Times Past

Dan Krieger: Republican chairman recalls days of yore

‘When his Republican candidate for President got beat my Dad (store owner J.J. Andre) had to wheel his friend John Norton down Higuera Street in a wheelbarrow.”

In the American tradition, hotly contested elections and Thanksgiving are separated by three or four weeks. It saves us a lot of angst at the dinner table.

But Peter Andre, longtime chairman of the county Republican Party, recalled that things were different in the 1920s.

“In those days, if people argued over politics, they quickly became friends again once the election was over.”

“We used to kill our own turkeys for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Papa would catch one from the chicken and turkey yard of our house on Dana Street.

“We had about an acre of land. On one side was the house and storage barn and orange and walnut trees and the other side was the chicken yard with the chickens and the sheep. The chickens had a shed where they roosted at night.

“I can remember when we wanted to catch a chicken for eating, we would go out at night when they were sitting on their roost and grab it by the legs and bring it out to kill, dress, etc. We used to kill them by wringing their necks. I never liked to kill them by chopping off their necks with an axe.

“Pa would tie the turkey by its legs to the grape arbor in back of the house and then slit its throat. After the bleeding stopped, Dolly and I would pick the feathers off the bird. It was real easy when the gobbler was still warm.

“Mama would then singe off any pin feathers over her wood stove and then later over the gas stove when she acquired that modern convenience.

“After cleaning it, she would stuff the turkey and Papa at 5 a.m. would take it up to (Sauer’s) bakery where it was cooked in one of the bread ovens until we went up and got it for our dinner at midday.

“In those days, turkeys were very long and narrow, not like today’s broad-breasted birds. But they sure tasted good. Ours were always about 25 to 30 pounds. It was a big family being fed when everybody was home.

“Since my sister Eva and I were left handed, she got one left hand corner and I got the other left hand corner of our table. She was always seated next to Papa at the head of our table and I sat at the opposite end of the table next to Mama and Dolly was next to Mama on the other side of the table. Herb sat next to me and George next to him and Joe was in the middle on the other side.

“Our dinners at holidays were always very lively, since my father was a staunch Republican and my brother George was a dyed-in-the-wool Demo-crat. Things got pretty wild sometimes. They both took their politics very seriously.

“I remember one time when Papa told us that he had won a new suit of clothes from his good friend, John Norton, a Democrat. Norton was also a San Luis Obispo County supervisor and owned a drug store, competing with his brother Harry, who also owned a drug store.

“That was in 1928, the year Herbert Hoover became president. My Dad didn’t say too much (four years later when Roosevelt beat Hoover and Dad) had to wheel John Norton down Higuera Street in a wheelbarrow.”

Dan Krieger is a professor emeritus of history at Cal Poly and president of the California Mission Studies Association.