From the Archives: A Look At Thanksgiving at Avon Old Farms
By Art Custer
Another Founder’s Era tradition Pierpont sought, at least initially, to preserve will seem odd to modern Avonians - Thanksgiving. During the Founder’s Era, students had not gone home for the Thanksgiving holiday. Instead, their families were invited to campus to enjoy their Thanksgiving meal in the refectory, and the “break” consisted of one day of festivities and family reunion. In 1948, the main features of Thanksgiving Day on campus were an Eagle v. Dio football game (the last in the series for that year), a chapel service, dinner in the refectory, coffee at the provost’s house, and a movie in place of study hall. Only a year later, though, The Avonian reported that “certain students” - mostly those who lived nearby - would be allowed to go home for Thanksgiving on Wednesday and report back in time for Thursday’s study hall. Thanksgiving on campus remained in place for a while after that. The December, 1950 Avonian proclaims Thanksgiving at Avon a success on its front page and features a picture of the “turkey trotters” (waiters) proceeding up the center aisle of the refectory with their platters. The Avonian does not mention Thanksgiving again until December of 1958, when it reports “A Happy 200 Leave for Thanksgiving in Rain.” The article under that headline reported there were students who stayed on campus for Thanksgiving that year, but it was necessity, not policy, that kept them there.
It seems likely the tradition of Thanksgiving on campus faded fairly quickly, if for no other reason than that the school began hosting an annual Parents Weekend in November of 1952. That event drew 110 parents to campus to learn how their sons were doing, meet the provost, the faculty and each other, and watch football and soccer games against Wooster and Kingswood respectively (this was the first year of multiple interscholastic sports). In many ways, the new Parents Weekend served many of the same purposes Thanksgiving on campus used to serve, and it did so without dominating a traditional family holiday.