Last Glance
Turkey and Tall Tales
November, 2007 - Issue #37
My dad used to tell us a great story. When he was just starting out in his own business (he installed chain link fences), he did a job for a man who was opening up a one-of-a-kind restaurant. This man told my dad that his restaurant would feature hamburgers and milkshakes at prices any family could afford. There would be no seats in this place. People would simply step up to the window, place their order and walk out with their food in a bag. My dad, ever the dreamer, thought it was a fabulous idea.

When the job was finished, the owner asked my dad if he wouldn't mind taking stock in the restaurant instead of cash for payment. Since a stock certificate wouldn't feed his large family, my dad declined. Too bad for us. The restaurant owner's name was Ray Kroc and he was opening up one of the first McDonald's restaurants in the valley.

My dad was a great storyteller. We always wondered how true the stories were, but he seemed to know a lot of details. Like when he installed some horse corrals at a ranch in Chatsworth and met a bunch of hippies (Charles Manson and his gang). Or when he was working in the high desert and he came upon a film crew shooting the television show "Bonanza." He said he was asked to stand in for Dan Blocker (Hoss Cartwright). He did look like Hoss, so we wondered.

With a large family and not a whole lot of money, story telling and game playing was a big part of my childhood. Did I feel deprived because I had the knock-off brunette Barbie with the bouffant hairdo and my best friend had the blonde, pony-tailed real Barbie? Maybe, but I guess I survived those traumatic moments by making up background information on my Barbie, like how she survived a bad marriage and had to change her identity. I guess I should have realized at a very young age that writing stories about other people's lives would be a good career choice.

I've met some interesting people with interesting histories, like a co-worker I knew in Los Angeles whose cousin is the busboy who held Bobby Kennedy as he lay dying at the Roosevelt Hotel in 1968. And when we were in Arizona while my husband attended college, we lived next door to the Miranda family whose son's arrest brought on the now required Miranda Warning for anyone who is taken into police custody. Tall tales? I don't know. I always believed them.
"My dad was a GREAT STORYTELLER. We always wondered how true the stories were, but he seemed to know a lot of DETAILS. Like when he installed some horse corrals at a ranch in Chatsworth and met a bunch of hippies - Charles Manson and his gang."

That's why I love the Thanksgiving holiday. It doesn't involve presents or dressing up in a costume or even attending a church service. It's just a gathering of family and friends who, while giving thanks for what they have, always seem to have great stories to go with some fabulous food.

With eight brothers and sisters and a boatload of nieces and nephews, we've always had a crowd for Thanksgiving and plenty of stories to tell. This year, however, marks the beginning of a new Thanksgiving tradition for my family. Both my mom and dad have passed away and my brothers and sisters are scattering. It will be a little quieter at my house this year and I'll miss the mob scene around the turkey as my husband hurries to get it carved. But for the first time, I may be able to set the dining room table. I will have enough chairs and forks and won't have worry about a little one falling down the step. This year it will be my immediate family and those who are near and dear to them.

My four boys are all in the 20s now and are making their way in the world. I can't wait to hear about their journeys and passions. They always make me laugh and they are great storytellers. They would have made their grandfather proud.

Of course, we have a large dining room table so there is always room for anyone looking for a good meal. We just hope our guests have some great stories to tell.
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