(Pictured: Bullwinkle J. Moose floats above the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.)
(In the very first post on this website, I warned you that sometimes it was going to be so personal that only I would care about it. This is an example of what I meant. This may not be one day in your life, but it’s one day in mine.)
November 24, 1966, is a Thursday. It is Thanksgiving Day. All over America, families gather to celebrate. For a second straight day, elevated smog levels are recorded on the East Coast. After a stretch of Indian summer weather, a stagnant air mass is held in place by a cold front, which has allowed the buildup of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and smoke. New York City is positively choking. Today, in hopes of minimizing the smog, the city closes its garbage incinerators, and utilities cut back on the use of fuel oil to generate electricity. Despite the smog, one million people attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, where the haze is noticeable.
There are also Thanksgiving Day parades in Detroit and Philadelphia, also sponsored by department stores, J. L. Hudson’s and Gimbels. This afternoon, in Detroit’s traditional Thanksgiving Day NFL game, the Lions are blown out by the San Francisco 49ers 41-14. For the first time, the Dallas Cowboys play on Thanksgiving, beating the Cleveland Browns 26-14. There’s also an AFL game today: Buffalo beats Oakland 31-10. On TV tonight, CBS airs the 1963 theatrical movie Jason and the Argonauts at the conclusion of the Cowboys/Browns game. ABC presents Batman, F Troop, The Dating Game, Bewitched, That Girl, and Hawk, a police drama starring Burt Reynolds. On NBC, it’s the anthology show GE Fantasy Theater, Star Trek, The Hero (a sitcom with Richard Mulligan as an actor who stars in a TV Western, with Mariette Hartley as his wife), and The Dean Martin Show.
The current Cash Box magazine chart is led by the Beach Boys and “Good Vibrations.” “Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band is #2; last week’s #1, “Poor Side of Town” by Johnny Rivers, is #3. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by the Supremes and “Last Train to Clarksville” by the Monkees round out the Top Five. Two songs are new in the Top 10: “I’m Your Puppet” by James and Bobby Purify (currently #1 on the Cash Box R&B chart) and a medley of “Devil With a Blue Dress” and “Good Golly Miss Molly” by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. Elsewhere, “I’m Ready for Love” by Martha and the Vandellas is up 16 spots to #24; “Mellow Yellow” by Donovan is up 26 spots to #33; “A Hazy Shade of Winter” by Simon and Garfunkel is up 19 spots to #35. Two Motown hits are the highest-debuting songs of the week: “Money (That’s What I Want)” by Jr. Walker and the All-Stars at #61 and “(I Know) I’m Losing You” by the Temptations at #67. The #1 song on the Cash Box country chart this week is “Open Up Your Heart” by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. The self-titled debut album by the Monkees is atop the Cash Box album chart.
Perspective From the Present: On Friday, November 25, New York City issued a first-stage smog alert, asking people to avoid driving, turn thermostats down, and stop burning their own garbage. Similar alerts were issued in New Jersey and Connecticut. On Saturday morning, the weather turned, and a northeast wind dispersed the smog. Although precise figures are impossible to calculate, some experts said that the smog likely caused as many as two dozen excess deaths in the city per day.
Six-year-old me did not celebrate Thanksgiving with my whole family on this day. A few days earlier, I had been kicked on the playground, and as a result, I developed some sort of infection in one leg. I had already missed a couple of days of school because I had keep it elevated and under hot towels. That meant I couldn’t go to Grandma and Grandpa’s for Thanksgiving dinner with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. So Mother, my two-month-old brother, and I stayed home while Dad and my other brother, age 4, went to the dinner. Mother prepared turkey noodle soup for us, entertained me with board games, and did all she could to lessen my disappointment and, most likely, hers.
Even though we didn’t particularly like the circumstances, we made the best of what we had to deal with—a good lesson for Thanksgiving 2020.