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The Thanksgivings of yesteryear

When this article is published it will be Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and one that I enjoyed as a child growing up. It always meant family and good food, and please believe me, we never went hungry on Thanksgiving Day at the Roberson family table. (Remember, my mom was a Roberson).

Our family always went to Old Ford, where my grandparents lived, for Thanksgiving lunch and every member of our family was there, except my dad. He had the day off, and he and J.C. usually went duck hunting that day, and we did not see him ’til night. All the ladies started cooking early, and Pie Jones had wood cut and stacked on Mom Bert’s side porch for the woodstove that she cooked on. Collard greens, potatoes, turkey, oyster dressing, gravy, string beans, cranberry sauce, fried chicken and white ham was displayed perfectly across the table. For desert was Mom Bert’s favorite chocolate cake! Afterward, we headed for the living room and sat beside the woodstove for the best nap, knowing our stomachs were full.

It was not until I got older that we started having Thanksgiving dinner at our home, and Dad was always there. He had stopped hunting because, being in private business, he did not have time for hunting. Anytime we had collard greens, my dad would fix his family tradition: mash-up! He would carefully mash his potatoes up; then apply pot liquor, vinegar, dumplings and salt and pepper. This would take place before he added the collard greens. Then he stirred it all up and added a cold sweet potato for his famous mash-up. Now, my dad loved collards and passed his love of them down to his son and granddaughter, Hope. He always told me that different regions of the county fixed collards differently, and I later found it to be true. To this day, his mash-up is talked about at every family meal when we gather, and we miss him and his special mash-up more every year. Now that Mom and Dad are deceased, our family does not gather as much and is scattered across the U.S.

My mother-in-law replaces my mom as the best collard greens cook! She always had plenty of boiled potatoes because her grandson, Trent, loved them too. Still, Mrs. Reba would always tell me where she had hidden them for me. Now, unlike Dad, I never made the famous mash-up at Mrs. Reba’s table, but she would have enough food for the Smith family. She even went as far as making a list, and my wife, Tracey, would check off the food to make sure it was on the table. Tracey was her cooking assistant, and we went over to Mrs. Reba’s house the night before so they could start cooking.

It is my hope that every reader will have a blessed Thanksgiving Day, and there will be plenty of food for everyone. There may not be a mash-up this year, but I will enjoy my collard greens anyway, and I hope you will also. We all have so much to be thankful for and please take just a few moments to reflect back upon the blessings we have. If you have to travel, then please be careful, and I hope to see you next week!

They were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places, Washington, N.C.! The Original Washington!


— Harold Jr.


Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.