Thanksgiving 1968

Thanksgiving was always a glorious time for me. It meant the convergence of my three favorite families in the world, mine, Josephs, and Thorpes.
The Joseph family consisted of Charles, a State Senator and cattle rancher; Jean, the lovely matriarch; Alan, older brother Bill’s fraternity buddy; Fred, a year or so younger and really nice; and Bobby, the youngest, still 7-8 years older than me, and extremely cool. Josephs had a farm house in the county, complete with fishing pond and swimming pool, and a second home in Estes Park, Colorado we would descend upon once a summer or so.
The Thorpe’s were a terrific bunch – Tom, a General Electric appliance dealer (like Dad) in Nevada, Missouri; Marye, Tom’s right hand in the store, and the first female city council member of Nevada; Tommy, Bob’s age and a really good athlete; Townie, their really nice daughter and friend of Kathie’s; and Todd, who although he was probably 5-6 years older than me, got stuck entertaining me a lot, and was extremely cool about it.
My family spent most holidays with the Thorpes. On July 4th, we would meet at their cabin on the Lake of the Ozarks. It was a two bedroom, lake cabin without air conditioning, and no one seemed to mind. We used nearby resort cabins for the overflow. The days consisted of a huge breakfast, (Tom’s eggs benedict were my favorite), and a whole bunch of people swimming and boating on the lake while Mom, Dad, Tom and Marye played bridge all day under a shade tree. The fireworks display was an event in itself. To me, it was the best one of all that we saw reflecting off the water of the lake.
New Year’s Eve was at the Thorpes’ massive house in Nevada. I think I counted seven bathrooms. The attic was a pool room, and on New Year’s Eve the older kids would hang out there along with whoever dropped by from the neighborhood. On New Year’s Day, Dad and Tom bet on every college football game. Dad let Tom pick the teams, and teased Tom because Dad normally won. The Catholic priest was a family friend and I think was there every year.
But my favorite holiday was Thanksgiving, because it was at our house in Potwin, and the Josephs were there as well. Wednesday night all three families would gather. I specifically remember 1968 because Bill and Alan were at KU at the time and Tommy was at Mizzou, and it was the only year in about 50 years that KU made the Orange Bowl. Mizzou had the lowly Gator Bowl, so the trash talking was on between the two families.
Thanksgiving also meant a spectacular meal which resulted from hours of preparation. My favorite part of my favorite holiday occurred next– the annual flag football game. The location of the game would either be in our side yard, or at Joseph’s farm, which had a bigger yard. The oldest ones were in college, the rest in high school, and I was nine. As the sides were picked, I would always be the picked last. The good news for me, is that this would often leave my team with one more player than the other. So, if the quarterback was scrambling and about to get sacked, I would make sure I was open in the flat. A short pass later and I was trying to outrun the college kids as fast as my 9 year-old legs would take me. I completely enjoyed this flag football game – seeing my brothers, my heroes who weren’t around that often, enjoying their friends. And I got to participate. It didn’t get much better than that for me.

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