From Turkey Shoots to PR Stunts, Here’s How LA Celebrated Thanksgiving In The Past – LA Publication
From turkey and tamale dinners to Hollywood parades and PR stunts, Thanksgiving in Los Angeles County has always had an unique Southern California style. Though the first authorities Thanksgiving in the brand-new American state of California happened in 1850, when the first elected guv, Peter Hardeman Burnett, issued a proclamation of event, Thanksgiving did not become an official legal holiday till 1863. Many in L.A.– especially those of Hispanic descent– had already been commemorating a day of thanksgiving on their family’s client saint day.
In 1959, Mary Ann Callan, the females’s editor of the Los Angeles Times, interviewed senior Californios (family members of Latin American, Spanish and Anglo descent who wielded enormous power in Southern California) to get a sense of what these earliest Thanksgiving feasts had been like. One female, noted historian Ana Bégué de Packman, whose family had owned the Rancho San Jose de Buenos Aires (approximately Westwood and Bel Air), remembered:
… resting on the front patio of the family cattle ranch house in the La Brea location before the millenium screaming happily to passersby that they were having turkey for thanksgiving dinner and that it weighed-in at 19 lbs. This, she remembers, was prepared in an iron range by wood, not coal, collected from the cattle ranch.
According to de Packman, the dinner would include not simply the turkey however also “chicken tamales, enchiladas, and a Spanish concoction of rice and chicken … integrated with a toasted red chili and olive sauce …, fresh salad, salsa and pumpkin preserves for dessert.” Another Californio matron, Mrs. Charles R. Bond of Alhambra, remembered consuming a thanksgiving dessert called membrillate, which was “made of quince and served in pieces, looking like a dry apple butter in texture.”
As the Victorian period progressed, L.A. County ended up being a popular holiday location for tourists from cold Eastern areas. “Hearty and numerous were the self-congratulations of those who had escaped the eastern blizzards, so graphically explained in the early morning dispatches, to luxuriate in the soft sunlight and pleasant air of this perfect Thanksgiving Day,” the Los Angeles Times reported in 1891. Many tourists spent the day at the rustic Alpine Tavern atop Mount Lowe, where they consumed turkey, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce in front of big fires. They then spent the day hiking, going on sleigh rides, tobogganing, and– in the Times’ words–“snow-balling.”
According to the Times, down listed below in genteel Pasadena, Thanksgiving 1899 began with a rather problematic masquerade parade of cowboys, Indians, “monks, and freaks” on their method to a ball at the town’s auditorium. At the Pasadena Nation Club there was a turkey shoot, while others participated in a rabbit hunt on Baldwin’s Ranch, which netted 12 rabbits and one human when a man called C. Schmuck fell off his horse.
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