Historian Myers remembers Sumter Thanksgiving past

Posted 11/25/18

Reflections pays tribute to one of Sumter's most recognized and remembered historians, Portia Myers. Our community was blessed to have Mrs. Myers, whose writings have informed and educated our populace for years. With the arrival of Thanksgiving, …

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Historian Myers remembers Sumter Thanksgiving past

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Reflections pays tribute to one of Sumter's most recognized and remembered historians, Portia Myers. Our community was blessed to have Mrs. Myers, whose writings have informed and educated our populace for years. With the arrival of Thanksgiving, Reflections has chosen to reprint her article from Nov. 24, 1993, as it captured the true essence of this traditional holiday. The article will be printed in its entirety except where length may dictate a modicum of change. The information and photos used in preparing Reflections were taken from The Sumter Item archives.

When people reach my age, it seems that they take great delight in remembering the glorious times of earlier days I was born during World War I (the war to end all wars) Our family made a lot over all holidays. We celebrated birthdays with great joy and enthusiasm. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter were always such special holidays. We were expected to celebrate these times at home with our family and all the folks our parents invited to share these times with us. Believe me, there were plenty of extra guests, and we had such fun.

"Early on Thanksgiving morning, the men and boys would most likely go quail or deer hunting, getting up long before day and making more noise as they got ready for the hunt. There was such excitement about going hunting, they just could not keep quiet. Finally, they would drive away to the country to get there before sunrise.

"The house would quiet down for a little while, and then our cook would arrive to start the Thanksgiving meal. Our parents had lots of relatives as both came from large families, so at our house, the big pot was put in the little one for the upcoming meal, which would be served sometime between one and two o'clock. There would always be plenty of turkey, ham and often barbeque along with a delicious salad, rice, gravy, cornbread dressing, candied sweet potatoes, hot biscuits and or rolls with different kinds of jellies to go on them. English peas, string beans, cranberry sauce, various pickles and relishes and probably macaroni and cheese pie. Back in those days, people were not aware of 'healthy heart' diets, and they ate to their hearts' content. After all that food was consumed came the dessert. There was usually a moist coconut cake (homemade), and the fresh coconut had been grated by hand. Then there was always an abundance of fruit cakes, light and dark, which had been made weeks ahead of time and saturated with the most delicious homemade wines. Other cakes were plentiful, and then there were bowls of English Trifle, loaded with real whipped cream and laced with sherry. Mama always had a large bowl of Heavenly Hash to serve as well, so there certainly was no shortage of sweets to be served with piping hot coffee, and for the grown folks, a glass of homemade scuppernong wine. Daddy could make the best wine, but he was very careful not to let us imbibe until we were grown. By that time everybody was so full of delicious food, they couldn't eat another mouthful. It was probably 3:30 in the afternoon, and everybody was relaxed and lazy.

"Thanksgiving was truly a day to give thanks for our many blessings. It would start early in the day, and as the family and guests gathered for the big meal, the man of the house would read from the Bible and follow the Scripture reading with a prayer of thanksgiving for our many blessings. I well remember Daddy's prayers of thanksgiving during the gloomy years of the Great Depression. I also remember the sharing that everybody did with the hungry and less fortunate. It made our day so much more joyful and meaningful.

"I remember also the huge meal that our cook would take home to her family on those holidays. Mama saw to it that plenty was prepared to share. It was a day of warmth, togetherness and love. That spirit would linger in our hearts for weeks to come One year, before our colonial home burned, we had 36 relatives and friends for Thanksgiving, and that was one of the most memorable times of our lives. It was such a warm and loving gathering. It has been a long time since that day, but those of us who are left still hold it as one of life's treasures. Traditions change, but I hope we will always be able to hold the old-fashioned tradition of Thanksgiving in our hearts and minds and always remember to thank God on these special days for our many blessings and the joys we have in our lives."

Reflections wishes our readers a happy Thanksgiving and continues to thank historians, like the late Mrs. Myers, for sharing her memories of a day when we pause to reflect on our many blessings. Happy Thanksgiving!