Remembering When

by Jerry Person
Huntington Beach City Historian

Dedicated to the people of Huntington Beach about its rich past

A 1943 Huntington Beach Thanksgiving


In just over a week and a half families across America will be sitting down for their Thanksgiving meal at a table filled with food or for some just a can or two of something. Families rich or a penniless and homeless street person each can celebrate the holiday in their own way.

It's a time to remember the good times and not the bad, share old stories with friends and relatives along with the smells and tastes of good home cooking.

But Thanksgiving Day is also a time to remember those tables with an empty chair of someone serving our country in some far off place.

This week we’ll remember another Thanksgiving and what our residents were doing to celebrate that Thanksgiving of long ago.

It is 1943 and World War II peace was two years away, many of our country’s foods were still being rationed and this Thanksgiving meal would become very special for the families who had their sons away in the military.

Some may still remember going to the grocery store with each member in the family having their own ration book, both adults and children, to enable them to purchased certain foods, sugar, meat, coffee, etc.
This was also a time when residents found togetherness and many shared their Thanksgiving dinner with boys stationed here from all over the country in churches, halls and some in homes. Some of these young men were away from their family for the first time and missing their first Thanksgiving away from home.  
Our local churches helped play a vital role in keeping the Thanksgiving holiday tradition alive.

The First Methodist church held a special Community Thanksgiving service and invited all the churches in town to attend an evening of music, a trumpet solo by Stanley Smith, and a special Thanksgiving sermon delivered by Pastor James G. Hurst.

While over at the Golden Bear Café, the Huntington Beach Rotary Club held a special Thanksgiving luncheon program. Rotary President Lawrence Whittaker introduced the members to the Vera Downs Singers. Included in the afternoon’s program was Mary Vidal singing Cosi-Cosa, vocalists Dorothy and Maxine Murdy, Anita Vidal and Sylvia St. Clair rendering several selections and a flute solo, “Wind Among the Trees” performed by Rico Gilbert.

Over at the Huntington Beach Women’s Club their Thanksgiving program was entitled “Amber Waves of Grain” and featured an autumn landscape with a miniature farm at harvest time with a field of wheat and heaping bins of grain. One of the highlights of the Woman’s Club program was the singing of “America the Beautiful” by the eight grade girl’s glee club from Ocean View grammar school. Swedish born Mary Echburg told of how important it was for her to become a real American citizen.

Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic church hosted their annual Thanksgiving turkey card party over at Memorial Hall at Sixth Street and Orange Avenue. The public was invited to play 500, Auction and Contract Bridge for prizes. Helpers at the card party included Mrs. Robert P. Mandic, Mrs. Julien Lecrivain and Mrs. Alban Holtz.

The spirit of Thanksgiving has always been a time of giving as Mr. M.B. Maher of California Street found out when he was presented a wheel chair by Bonnie Mays and Juanita Folkert of the Royal Neighbors. Maher had been a five-year shut in and a wheel chair would aid him so much to get around.

It was also a time for a few of our boys to return home to celebrate the holiday with their family. One of those boys was Clifford Overacker who was home with is family and there was Jackie Wilcox who was shipped overseas and couldn’t be home with his family.

During this time that Parino “Pete” DiFabio, our future postmaster, received a promotion to Sergeant Technician at Fort Mason, California. DiFabio was attached to the Army’s Post Office there and speaking of post offices, it was at the Huntington Beach Army Post Office that a wedding took place between Jonnie Grace Stanley and Gerard Byrd.

For those who didn’t want to fire up the old oven for Thanksgiving could go over to one of our local cafes for their feast.

Teddie & Lee’s Café at 406 Ocean Avenue (PCH) offered a complete Thanksgiving Turkey dinner with soup, stuffed tomato salad, roast turkey, candied yams, celery curls, cranberry sauce, mince or pumpkin pie and a drink for $1.50.

Hazel Allen of Allen’s Malt Shop at 508 Ocean Avenue did one better with a special roast turkey dinner complete for only $1.25.

The night before the big day you could work off some calories dancing to the music of Ken Story and his Orchestra over at the Pav-a-lon so there would be room for tomorrow’s dessert.

But this year before we partake of that first mouthful of Thanksgiving food, lets say a small prayer for all those men and women who will be away from home here in Huntington Beach and for their families who will be celebrating this day with an empty chair at the dinner table.

Let us hope just like the Huntington Beach families of 1943, that next year our sons and daughters in the military will be back home to celebrate with their families gathered around the Thanksgiving table.