Here’s How Angelenos Celebrated Thanksgiving 50 Years Ago (PHOTOS)

Recently digitized pics show Valley customs from the ’50s and ’60s
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For more than 20 years, the Valley Times newspaper captured everyday life in the San Fernando Valley. The newspaper’s photo collection of images taken between 1946 and 1970 defined the booming aviation, movie, and manufacturing industries, but just as often depicted family life in what historian Kevin Roderick has called “America’s Suburb.” When the paper’s owner went bankrupt, he sold off the pictures, and eventually the collection made its way to the Los Angeles Public Library. The LAPL Photo Friends group secured a grant in 2013 to kickstart the ongoing effort to digitize 45,000 photographs of the building dedications, women’s club meetings, and young families that made the Valley what it is today.

Here is a look back at how Thanksgiving was celebrated. Some of the customs might look a little strange to us now (look out for that toddler with an axe), but the Valley would still be a bunch of orange groves and turkey farms if not for these brave souls who paved the way. Happy Thanksgiving!

Photograph caption dated November 25, 1964 reads, "Jane Stark and her chivalrous admirer Randy McEwan, both of Panorama City, appear in skit on Fun For All with host John Marshall looking on approvingly, Ch.5 at 3 p.m. Thanksgiving Day."
Photograph caption dated November 25, 1964 reads, “Jane Stark and her chivalrous admirer Randy McEwan, both of Panorama City, appear in skit on Fun For All with host John Marshall looking on approvingly, Ch.5 at 3 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.”

Photograph from Valley Times Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Photograph caption dated November 24, 1964 reads, "One of these hefty turkeys, giving you the eye in this picture, may end up under the family gaze Thursday for Thanksgiving dinner. These gobblers were raised in Saugus on the turkey farm of Peter Huntsinger at 29104 Bouquet Canyon Rd., shown standing amongst his feathered brood."
Photograph caption dated November 24, 1964 reads, “One of these hefty turkeys, giving you the eye in this picture, may end up under the family gaze Thursday for Thanksgiving dinner. These gobblers were raised in Saugus on the turkey farm of Peter Huntsinger at 29104 Bouquet Canyon Rd., shown standing amongst his feathered brood.”

Photograph by Dean Gordon/Valley Times Collection /Los Angeles Public Library

Photograph caption dated November 19, 1962 reads, "Laurie helps mother prepare huge dish for dinner guests."
Photograph caption dated November 19, 1962 reads, “Laurie helps mother prepare huge dish for dinner guests.”

Photograph by George Brich/Valley Times Collection Photographs/Los Angeles Public Library

Photograph caption dated December 21, 1964 reads, "John Cassidy and son, Cass, share cooking chores in Chatsworth home."
Photograph caption dated December 21, 1964 reads, “John Cassidy and son, Cass, share cooking chores in Chatsworth home.”

Photograph by Steve Young/Valley Times Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Photograph dated November 18, 1961 shows actor Gerald Lazarre helping his wife, actress Julie North, with the dishes in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner at their home in North Hollywood.
Photograph dated November 18, 1961 shows actor Gerald Lazarre helping his wife, actress Julie North, with the dishes in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner at their home in North Hollywood.

Photograph by Jon Woods/Valley Times Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Photograph article dated November 17, 1961 partially reads, "'...most of all we are thankful for our new future.' With those words, Marinus Louis Naberman concluded a short but meaningful list of things he and his family are grateful for this Thanksgiving, their first one in America. Naberman, his wife, Ann Mary, both 41, and three young sons have been refugees twice. In 1954 they left Jakarta, Indonesia, when the Dutch government returned power to native leaders. They moved to Holland. Last month they left Holland because as Naberman puts it: 'There was little future for our sons there.' Although now unemployed, he sees his new homeland as a place where new frontiers are opening, where opportunities abound." Saying a Thanksgiving prayer in their Sepulveda apartment, left to right, are Robert, 16; Peter, 10; Mr. and Mrs. Naberman, and James, 12.
Photograph article dated November 17, 1961 partially reads, “‘…most of all we are thankful for our new future.’ With those words, Marinus Louis Naberman concluded a short but meaningful list of things he and his family are grateful for this Thanksgiving, their first one in America. Naberman, his wife, Ann Mary, both 41, and three young sons have been refugees twice. In 1954 they left Jakarta, Indonesia, when the Dutch government returned power to native leaders. They moved to Holland. Last month they left Holland because as Naberman puts it: ‘There was little future for our sons there.’ Although now unemployed, he sees his new homeland as a place where new frontiers are opening, where opportunities abound.” Saying a Thanksgiving prayer in their Sepulveda apartment, left to right, are Robert, 16; Peter, 10; Mr. and Mrs. Naberman, and James, 12.

Photograph by George Brich/Valley Times Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Photograph caption dated November 23, 1964 reads, "When the Sevens have Thanksgiving dinner the whole family gets into the act, especially when Daddy cooks. At left, Laura and Johnny sneak a peak into the oven. At right, Laura helps her mother stir batter for Johnny cakes. After Seven began studying about the Indians, the children became interested too. This, of course, called for feathers and headbands for everyone, including Georgie, the family dog. Mrs. Seven says that some of the research was a help to the children at school because history goes hand-in-hand with food."
Photograph caption dated November 23, 1964 reads, “When the Sevens have Thanksgiving dinner the whole family gets into the act, especially when Daddy cooks. At left, Laura and Johnny sneak a peak into the oven. At right, Laura helps her mother stir batter for Johnny cakes. After Seven began studying about the Indians, the children became interested too. This, of course, called for feathers and headbands for everyone, including Georgie, the family dog. Mrs. Seven says that some of the research was a help to the children at school because history goes hand-in-hand with food.”

Photograph by George Brich/Valley Times Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Photograph caption dated November 19, 1962 reads, "Little Laurie, 4 1/2, learns everything about Thanksgiving from setting the table to its meaning."
Photograph caption dated November 19, 1962 reads, “Little Laurie, 4 1/2, learns everything about Thanksgiving from setting the table to its meaning.”

Photograph by George Brich/Valley Times Collection /Los Angeles Public Library

Photograph caption dated November 23, 1955 reads, "'I need some help with this gate!' - If Pop would just put down his camera and help with opening this heavy gate, young Steve Chase, 18 months, of Burbank, would be all set to get down to the business of providing family's Thanksgiving turkey for tomorrow. Valley's businesses, schools and industries will be closed to let families spend holiday at home."
Photograph caption dated November 23, 1955 reads, “‘I need some help with this gate!’ – If Pop would just put down his camera and help with opening this heavy gate, young Steve Chase, 18 months, of Burbank, would be all set to get down to the business of providing family’s Thanksgiving turkey for tomorrow. Valley’s businesses, schools and industries will be closed to let families spend holiday at home.”

Photograph from Valley Times Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Photograph caption dated November 26, 1959 reads, "Triple thanks - Today is momentous occasion for Karen Lee, left, Kathy Lyn and Kim Louise, triplet daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Agner, 11219 Elkwood Ave., Sun Valley, who are celebrating their first Thanksgiving. Nine-month-old girls surround their mother as she puts finishing touches on turkey taken piping hot from electric range."
Photograph caption dated November 26, 1959 reads, “Triple thanks – Today is momentous occasion for Karen Lee, left, Kathy Lyn and Kim Louise, triplet daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Agner, 11219 Elkwood Ave., Sun Valley, who are celebrating their first Thanksgiving. Nine-month-old girls surround their mother as she puts finishing touches on turkey taken piping hot from electric range.”

Photograph from Valley Times Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Photograph caption dated November 23, 1961 reads "From left, Eva, Mrs. Sawlsville, Sawlsville, Leslie, Dennis, Sandy, Terry, David, Cynthia, Leonard, Diana, Sharon." The family, in Sepulveda, grew when the Sawlsvilles adopted their seven grandchildren after the deaths of the children's parents. The Sawlsvilles also had three children of their own still living at home.
Photograph caption dated November 23, 1961 reads “From left, Eva, Mrs. Sawlsville, Sawlsville, Leslie, Dennis, Sandy, Terry, David, Cynthia, Leonard, Diana, Sharon.” The family, in Sepulveda, grew when the Sawlsvilles adopted their seven grandchildren after the deaths of the children’s parents. The Sawlsvilles also had three children of their own still living at home.

Photograph by George Brich/Valley Times Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Photograph caption dated November 21, 1960 reads, "Richard Ferguson, 13, Pacific Lodge." Richard Ferguson, a resident at the Pacific Lodge for Boys, is at a turkey farm somewhere in the San Fernando Valley to choose a turkey for Thanksgiving Day.
Photograph caption dated November 21, 1960 reads, “Richard Ferguson, 13, Pacific Lodge.” Richard Ferguson, a resident at the Pacific Lodge for Boys, is at a turkey farm somewhere in the San Fernando Valley to choose a turkey for Thanksgiving Day.

Photograph from Valley Times Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Photograph caption dated November 23, 1964 reads, "When the Sevens have Thanksgiving dinner the whole family gets into the act, especially when Daddy cooks. At left, Laura and Johnny sneak a peak into the oven. At right, Laura helps her mother stir batter for Johnny cakes. After Seven began studying about the Indians, the children became interested too. This, of course, called for feathers and headbands for everyone, including Georgie, the family dog. Mrs. Seven says that some of the research was a help to the children at school because history goes hand-in-hand with food."
Photograph caption dated November 23, 1964 reads, “When the Sevens have Thanksgiving dinner the whole family gets into the act, especially when Daddy cooks. At left, Laura and Johnny sneak a peak into the oven. At right, Laura helps her mother stir batter for Johnny cakes. After Seven began studying about the Indians, the children became interested too. This, of course, called for feathers and headbands for everyone, including Georgie, the family dog. Mrs. Seven says that some of the research was a help to the children at school because history goes hand-in-hand with food.”

Photograph by George Brich/Valley Times Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

Photograph caption dated November 21, 1962 reads, "Members of Xi Eta Zeta Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi, from left, Mmes. Robert Nelson, North Hollywood; Al Austin, Van Nuys, and Arthur True, also North Hollywood, prepare Thanksgiving basket for group's adopted needy family. They have been aiding the same Pacoima family at Thanksgiving and Christmas for the past three years. Other projects include making clowns and rag dolls for the children's ward at General Hospital."
Photograph caption dated November 21, 1962 reads, “Members of Xi Eta Zeta Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi, from left, Mmes. Robert Nelson, North Hollywood; Al Austin, Van Nuys, and Arthur True, also North Hollywood, prepare Thanksgiving basket for group’s adopted needy family. They have been aiding the same Pacoima family at Thanksgiving and Christmas for the past three years. Other projects include making clowns and rag dolls for the children’s ward at General Hospital.”

Photograph by Dean Gordon/Valley Times Collection /Los Angeles Public Library

Photograph caption dated November 15, 1961 reads, "Kevin Brown, 7, and Joni French, 7, Sylmar, tell Thanksgiving Story."
Photograph caption dated November 15, 1961 reads, “Kevin Brown, 7, and Joni French, 7, Sylmar, tell Thanksgiving Story.”

Photograph by George Brich/Valley Times Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

 

 

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