"Over the river and through the woods . . ."

Nov 24, 2022 by Tempe Javitz
Like most families the Spear and Johnsons gathered for a large 
Thanksgiving feast of amazing food and long conversations.  Often, 
we would gather at my grandmother Jessamine’s house.  When
Jessamine wasn’t busy taking family photos, she was serving her
famous mincemeat pie.  I’ll bet you have similar stories in your family.
What I’m betting on is that your grandmother’s secret pie ingredient
wasn’t venison!  

Here’s the recipe I discovered in one of her diaries (with one of 
Jessamine’s photos, of course.)  The recipe originates with her 
mother-in-law, but Jessamine always told her grandkids that she used
deer meat. Of course, we bragged to our friends about it.

Did I mention family photos?  Jessamine always had her camera at 
the ready, and thank goodness too.  Otherwise, many of us would have
no baby or early childhood photos of ourselves and siblings.  Being
the last of Torrey's five children, the only photos of me before first-grade 
were taken by my grandmother or my great aunt Ruth.  Here’s one of
my favorites with me, my mom, and siblings taken on Thanksgiving
in 1949 at Jessamine’s retirement home in Story, Wyoming.

            Adrienne Johnson holding Tempe. 
    Sandra, Robin, Phillip and Jolly alongside.

Thanksgivings in the 1950s were typical affairs with extended family 
and cousins. In the 1920s through the 1940s families were excited to 
gather together, eat a wonderful meal and catch up on the family news. 
It was a quiet and more intimate gathering.  

For today’s cowboys and cowgirls, Thanksgiving gatherings are usually 
close to the home ranch.  By November your cattle, horses, or sheep 
are gathered close for the winter.  Heavy snow will soon create many 
hours of feeding hay to your animals.  Judging from the photos in my
grandmother’s collection, most of her Thanksgivings were spent with 
relatives within driving distance.  Luckily Jessamine’s sister Elsa,
her brothers Phil and Junior were within an hour drive.  One of my 
favorite photos shows Thanksgiving in 1943 at Junior and Ruth Spear’s 
home. It was extra special as Jessamine’s son Vic was home on leave
from the Navy Airforce (lower left corner).

Annabelle Moody, Robin Johnson, Nova & Bud Alderson, Will
     Johnson, Junior Spear, Adrienne & Torrey Johnson, Jessamine Johnson, Victor
     Johnson, Phil Spear, Ruth Spear holding Sandra Johnson, and Jack Moody.

Now days people watch the Macy’s parade on TV and spend the afternoon
watching football games.  People live so far apart that travel for
Thanksgiving is planned months ahead.  But many people just hop on a
plane to fly half way across the US to visit family.   Or, you might
chat repeatedly with family members on your cell phone in several states
after throwing the turkey into the oven.  It really is a very different
world today from our grandparents' time.