North Dakotans across the state will find themselves gathered around the holiday table today, surrounded by family, friends, and probably a whole lot of food. Seventy-five years ago, caught in the height of the Great Depression, many people found themselves grateful to have even a warm meal this Thanksgiving.
On the eve of Thanksgiving 1936, Fargo Forum reporter William Clark decided to interview residents and visitors on what they were grateful for that year. The answers not only revealed the hard times, but also the simple fortunes that came to be appreciated during the Depression. John Olson of Valley City told the reporter that he was most thankful for the health of himself and his family. Olson, a contractor in town on business, was also “very joyful” that business seemed to be picking up.
One young boy enthusiastically told the reporter, “Boy, I’m thankful it snowed today, and I hope she snows and snows.” He was also grateful to have a summer job lined up, working on his uncle’s farm.
Clark found two college students walking down Broadway who were thankful to be able to attend school; one of the students, Earl Holje of Montana, was also grateful that “…crops were just about average where [he] live[d].”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the destruction of the summer dust storms, Clark found the condition of crops and livestock were on several minds of passers-by that holiday season. One Fargo housewife answered that although she was giving thanks for “everything” that year, she was specifically glad that it was snow falling rather than dust. A farmer told Clark that he was grateful for everything that he had that year, including “plenty to eat and work to do,” even claiming he was thankful that his entire turkey flock had died that fall since, “It would’a cost [him] more to feed ‘em than [he] could’a sold ‘em for.”
The Junior Chamber of Commerce urged residents to use the holiday to think of others that year. “After you have filled yourself to the brim on turkey and all the fixin’s today, stop and think … of the many persons who did not have turkey, in fact who had little to eat.”
While many of us will be kicking off the busiest shopping weekend of the year tomorrow morning, we might want to count our blessings. As the article also reported, many Fargo children in 1936 spent the day collecting donations for the less fortunate and giving thanks for the little things.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job
The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, Thursday, November 26, 1936 (Morning and
Evening Edition): pp. 1, 2, and 10.