Six days after John Kennedy was killed in Dallas, a large group of my father's relatives came to our house for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite Holiday, probably because, unlike other holidays, there was no pressure associated with it. I would show up at my mother's house (which was really easy when I lived there) watch Football and stuff myself with more food than a family in most parts of the world saw in a month.
In 1963, the country was still shattered by the JFK assaination. For years, there was nothing comparable to it . After 9/11, people know what I mean when I say that the country was in a sort of group shock. The Monday before Thanksgiving had been a national day of mourning. Thus, the work week that year was only two days.The weekend before had passed in such a blur, that I am surprised that anyone remembered Thanksgivng in time to do anything about it. The amazing thing is that I recall vividly what happened from the moment I heard that Kennedy was dead (Clay Puryear had told me at about 2:15 that a lone gun men had snuck up the fire escape of his hotel and shot him while he was at work on a speech) until I went to bed six days later. I remember very little of the rest of that year, but I have a vivid recall of those six days.
The Thanksgiving that year was wonderful. It started with one of my heroes, Captain Kangaroo,hosting three different Thanksgiving Day parades from the Treasure House.One was from New York, one Detroit and, in my memory, one is from Toronto. I can't see how one could have been from Toronto, since they have a different Thanksgiving in Canada, but there it is in my memory, Toronto.
The Captain was a great host that day. Indeed, it was the last time I ever enjoyed the Thanksgiving Day parades,now hosted by morning show talk hosts, and losers of all stripes. But that day, ah, the Captain, his erstwhile pal Mr Greenjeans, the mute Bunny Rabbit, and my personal favorite, Mr Moose, were all really on their game.I was amazed as we bounced from New York to Detroit and back to New York and then Toronto (?). Television did not do stuff like that in those days and it is impossible for anyone under 50 to understand what a big deal that was.It was touching to see the whole Treasure House gang bow their heads in prayer over their Turkey as they signed off. Years later, my brother would assure me that the old Captain was quite the prima dona asshole on the set.But I bet not that day. Then, after the parade ended in Detroit, came the first true highlight of the day, the Detroit Lion/Green Bay Packer football game. Back before John Madden got involved with it, the Lion Thanksgiving game was a lot of fun. It seemed to me that the Lions were always playing the Packers at Tiger Stadium, and that it was always snowing. I looked it up. The Lions did play the Packers on that day for 15 years in a row. I had seen them beat the Packers the year before, which may have been the only game the Packers lost that year, and could not wait to see it again. I was not disappointed. The Lions and the Pack struggled to a 13-13 tie. What a great game.The Pack was so distraught that they did not win another NFL Championship for two reasons.Fuck Lombardi.
Sometime during the first half of the game, my family started wandering in. My dad's two sisters were there with their broods and my favorite uncle, Mike and his wife Ella, primed for the annual A&M/Texas game. If Texas won that day, they would clinch the national Championship for the first time. Ella was delirious, Mike, who I believe could have cared less about the Aggies, rooted hard for them that day, as did my two cousins Bobby and Phillip (hicks from Temple, I thought).Another of my cousins, for some reason, showed up in a full baseball uniform and paid little attention to the game.
The game was one for the ages.Texas trailed until the end when they put in a second string quarterback who could actually throw the ball.Colleges did not pass in those days.Texas eked out a narrow victory that today might have been reversed by a replay official. In those days, before instatnt replay, all you could do was argue about it until the film was shown on the Six O'Clock news.
Sometime during all of that, I ate a huge meal at the "kid's table"which, when you are a kid, is the best place to be. As God is my witness I recall eating Pumpkin and Pecan pie that year. Of coure, I do that every year, so that memory may be jumbled in with about 25,000 other pie calories from other Thanksgivings.Following all of this, I continued to snack on left overs for the balance of the day and then fall into a kind of Thanksgiving food induced slumber of a nap which I have since learned has to do with the triptophane in the Turkey. I stayed up late that night and when I went to bed, slept the sleep of the blessed. That is, one with three more days off before facing the fifth grade again. My memory fades there. I recall little until my fifth grade Chridmas party, but then, what could have compared with all of that ? TWO football games and a feast in one day. If someone had told me that in 45 years each and every Saturday would offer at least eight-ten games a day, I would have never have believed them. How could they have fit all those games on only three channels ? But more is not necessarily better, just like HD can never compare with what I saw on my folk's old black and white set that day. I pity those who missed it.