This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Kim Patterson.
Thanksgiving is a special time of year, as we spend time with loved ones and hope to create lasting memories.
Robert Levy of Waco recalls taking his daughter to New York in the 1950s and attending the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade:
"We were in a drugstore on about Fifty-Seventh Street watching the parade come by—come down Broadway and make that turn at Fifty-Seventh Street and get on down to—went on down through the business district. And I was standing there on a scale trying to hold Carolyn up so she could see the parade over the crowd, you know. And some man came up to me and said, ‘I see you're trying to show your daughter the parade.' And I said, ‘Yes, that's right.' He said, ‘Well, I've got a better place for you to go.' And he said, ‘Let's go upstairs to my apartment.'
"And he took us up on the—about the third floor, and there he had a big apartment right on that turn, you know, where you could see them coming down and see them going by. And he said, ‘Now, I'm going to lunch at my sister's in the country.' And he said, ‘I'm going to leave you all here. And he said, ‘When you leave, all you have to do is to lock my door, go down and leave the key with the super or with the—at the office here'—it was a big apartment building—and said, ‘You'll enjoy the parade.' So we stayed in and watched the parade from that time on sitting in a chair, you know, and every bit of it came by. Not many New Yorkers would do that, I don't think, and I don't think many people would. But this man, somehow, he saw me struggling to keep her up there to see that."
Thanksgiving also nudges us to start thinking about the Christmas season and what needs—or doesn't need—to be done. Ulysses Williams of Woodville, Virginia, was an army battery commander in the 1960s at Fort Hancock in New Jersey. He describes one holiday season when some men in his command decided to save money and cut down trees themselves for the upcoming Christmas party:
"So they didn't know where the hell boundaries were. So they end up on an estate. And just so happened that road there on the estate was lined with Colorado blue spruces. And then they cut about three or four of them (laughter) and headed out with the truck down the road. (laughs) And the fellow was coming in from New York who lived on the estate. I was up in the radar in the fire control section. Fellow called me and said, ‘Sir, you better come down here. We got a civilian out here, and he's angry as hell." So I said, ‘Well, let him in. I'll be down there.'
"So he came in, and he was hollering. He was saying(??), ‘Do you know what your soldiers just did?' He said, ‘I just run across the fellows, they cut down three of my Colorado blue spruces. He said, ‘Well, Colorado blue spruce cost five hundred dollars each when I bought them, and they're bigger now.' (laughs) He said, ‘Well, who's going to pay for them?' I said, ‘Well, if they cut them they have to pay for them. We have to set up something for them to do.' But we sort of won him over. He accepted something other than Colorado blue spruces, (laughs) but he was angry. The old exec in the—on account of the battery—but the trying exec(??) used to send me a note. Thanksgiving, he'd send me a little note: ‘Willie, don't cut any Christmas trees this year.' (laughter)"
This Thanksgiving, let's focus on family and staying out of trouble.
Living Stories is heard on 103 point 3 FM, Waco's NPR. For full transcripts of the interviews featured in this segment, or for more information about the Institute for Oral History, visit baylor.edu/livingstories.
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