away and Grandma Emma Stryker had moved in with my
Aunt Harriet and Uncle Shelby at 345 Cedar Street in Waterman.
But I still got to see aunts and uncles Everett and Marguerite
Stryker and Roy and Myrtle Stryker, plus a few cousins Roger
and Barbara Stryker, Rusty and Dorothy Kleckner.
Most of us my age come from homes where Thanksgiving (and
often Christmas) was celebrated the old-fashioned way: At grandpa
and grandma's house, or an aunt and uncle's place, often in the
country, where all the relations and inlaws gathered for a feast.
In my case, before Kay and I were married, we went to one
side of the family every other year, or one at noon and the other
for supper. My Aunt Ann and Uncle George Cooper hosted the Schrader-
Cooper dinner at their farmhouse near "New Leb" (between
Genoa and Hampshire). Us kids got to meet all the cousins once
or twice a year, played board games, explored the haymow and
machine shed, then devoured turkey with all the trimmings and
settled down to watch a football game or play in the basement.
The men retired to the TV room and some fell asleep, while the
women returned to the kitchen to clean up after the meal, then
maybe play cards, crochet or knit.
When I was about 12 I had my first smoke on that holiday.
One of my cousins pilfered a pack of Pall Malls from my uncle's
cupboard in the pantry and we sneaked behind the barn to try
them out. Guess I didn't like them much as I never became a smoker.
Luckily we didn't burn the barn down like some kids did, playing
Then later in the day we drew names from a bowl, telling
us who to buy a $5 or $10 gift for Christmas when we all returned
to repeat that tradition all over again.
On my mother's side of the family our gathering was smaller
since my grandfather Orval had passed
This cemented rock pile has stood in Sawyer Park on
the north side of Waterman since 1931 featuring this plaque (Barry
Schrader photo for Shaw Media)The inscription reads "Erected to the Founders
and Builders of this community whose rugged spirit and sterling
character are here typified."
Their kids Cindy, Jackie, Jani and Stephanie, plus Mary
Jo and Tommy, were generally there. No farm to wander, so we
pretty much sat around listening to the adults gossip about friends
and neighbors, who had passed away, or who had gotten married
and had a baby. Us kids did go outside if weather permitted,
heading for Sawyer Park a block over where there was (and still
is) a big cemented rock pile stood with a plaque honoring Waterman's
pioneers, so we could run off some energy and keep out of our
Fast forward to the 21st Century and our parents, grandparents,
aunts and uncles have all "gone to their great reward"
by now. Our families still gather for a feast, but many relatives
have moved away, so the table is smaller. Some high tech gadgets
have entered the picture. Parents nearly all carry cellphones
now, some even answering calls at the dinner table, while kids
play games or text each other on smartphones or tablets. The
holiday football games still dominate the room, but on a larger
"High Def" flatscreen. Now I am the one taking a nap
on a full stomach, and awaken only when called back to the dining
room for leftovers and maybe a second piece of pumpkin pie.
Our kids and grandkids will reminisce a dozen or more years
from now about their "good old days" when the family
gathered for Thanksgiving. But I wonder what they will be eating
and drinking. Can you imagine the high tech gadgets they will
have to entertain them by then?!?