It was 1973 — 50 years ago. We had entered the fall season, and like every autumn, the leaves had come off the trees, and the temperatures had cooled down.
Once again, the nation, the state, and our area were gearing up for Thanksgiving. That time when families come back together to celebrate those things that make them grateful.
Thanksgiving, while a wonderful holiday, never exists in a vacuum. Life continues to go while those families sit down to carve the turkey and enjoy the meal. This was certainly true in 1973. As this writer perused the newspaper around the week of Thanksgiving 1973, that truth became quickly apparent.
The newspapers noted it was the 10-year anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. There would be a special celebration of Kennedy’s life taking place in which many members of the Kennedy family would be taking part. Thanksgiving would be falling on the day of his assassination.
The Vietnam War continued to rage on and its effects continued to take its toll on the American society. It would be another two years before the fall of South Vietnam and the total American pullout from that conflict which had cost so many lives on all sides.
Yet, much of that news was overshadowed by the increasing effects of the Watergate scandal. The Richard Nixon administration was totally bogged down by this increasingly serious matter that would cause an American president to resign a year later, in August 1974.
Yet, life did go on despite the national news. There was a very heavy number of travelers taking the buses at the Greyhound bus station in Binghamton to make their way back to their home bases scattered around the country. Thanksgiving travel was heavy on the roads, and the newspaper warned drivers to be aware of the increased traffic.
Diners had their choice of restaurants staying open on Thanksgiving Day to take the family (or just themselves) to enjoy the holiday meal. Eateries ranging from the Barn Restaurant to Red’s Kettle Inn offered their own version of the holiday fare. Prices also ranged depending on the establishment.
You could stay at home and watch “B.C. The First Thanksgiving,” which featured the characters created by Endicott’s own Johnny Hart. It was the first year that this special would be featured, and the creator hoped it would be accepted by the American public. This was especially important as the holiday offerings from the Peanuts gang had become a mainstay on television.
Perhaps, once the family was done with the traditional turkey or ham dinners for the holiday and felt inclined to leave the house, they could go out to the movies. There were a number of features playing that week, including “Executive Action” which dealt with the Kennedy assassination, and “American Graffiti,” the George Lucas feature that propelled the careers of Ron Howard, Harrison Ford and many others.
Of course, shopping ads were everywhere. Black Friday was very real, and full-page ads like the one for the newly opened Barkers located in the Northgate Plaza showed off the types of products they thought Christmas shoppers were looking for in that year. Yes, Christmas, as that holiday was just around the corner. Local stores were gearing up for the onslaught of shoppers — shopping in person as Amazon and other online services had not yet been invented.
While all of this was going on, there were several columns devoted to the state of the American society at this time of year. The country was split — split over the Vietnam War and split over the increasing Watergate affair and what it was doing to both the American presidency and the society at large.
There were those who thought that the country could not recover. Satirists such as Art Buchwald looked at that aspect of current events. There were those, though, such as Norman Vincent Peale, who took a more traditional look at life on that day.
He implored people to truly count their blessings, to see life as it is, and not how we want it to be. This writer thinks that is good advice. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.