The Strangest Thanksgiving Ever!


Everyone has a mental image of Thanksgiving that is right out of a Norman Rockwell painting: the family around the table, Dad carving the turkey, the children beautifully dressed and smiling.

Well not all Thanksgivings are like that.

I have spent Thanksgiving in Thailand eating gummy fondue and bagels heated on a hotplate, Thanksgiving in Alaska on alert, and Thanksgiving with folks who were mad at each other and not speaking – that was pretty weird– and Thanksgivings with family members who were always eager to share their opinions on my life and how it was going.  But the absolutely strangest Thanksgiving was in California in 1972.

My wife and I had just been married and it was our first Thanksgiving. I was in training to fly the F4 in Arizona and we decided to go to California to visit a captain and his wife who were at an Air Force Base, down near Yosemite National Park.  They were people I had known in flying training. We had a nice visit and since we were close to Yosemite, our friend said that we should drive over to the park and sightsee. It was decided that we would do it on Thanksgiving day and his wife would stay home and prepare the meal, as she didn’t want to go. We set off in the morning with the plan that we would be back at 5 p.m for dinner. It was a beautiful day and we spent it surrounded by the magnificence of Yosemite.

At about 5 p.m. we returned to their quarters on base, expecting that dinner was ready – WRONG.

She had not even started the meal. Not only that– she hadn’t even put the bird in the oven. Don’t ask me why, I have no clue – the story was not clear then and it is not clear now, something about shopping etc, and then waiting until we got home. It didn’t make sense then and it certainly doesn’t 42 years later.  We even took their two year old child with us so she could have the day free to herself.

Well, as any adult knows, you do not cook a turkey in 1 hour or 2 hours or even 3 hours, usually it takes about 5 hours. Let’s see 5 p.m. plus 5 hours brings us to 10 p.m. And that is when dinner was finally served after my wife pitched in and helped.

Now we hadn’t eaten anything since about noon at Yosemite and it was 10 p.m. We were famished.

Did I mention there were no snacks to munch on while we waited for FIVE HOURS FOR DINNER.

We loaded our plates and literally inhaled it, no time for pleasantries, no comments about the food, no comments period.

I have never, never before or after, seen people eat so fast.

We shoveled it in –I think it was now about 10:07 at this point, or maybe 10:05, (as I said I have never seen people eat so fast).

And then it was time for refills.

Eating at so fast a pace meant that the “we were full signal” had not quite reached our brains.   As we tucked into that second big plate, it hit our stomachs.   I don’t remember much after that as we sat in a food-induced stupor.  And then it was time for bed.

We left the next day.

Oh well at least Yosemite was beautiful.

PS:  The couple we visited later divorced and we now think that the wife had a special Thanksgiving guest while we were away and it wasn’t the Turkey.  


About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
This entry was posted in Air Force, American History, American holidays, Family History, Norvell Family History, Thanksgiving, Yosemite and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Strangest Thanksgiving Ever!

  1. jenorv says:

    Reblogged this on An American Family and commented:

    When we were first married our first Thanksgiving was the strangest one we ever had…

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