Despite Depression, Riverside County enjoyed Thanksgiving in 1930

The Great Depression began in October 1929. By the following year, as the first real “Depression” Thanksgiving approached, there was little mention of problems in the local newspapers.

The Riverside Daily Press said that, with a good rainfall occurring on Thanksgiving that year, a busy fruit season coming and only a minimum number of unemployed, Riverside had much to be grateful for. For those who were struggling, it was mentioned that the Salvation Army fed a turkey dinner to over 100 people, mostly men. Additional families were helped with a basket of food sent to their homes.

Other than these short mentions of the “business depression,” as it was called at the time, the local newspapers were filled with talk of who traveled where for Thanksgiving, as well as other comments on the holiday, some of which are noted below.

The enlisted men at March Field had a big dinner to look forward to. It included 1,600 pounds of turkey and was served at noon in the six mess halls at the army air force post. The 53rd squadron had its meal at 5 p.m., followed by a dance. The officers staged a formal dance at the officer’s club that evening as well.

The children of the Alamos School at Winchester — all eight of them — gave quite the Thanksgiving program for their parents and friends the night before the big day.

A Thanksgiving program was staged at the Alamos School House in Winchester in 1930. The school, originally located at Benton and Pourroy roads, was later moved to the Lake Skinner Recreation Area east of Temecula. (Courtesy of Nancy L. Cox)

Despite the small number of children at the school, the program consisted of three short plays, recitations, songs and piano numbers. There was even an old-fashioned magic lantern show with children providing the songs and recitations to go along with the slides. After the show, the children changed into colonial outfits and served refreshments to guests. All agreed that their teacher, Miss Dora Field, outdid herself by rehearsing the children and getting them ready for the Thanksgiving program.

Mr. and Mrs. Earl Davis served Thanksgiving dinner at their home at the corner of Myers Street and Indiana Avenue in Riverside. They could claim the honor of having a guest who arrived via private airplane. That guest of honor was Mr. Davis’ cousin, Ralph Davis, who piloted his airplane from San Francisco and landed at an abandoned field on “the Redlands Road.” Why the pilot didn’t land at a local airfield is unknown, as there were several around, but it was likely very exciting to have him join their Thanksgiving festivities.

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Holstrom’s Cafes, which had two sites in Riverside, listed its menu for Thanksgiving dinner, which cost $1.25 a person. It included seafood cocktail, hearts of celery, ripe olives, either chicken broth or cream of tomato soup, roast turkey, celery dressing, cranberry sauce, whipped potatoes, buttered new peas, California fruit salad, hot biscuits, plum pudding with hard sauce, fruit cake, mince or pumpkin pie or ice cream and coffee. Whew, now that was a holiday meal! For those who had less to spend, another cafe was offering a Thanksgiving meal for 60 cents.

The Hemet News reported that Hemet had become the world’s largest shipping center for turkey eggs. The Iowa company buying the eggs had sold 10,000 turkeys for Thanksgiving in 1930, most of them coming from eggs produced in the Hemet area.

Finally, it was reported that the turkey that graced the Thanksgiving table of President Herbert Hoover in 1930 was hatched from a Hemet Valley egg. The turkey was a gift from the same Iowa turkey company that was the main purchaser of turkey eggs from the Hemet area.

If you have an idea for a future Back in the Day column about a local historic person, place or event, contact Steve Lech and Kim Jarrell Johnson at [email protected]