Al McCombs

Al McCombs

Although the earliest Thanksgivings in Chino have been reported here in the past, I have had several queries about them, so here they are again.

By Thanksgiving in 1887, Richard Gird had completed a few buildings of the bare prairie town he called Chino, and a handful of settlers had moved in.

Chino’s first Thanksgiving on Nov. 24, 1887, was not very religiously observed, “as nearly all the hands, and especially the cooks, were at work.”

The dinner was held at the new boarding house still being completed at the corner of Seventh and C streets.

According to the next day’s Champion, “The Stars and Stripes floated over the Champion office. The feature of the day was the dinner. Though not quite ready for occupation, the large dining room was cleared and a temporary table set. The bill of fare was liberal, consisting of nearly a dozen chickens, leg of mutton, ham, a ‘bushel’ of cranberry sauce… celery and many other vegetables, assorted nuts and fruits, pies, cake, coffee, tea, milk, choice fresh butter from the Chino dairy and many other kinds of good fillin’.

“Al Hing and his cousin Charley prepared and set up the (food) in the best style of celestial art, and they did their work well, too.

“The party set down at five o’clock and were duly thankful—thankful for a first class dinner as well as for other blessings without number, including the good fortune which directed them to the beautiful and orderly town of Chino.”

The diners could look out the north windows, where the view was yet unobscured by trees or many houses, to see the mountains “clad in snow, clouds and sunshine with showers, and to the south the graceful hills beyond Chino creek.”

In many Chino Valley homes in years past, the Thanksgiving turkey came fresh off the farm. 

Knowing Chino families got their birds from Wanger’s Turkey Ranch on the southeast corner of Central and Francis. Clarence Wanger began raising turkeys and chickens there in 1931, and opened a poultry slaughter plant in 1945. It operated until Mr. Wanger retired in the early 1970s. He died in 1977.

In the Chino hills customers had a choice of several thousand turkeys from the B-B-B Turkey Ranch operated by the Schaefer family at 14728 Peyton Drive on 45 acres purchased from the Abbona family in 1949. 

In years following, the main Thanksgiving event in town were the student exercises at the schoolhouse on Fifth Street, in 1888 under the direction of teacher Lizzie Reynolds and Rev. A. B. Orgren, the Swedish Baptist Church pastor.

In the following years, those exercises and social get-togethers made up Thanksgiving Day observances. In 1891 the Champion reported that “probably the largest party yet given in Chino was enjoyed in the south storeroom of the opera house block after the school entertainment. Fordick’s orchestra furnished their usual excellent music, and the young people ended the day of thanksgiving by tripping the light fantastic with as merry a crowd as ever enjoyed themselves in more princely halls.”

Construction on the opera house at Seventh and D was then still underway. It continued to host the Thanksgiving socials under gas lights, until 1910 when electricity was finally installed. 

On Thanksgiving Eve,  62 years ago in the Nov. 27, 1958 Rolltop Roundup, appeared the following (modified to be socially correct), which still seems appropriate after over six decades despite a couple of changes brought about by time.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to express myself, a right guaranteed us all by our wonderful Constitution which states “Congress shall make no law respecting, an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” These are words to carry next to our hearts on Thanksgiving.

“Secondly, I am thankful for my family-- for the love and companionship of my wife and the joy of my son (and now his family). Without them the world would be a lonely place. I am thankful for my friends and their fellowship, and the associations which fill the days with interest.

I am thankful for my home, and the town I have settled in. There is beauty in Chino, and beauty on my street. There is a spirit of belonging in a small town that is lacking in the large, and a feeling of comradeship with the many people you recognize as you go down the street.

“Again, I am thankful for my country, the land of the free, where I may live without fear, that disease fatal to all civilizations. I am thankful for peace and the men who have achieved it and are preserving it, teaching us to live with those who threaten us, by conquering our fear of them through the strength to stalemate their vicious desires.

“I am thankful for children, in whom lies the hope of the world. I am thankful for their innocence, which makes possible instillation in them of a good dominant over evil. It is for us, the adults, to give them the priceless gift of love and teach them to know no hate, for it is these innocent children who will shape the destiny of the world we will grow old in.

“I am thankful for life itself, and the opportunity to serve others,  an opportunity open to all who wish to take advantage of it. I am filled with compassion for those who fail to seize this opportunity, which can provide them with the greatest wealth the world has to offer--faith, friends, and a full life.”

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