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Thanksgiving, November 28, 1946.

by Allen Dale Olson

It was Thanksgiving, November 28, 1946. I was sixteen years old, living with my parents in a rural Indiana township along the southern tip of Lake Michigan.

 1946, of course, was the first full year of normalcy after World War II ended in the preceding summer. It was the first year in a long time that Americans were no longer subject to strict rationing protocols for meat, food products, gasoline. People could buy cars again and think about traveling. And we mustn’t forget that even the years before WWII broke out for Americans in 1941, they had been severely impacted by the Great Depression for about a decade. In 1946, people were ready to travel, to live again.

In 1946 my parents were eager to make a trip to my mother’s family some 350 miles away in southern Ohio. My dad worked for Arnold Heeter’s Studebaker agency, and Mr. Heeter had generously lent a brand-new Studebaker to him for the trip. My mother and father, brother and sister would have Thanksgiving dinner with my maternal grandparents and all my Ohio cousins and aunts and uncles.

But not me. 1946 was also the first full school year for our high school sports competitions, and my school was hosting an invitational basketball tournament on the Friday after Thanksgiving. As one of the key players on the team, there was no way I could leave for Ohio.

 I had just got my first driver’s license, so Dad said he would trust me with the family’s 1941 Chevy while he took the rest of the family in Heeter’s Studebaker. They left on Tuesday morning to get there in time to help prepare the big family dinner and promised to be back the following Saturday. I would ride the township school bus to school on Tuesday and Wednesday and use the family car to drive to the basketball games on Friday. (There would be two games in late morning and early afternoon, a consolation and championship game in late afternoon and early evening.) Dad left me with two ten-dollar bills for gas and groceries. Mother had stocked the pantry and refrigerator.

But what about Thanksgiving. We knew that while most folks were involved with family gatherings, there were restaurants in Gary and Chicago announcing holiday hours, both cities accessible but some 20 – 30 miles away – and expensive. In East Gary, however, a scant five miles away just across the county line, two ladies – Doris Collins and Helen Kingston – had recently opened the D & H Grille, a diner, and advertised they would be open all day on Thanksgiving. I didn’t know anything about reservations, and we didn’t have a telephone anyway, so it was decided that I would just show up and do lunch at the D & H. 

It was close to noon when I got there, and I don’t remember that it was especially crowded. I sat on a stool at the counter, and the ladies fussed over me because of my being alone and probably because I was so young. They specialized in chicken dinners, chicken still more of a luxury than meat in those immediate post-war days, and they made sure I had plenty of roast chicken with dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and other assorted sides. All delicious to my teen-age palate. Coach didn’t allow us players to drink soda, and I didn’t like coffee, so they kept me supplied with hot chocolate. Not sure, but I think the meal cost $1.95, and I heard other diners discussing tips, so I left two quarters by my plate, and one of the ladies handed one of them back to me.

That was the first time I had ever eaten in a restaurant alone and only about the seventh or eighth time I had ever eaten in a restaurant at all.

Next day Chesterton High gave us a hard time, but we beat them 53 -50. I played well, probably less sated from yesterday’s feasting than the other players who had all stuffed themselves mightily on home-cooked food surrounded by family. By the time we faced Liberty High, we had recovered, beating them 76 – 44.

I do remember both games and accepting the trophy, but I have ranked my Thanksgiving lunch in the D & H Grille among  my most memorable dining experiences.

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Ever Wish You Could Go Back to School?

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Remember Us

by Paul Zolbrod

Today is the seventy-second annversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, now all but forgotten. I call it my war, because I was drafted into it on February 10th, 1953, shortly after my twentieth birthday. While I never participated in it directly since an armistice was signed just weeks before my basic training as a rifleman, I was instead deployed to Japan, where my duty sucked me into what eventually became the Vietnam War, which at that time was our direct involvement in what was then Indo-China.

Hence I belong to small group of living veterans of both wars, with a service-connected disability. It was a life-changing experience for me, leaving me proud to have served then, and a quiet patriot who loves this country deeply without a lot of noise-making, jingoistic flag waving. Most of us still-living veterans of that stripe are that way. There are now few of us left, and I like it that my care-givers at the V.A. hospital where I receive great care, tell me that we are a pretty modest bunch. That’s why I ask my friends to read this modest poem, which I pass along in my life’s late autumn. Don’t overlook us.

A poem:

WE REMEMBER

Those we left there in the cold

We remember, we remember

Have no fears of growing old

Oh do we remember

Those who fell in prison yards

We remember, we remember

Savage weather savage guards

Oh do we remember

Those who died face down in mud

We remember, we remember

Asian soil Yankee blood

Oh do we remember

Those whose names we can’t forget

We remember, we remember

Comrade spirits with us yet

Oh do we remember

Heartbreak Ridge and Pork Chop Hill

We remember, we remember

If we don’t honor them who will

Oh do we remember

Those who died when far too young

We remember, we remember

It is for them this song is sung

Oh do we remember

–M. Garvey 1995