim Cegielski, owner/publisher — One year, my older daughter Emily brought home a French exchange student from Ole Miss to share Thanksgiving dinner with us. The French student had never been to a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner before and I really enjoyed introducing her to all of our American "traditions,” which included having everyone stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance before sitting down to eat, making sure everyone passed the food in the traditional counter-clockwise direction and in alphabetical order and making sure that "just as the pilgrims had done,” that at the end of the meal, everyone used their napkin to wipe the face of the person sitting to their left.
Sean Murphy, managing editor — "You can get anything you want... at Alice's Restaurant ..." That 1960s Arlo Guthrie anthem always brings smiles. It has every Thanksgiving Day since 1997, when we gathered in a small apartment in Chattanooga, Tenn. The family sat in post-Turkey Day delight when Mom played the song — all 18 minutes of it. It tells the story of a young man who gets arrested for illegally dumping garbage, which eventually leads to him being found unfit to join the military at the height of the Vietnam War. The song is played on rock 'n' roll radio stations across America every Thanksgiving. Thursday will mark the 23rd straight year when family — sometimes apart and, thank God, together this year — will sing joyously. Three generations of Murphys in four-part harmony will sing our way through the fastest 18 minutes of our lives. "Walk right in ... it's around the back ... just a half-mile from the railroad track ... you can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant."
Mark Thornton, editor-in-chief — My favorite memory was when I finally “graduated” from the card table on the edge of the dining room to the “big table” with the grownups. No matter where any of us sat, we were always treated to tons of food and football, especially during those years when the Egg Bowl was played on Thanksgiving. The turkey and ham were never the stars of our table — it’s the dressing. The recipe was passed down from my grandmother to her oldest daughter, and now dressing duty is in the capable hands of the older granddaughter. My parents’ house in Madison has always been the gathering place for Thanksgiving. Get there early and you’ll hear Mom and Dad battling for counterspace to prepare their respective dishes. Over the years, the numbers have dwindled, with distance and deaths. But the food, fun and football is always bountiful, and I pray it continues for many more years.
Kassie Rowell, creative director — Papaw would always make me find out and report to him who cooked each dish at Thanksgiving. He was very picky about whose food he would eat and especially my grandma's cousin — he refused to touch anything she made. One year, I got it wrong because I saw my aunt bring in a plate of deviled eggs, I assumed she made them, but she was only helping (the cousin) bring in her food. During dinner, someone asked what was in the deviled eggs and when he realized who had actually made them … he turned green and spent the next 30 minutes in the backyard throwing up. He had eaten a ton of them. What was in those deviled eggs? Potted meat!
Lakyn Bice, office manager — The most vivid Thanksgiving I remember took place when I was 13 years old, and it is still one of my favorite memories. It was the first Thanksgiving after my mammaw had passed away and we decided to pack our bags and head south to keep our minds occupied. My mom and dad had preordered a fried turkey from Dickey’s BBQ in Hattiesburg so we would not miss out on Thanksgiving entirely. However, when it was time to enjoy our beachfront Thanksgiving dinner, we were in for a surprise. Our expensive fried turkey was still completely raw in the middle. My dad was so furious and I’m pretty sure my mom left Dickey’s a dozen voicemails that day. Naturally, we did what anyone would do — we loaded up in the car and headed to the nearest Waffle House for our Thanksgiving lunch.
Courtney Creel, sales rep — Anyone who knows me knows I love to eat, and Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year for this reason alone. It also happens to fall really close to my birthday (11/23) on most years. While my family doesn't have a lot of traditions, I do have one memory that tops all the rest. One year, my Meme, being the beautiful, loving, generous woman she is, made me an entire pot of chicken and dumplings. I know some of you probably don't understand the importance of that, but there is nothing more comfortingly delicious than my Meme's chicken and dumplings, and this was a pot all to myself! Yes, I may have eaten out of the pot with a fork, and no, I didn't share ... Best. Thanksgiving. Ever.
Kristin Carter, sales rep — Growing up, my family's Thanksgiving tradition was to go to my grandparents’ house to eat an amazing meal and watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. There are tons of little details I can recall, but the funny thing is, every year was always exactly the same. The same stories were shared, the same meal prepared and the same jokes were made. I can still picture eating beside my grandmother and watching her turn her peas to mush before taking a bite. I always thought it was so strange, but I would always watch without saying a word. My grandparents are no longer here, but I have no doubt if they were our tradition would still be alive today.
Josh Beasley, sales rep — Thanksgiving was always a weird holiday for me growing up. We always had great food and family around, but I was such a picky eater. For the first few Thanksgivings that I can remember, the only thing I remember eating was turkey and ketchup. When my son was born in 2017, I made it a point get him to get him to eat the greatest variety of foods that I could. I was never one to say one thing and do another, so I started eating the foods on the table that I did not like. I like to think Jaxson seeing me eat those food has made him like them more. So this Thanksgiving, pray for me as I brave those greens and cranberry sauce in hopes that Jaxson will have a healthier future than I did.
Brad Crowe, sports editor — Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday of the year. The day holds everything you could possibly need during a 24-hour span in the fall: family, food and football. My family has spread out over the years, so this is usually the one occasion that we all get to come together. In recent years, we’ve lost beloved members of our family, including my father, so we definitely cherish time with family nowadays. Life is fleeting, and if anything in life is worth giving thanks for, family is certainly at the top of my list.
Kamron Johnson, classifieds manager — When my family and I get done gobbling down some turkey on Thanksgiving, we load up and head to the tree farm and pick out the perfect Christmas tree.
Jack Hammett, reporter —What’s Thanksgiving? Just kidding. Whoever says, “My family is better than Jack’s family” is patently, demonstrably wrong. We’re fun people — or we were, when we were many. We’re now but a few, and though I likely won’t see those few who remain this year, the perennial tradition I shared with my cousins was to sneak ‘round back and pass around a flask of whiskey. My grandparents were always teetotalers, but I don’t think they’d’ve given two hoots or a holler. Back then the cold felt more biting. Maybe it doesn’t bother me so much after going away to Minnesota for a while. The whiskey, though, kept us warm. So did the fireworks we shot at each other. I miss my adolescence. If I don’t see my cousins over the holidays, I might try to keep the tradition. I think they sell flasks at the Super Saver liquor store near my apartment.
Tori Ellis, part-time reporter — Thanksgiving has always been a time to reflect with my friends and family, and is full of traditions, old and new. I have a sweet tooth, and get it honestly from my mom, so what I most look forward to on this day of thanks are the homemade buttermilk pecan pies and sweet potato-filled orange cups topped with marshmallows. As I bake my yearly green-bean casserole, my mom will be busy making bing-cherry salad, my dad’s favorite, and he will be in charge of the turkey. My sister and I look forward to watching the Thanksgiving Day parade on TV, something we have done together since we were small children. And after the feast my parents have slaved over for hours, we beg my dad to go get all the Christmas decorations out of the attic.