An American Family in the 1950s Lists Things They’re Thankful For Despite Not Having a Thanksgiving Turkey

On the day before Thanksgiving in 1951, the children of an American family learn that there won’t be a turkey on the Thanksgiving table because the family can’t afford one. Almost immediately, the kids start pouting and complaining that it wouldn’t be a real Thanksgiving without a turkey.

Their apologetic mother tries to make them feel better, but luckily their father (Bill) comes home from work in the nick of time. After hearing about the day’s events, the father challenges each of his children to remember for what they’re thankful and think about it during dinner the next day.

Shocked at his son Dick’s statement that there won’t be much to be thankful for, Bill gently reminds him and the other children that while turkey on Thanksgiving is a great American tradition, its presence sometimes obscures the real meaning of Thanksgiving.

A Thanksgiving Story

After thinking about it overnight, each of the children came to realize that they have enough to eat, plenty of clothing, freedom to worship how and where they please, freedom to read books from the library and freedom to pursue an education, without anyone dictating otherwise. The mother is thankful for her children and for her ability to speak as she likes. The father adds his piece to the list of things for which he is thankful, both for himself and for his family.

I’m thankful for…knowing that a knock on our door means nothing to fear, …you never know what to expect but you can count on one thing it’s not going to be some political gangster coming to drag one of us off to jail because we believe in freedom. And I’m glad that that freedom we’ve got lets me choose the kind of work I like and can do best… and I’m thankful for my newspaper just a few cents worth of printers ink and paper but more valuable than any amount of money because in it, the editors got the privilege of printing what he thinks and I have got the privilege of agreeing with him or not, however the facts strike me. And both of us, the editor and I have the right to act on our opinions on Election Day to vote for the principles we believe in….

This pointed educational film was made by Centron Productions in August of 1951. The Cold War was just beginning and fears of encroaching authoritarianism were very high.

Bill Johnson then finishes the list with the things for which he is thankful: a home with privacy, freedom from fear of political reprisal, the right to pick a vocation in which he is happy, freedom of opinion as represented by his newspaper, the right to vote, and the belief that family unity can become world-wide unity.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails. Lori can be found posting on Threads and sharing photos on Instagram.