SIDNEY — Three Sidney residents of Fairhaven Shelby County Home shared memories of Thanksgivings past, and although things changed over time, the thing that seemed to remain constant for the women over the holidays is the presence of friends and family.
Mildred Sherman turns 96 in December, and growing up as “one of 10 kids” on her family’s Fort Loramie farm, she admits to cooking plenty of large meals through the years since she was a kid. Cooking for a group of 40 was the typical number of guests she routinely cooked for, up until about 10 years ago.
“I didn’t have anyone bring a dish when I cooked. They would offer, but I said no,” she said with a chuckle. “And after I moved to town about 10 years ago, I still made dressing and noodles for a couple of years after that.”
Sherman said her childhood neighbors also had 10 children, so the two families would take turns every other year hosting Thanksgiving.
“We always had a big meal. We didn’t have turkey; we fattened up a big rooster … We had potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, dressing, noodles and corn, I think, (and) pumpkin pie. — And we raised everything out of the garden,” recalled Sherman of her childhood Thanksgivings. “The grown-ups would play cards, and us kids would have a good time.”
Although, she and late husband Leo had a smaller family of only three children, it grew to include 10 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren. Over time, her family holiday gatherings were again was as large as her childhood meals.
Phyllis Curl, a retired school teacher of 34 years, said she and her late husband Max never had any children of their own, but that her “school children” were her children. Her niece and nephew see to care her, now.
“Some went home with me for the night, some went camping, some come see me now,” she said of her school children.
Curl also grew up on a farm in Pottsville as one of four children. She said her family grew what they prepared, including their own pumpkins for pumpkin pies. She recalled her family meals as a child were usually large with sometimes both turkey and ham, scalloped corn, noodles, mashed potatoes and deviled eggs.
She said she and Max kept busy during the holidays as Mr. and Mrs Santa Clause, as well as serving on several committees and board positions for the Council on Aging.
“I just can’t say no,” she said of her drive to stay busy, still at 85-years-old.
She said they used to go to her in-laws or parents, or sometimes would gather with another couple on Thanksgiving. However, now as a resident of Fairhaven for the past seven years, she enjoys Thanksgiving with friends in the dining area of the nursing home.
“I don’t mind it. I’ve got friends here,” she said with a smile about living at Fairhaven, in which she serves as president of the Residents Council.
Eighty-two-year-old Mary Rickert is still adjusting to life during the holidays, as her husband of 62 years passed away only two years ago. She is one of three children who grew up in Anna as a child, but after marriage, she husband Gene bought a farm in Kettlersville. Rickert said Gene, who was seriously injured as a young man in a farming accident resulting in the loss of a leg and a prosthesis, often still went rabbit hunting early Thanksgiving morning with a group of men.
“He was a strong man,” she said of her husband’s resolve to use crutches over a wheelchair before receiving the prosthesis.
She recalled a period of time when she made up to 24 fruit pies a day by 10 a.m. for a half-way house restaurant, which would dramatically increase during the holidays.
“I wore out a rolling-pin. They wanted more at Thanksgiving,” Rickert said. “I didn’t cook another pie for years, after.”
Rickert recalled one Thanksgiving as a child in particular, in which her mother made a turkey and some sort of “black bird, that got darker the more it cooked” and smelled terrible. She laughed recalling her mom putting that black bird on the table as a joke.
“That’s a meal I will never forget,” Rickert said
Curl said at Fairhaven, they deliver Thanksgiving meal to your table in the dining hall around noon. She said family or friends can join for $5 per plate, which includes a ham dinner with pumpkin pie.
As a way to celebrate Thanksgiving at Fairhaven, Curl proudly displayed the pop-up pumpkin art project she made during an activity session that listed 10 things she was thankful for. Friends was at the top on the list.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.