Thanksgiving from<br>the past at GC

While families gather for Thanksgiving this week, visions of roast turkey coming out of the oven and the guys sitting in the living room watching football are not hard to imagine.

Those types of traditional scenes will likely be played out within the homes of many local residents on Thursday. Others with family elsewhere will hop in the car for a holiday road trip.

But for Grand Canyon residents of yesteryear, just what was it like on Thanksgiving?

"A lot of people would invite friends over to their homes and of course, a lot of people who had families close by would go to Phoenix or wherever," said Mary Hoover, who lived at Grand Canyon beginning in the 1940s.

That doesn’t sound too different from what happens today. Most local residents of that time period had to stay at the Canyon to work. But that didn’t stop the celebrations.

Hoover, who now lives in Williams and maintains her connection to the community through organizations like the American Legion and Grand Canyon Historical Society, said folks would get a pretty good meal if a hunter came in with a nice kill.

"If anyone got a deer or wild meat, they would have a feed at the laundry," said Hoover, who worked there for Fred Harvey Co. "Sometimes, we had a lot of people there. The chef would usually come down with a big sheet cake and a lot of vegetables. The chef was a good chef, he could really cook."

Hoover was referring to the El Tovar Hotel’s chef, who offered his services for such an occasion. The wild meat, which could be elk, deer or antelope, would be fixed in the hotel kitchen and transported down the hill and across the tracks to hungry recipients.

Back in those days, the Fred Harvey laundry was located where the United Parcel Service office sits today.

"They always had a nice dinner for their employees from whatever eating establishment it would be," Hoover said. "Of course you had to pay for it."

Employees would eat in spots like the mess hall, which was located in an area near the modern-day mule barn.

Jeanne Schick, who lived at Grand Canyon as a child, remembers holiday meals at the mess hall.

"We always had Thanksgiving dinners at the mess hall, or the cowboy dorm," Schick said. "It was an open invitation. It was a marvelous dinner. As a little kid, I thought this was really living."

Later in the evening after the kids were put to bed, the adults would head into another room down a couple of stairs and have a square dance.

"When it got late that evening at bedtime, all the kids in the different rooms had to go to sleep," Schick remembers. "The adults did their square dancing in that little room."

In later years, concessioner employees would be assigned places to eat.

"Sometimes the Bright Angel had a room set aside for us ... sometimes on the porch," Hoover said. "We also had a room at the El Tovar in the back. At the old auto camp (Maswik Lodge), they had a room; it was divided up by a great big fireplace ... we’d go back there and eat."

To be able to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, Hoover and her co-workers would work hard earlier in the week to be able to take some time off on the holiday.

"When you’re in that kind of business, you had to work on Thanksgiving," Hoover said about most concessioner employees. "But the laundry tried to get things done so we could have the day off."

Today, Xanterra employees will find a lot of the same atmosphere. Most have to work because it is a busy day for tourists. Employees are offered a complimentary meal and there’s always the option of eating at a nice place like the El Tovar, where a nice Thanksgiving layout is offered every year.


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