"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Newspaper Clipping(s) of the Day, Annual Thanksgiving Edition

Yes, the above headline has probably already made you guess what's coming next: another Strange Company Thanksgiving, where we Americans gather with friends and family to eat, drink, and nearly kill each other over the weight of turkey bones.

You think I kid? The "Alta California," November 25, 1887:
James Johnson and Charles Morris while celebrating Thanksgiving day in a Polk-street saloon yesterday afternoon differed as to the weight of a turkey bone. To make Johnson believe that his guess was away off, Marris struck his adversary with a beer glass over the head. The police interfered and locked Morris up on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon, while Johnson was booked for disturbing the peace and using vulgar language.

Thanksgiving isn't usually thought of as a "romantic" holiday.  Tell that to those lovebirds, David and Bertha:

"Day Book," December 1, 1911

Such festive disputes are traditionally followed by the Turkey Raffle of Death. The "San Francisco Call," November 29, 1895:
There was a turkey raffle at Twenty-second and Market streets last night, and as a result four men are in the City Prison to-day, charged with assault with a deadly weapon. The arrival of the police served to stop what was in a fair way to become murder.

John Maloney and James Conlan are friends. James O'Malia and Edward O'Malia are brothers. Each is prepared to fight for the other, and early this morning each pair did what it is prepared to do. Just how the affair started no one seems to know, but Thanksgiving morning was only an hour old when North Oakland was in a tumult. The O'Malias and Maloney and Conlan would not agree about the result of a turkey raffle. There was a dispute as to the winning.

One O'Malia held a ticket marked 9 and Conlan had a ticket marked 6. They were plain pasteboards, and 9 won. Now, a 9 upside down is a 6 and a 6 is a 9, and on this similarity four men prepared to take each other's lives, if need be, before they would consent to lose a prospective turkey.

The peculiar part of the affray is the fact that both contesting parties changed their cause of action as the number of beers increased. O'Malia had No. 9, but during the argument he turned it upside down and started in to argue and fight that 6 was the winner. Conlan was not going to submit to any compromise that would end in peace, so he vociferously declared that he had held his upside down all the time, and that it was not 6 but 9. James O'Malia backed his brother Edward and John Maloney sustained Conlan.

After satisfying themselves that arbitration was out of the question an attempt was made by Conlon to impress his views on the O'Malias by hammering their heads with a beer bottle. The indignity was returned and when the police arrived lacerated heads and clothes liberally adorned with blood and arms flourishing bottles were all mixed up.

After separating the combatants all four men were taken to jail and charged with "assault with a deadly weapon." Edward O'Malia will also have to account for carrying concealed weapons. John Maloney secured a bondsman this morning and was released. His companions and the O'Malias passed Thanksgiving day in durance vile.
It is not recorded who finally took possession of this priceless turkey, but I'm assuming it was not the O'Malias, the Maloneys, or the Conlans.

Another Thanksgiving turkey--this one simply unappetizing--was at the center of another public brawl. The "Carbondate Chronicle," December 19, 1885:
Officer Charles was called upon to quell a riot in a State street boarding house Monday night that grew out of the intolerable toughness and inexcusable resistance of a Thanksgiving turkey.

The boarding house is known among the denizens of the tough end of State street as the "Cheap Chuck Joint," which appellation, though more expressive than elegant, aptly describes this place which would be known in the larger cities as a "function" or second-hand hash house. Call it what name you will the reporter found it to be a most unsavory place, and exuded a swill barrel smell that indicated the source of the food before it was dipped in vinegar and fried over. One large frying pan is the principal and favorite means of preparing the food served to the patrons of this den. It appears, however, from the statement of the female that keeps the place that she had promised her boarders a rare treat on Monday night. To keep her promise she bought a dried up turkey that the public had rejected on Thanksgiving day, for a dinner. This gobbler had been a very large and old one, originally, but the flesh had all dried up and the breast bone appeared like the distant view of a lofty peak, some miles above timber line. The bird was duly dipped in vinegar, however, and contrary to the custom of the keeper of the joint, broiled instead of fried.

It was served, with some pretensions to style, on a large dripping pan, which also contained a number of boiled potatoes. When the hungry boarders, some twelve in number, had each deposited their dime into the horny hand of the hostess, they sat around the long table prepared to discuss the turkey. They had reckoned without the bird, however, for there was not a knife to be found in the house that could make the slightest impression upon even the formerly white meat on the breast of it. This suggested the idea to a carpenter to go next door and borrow a saw, while a young man who worked in a butcher shop not far off soon returned with a meat-axe. The collision between these tools on the breast of the unreasonably tough bird, sent the flour and water gravy flying out of the dripping pan over the guests, the jointers getting less than a quart on the lace kerchief jauntily arranged along her long, skinny neck.

Bedlam ensued, in which the turkey became a weapon of offense and defense, and all of the boarders were mauled with it at one time or another during the combat. Officer Charles put down the revolt of the boarders against the cheap chuck boarding mistress, and the carpenter set up the beer to his fellow-sufferers. This pacified them all, and none of them would make a complaint for assault against the others.
Month-old turkey boiled in vinegar. I love vintage recipes.

This story naturally brings us to my favorite Thanksgiving theme: weaponized turkeys. Fortunately, it seems to be popular with a lot of people this time of year. Witness this story from the "Pittsburgh Press," November 28, 1987:
A Tacoma, Wash., man was thrown in jail on Thanksgiving when accused of assaulting his girlfriend with a 21-pound turkey.

The woman told police she and her boyfriend were arguing outside the house and he lost his temper and used the turkey to shove her into the house, aggravating her poor back condition.

Police arrested the man on assault charges under the state's domestic violence act and booked him into jail.

The weapon "was not placed in evidence because it was roasting in the oven," the arresting officer noted.

Police did not identify the couple.

This item comes from the "Los Angeles Times," November 24, 1983:
Anthony J. Crew of Windham, Ohio, also used a turkey to get his name in the news, but it cost him $150 and a year's probation, said Jeanne Tondiglia, clerk of the Portage County court.

It seems Crew celebrated Thanksgiving a couple of days early last year by assaulting his brother-in-law with a 20-pound frozen turkey.

The "Southern Illinoisan," November 25, 1990:
Midwest City, Okla.--A man who became enraged that his Thanksgiving turkey was not defrosted was charged with assaulting his wife with the frozen bird, police said.

Scott Nelson, 33, spent part of Thanksgiving in jail after his wife, Jackie, signed a complaint accusing him of assault, said Police Maj. Brandon Clabes.

Mrs. Nelson, 24, told police her husband got angry and threw the turkey and a pie into the parking lot at their apartment complex after he discovered the bird was not thawed.

When she gathered up her child to leave, she said Nelson hurled the frozen bird at the car, breaking the windshield.

She said he then grabbed her and threatened to assault her with the turkey before she got away and drove to the police department.

Nelson was released later Thursday after posting $204 bond.
I can only hope Mrs. Nelson spent the following Thanksgiving celebrating her divorce.

After reading the above stories, you may be thinking that only men use turkeys as weapons of war. Let me direct your attention to an item in the "Allentown Call," September 4, 1909:
It remained for Whitehall township to produce the latest methods of warfare, in which dead turkeys are used. Mrs. Sallie Roeder and Mrs. Jennie Otto had a hearing before Alderman Bower last night in which each charged the other with assault and battery.

Mrs. Otto claims she was the owner of a flock of turkeys. One morning she found them dead and she charges Mrs. Roeder with having killed them. In her charge Mrs. Otto declares that the Roeder woman attacked her with a dead turkey in each hand. She held the turkeys by the neck and walloped her victim over the head with them until she was sure she wound never be able to enjoy another Thanksgiving dinner.

The Otto woman had a bunch of gruesome exhibits as evidence of the handling she received from Mrs. Roeder. Exhibit A was a big fist full of hair which she insisted the Roeder woman pulled out of her head. The hair certainly looked like her own. Exhibit B was the sad remnant of once peek-a-boo shirt waist. Nothing but the peeks was left of it. Mrs. Roeder showed the marks of somebody's teeth on her arm, which she said were Mrs. Otto's. The case was continued until Monday.

Of course, there are times when the lack of turkey leads to Thanksgiving trouble. The "Daily Times," October 7, 1938:
In San Francisco a husband took wife and family to a restaurant on Thanksgiving Day. He ordered turkey for himself, beans and cole slaw for the family. The lady sued.

A happy Thanksgiving to all my readers in the U.S. You might want to note that here at Strange Company HQ, we will be having a vegetarian feast. Scoff all you want, but I have yet to come across any newspaper items describing nut loaf and seitan ham being used as a deadly weapon.

And one more tip: If you're planning to boil your bird in vinegar, have plenty of beer on hand.


  1. WONDERFUL! Especially the vision of Mrs Roeder with a dead turkey in each hand. You've outdone yourself this year. As someone who dislikes the traditional Thanksgiving feast, this just warms the cockles of my heart.

  2. Why not? Lamb is the weapon of choice for Easter if I remember the Alfred Hitchcock show correctly.

    1. Roald Dahl's "Lamb to the Slaughter!"

      If only that had been a real case. What a blog post it would've made.

  3. You have made my day. (But I have to say this before someone else does -- I personally am totally sympatico with veggie meat, but I know there are people out there who will argue that nut loaf and seitan ham are weapons in and of themselves, even when used as directed. :)

    1. The secret to seitan is that you have to make it yourself, from scratch. Tofurky roasts are tools of Satan. Pun intended.

  4. Excellent compilation. I especially appreciated the shaking of the head that I imagined accompanied the reporter's writing of the fight in the 'cheap chuck joint'.

    As for your own Thanksgiving Day feast, I will leave you with imports from the Land of Vegetaria. I agree about the 'tofurky'. Any portmanteau word concerning food is anathema. My cats rightly turned up their noses at 'turducken'. But I would too, if offered anything beginning with those four letters.

  5. Yeah this Annual Thanksgiving Edition is amazing to read through. Looking forward to more such posts. Anyways, we also had hosted a brilliant family thanksgiving luncheon at one of my favorite garden themed San Francisco event venues and everyone enjoyed this bash a lot.


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