Mr. and Mrs. Valentino Santesso pick up their Cominco turkey at the Trail distribution centre

Mr. and Mrs. Valentino Santesso pick up their Cominco turkey at the Trail distribution centre

A look back – Christmas turkey tradition in Trail

A fond look back at "Turkey Talk" from December 1941

The Trail Historical Society has kindly offered photos and stories related to the history of Trail.

One fond Christmas tradition is remembered regularly by long-time Trail residents and smelter employees this time of year:  the annual Cominco Christmas turkey.  The following text is from the December 1941 edition of the Cominco Magazine and makes for a nostalgic read.

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We’re talking turkey!  Such is the theme song of the turkey people.  The turkey people, in case you aren’t aware, are the boys and girls who do such a splendiferous job of seeing that every Consolidated family, pensioner, widow and enlisted man’s wife is provided with a succulent, Grade A, No. 1 gobbler for Christmas dinner.

To say that the job is no cinch is to stay on the right side of the King’s English.  In the best Hollywood jargon – it’s terrific!  During the last two weeks of their tribulations, the air in the vicinity of these turkey people is specially piped to the stratosphere and – yes, you’ve guessed it – it keeps the sky blue for the rest of the year!

The grief starts with the sorting of married men and single-men-with-dependents from the single men; it continues through the additions of new men, keeping track of transfers, securing addresses of pensioners, widows, and enlisted men’s wives living in every part of Canada, determining the number of turkeys to be ordered, how many of which weight, and worrying about weather conditions and getting two or three carloads of turkeys here in first-class shape at the latest possible moment.

It’s a lot of work and the staff have their reward when they go home on Christmas Eve to dream of all the people who rest content with a nice fat bird stuffed into the refrigerator – or to toss and turn restlessly at the nightmare of having missed one deserving person from the list.

Another common nightmare is the illusion of being confronted with a bill for $20,000 (approx. $387,000 today!) for that 60,000 pound pile of turkey meat!  That is approximately the price and size of order which went out for last year’s birds.

The number of turkeys and the size of the job have increased four-fold since the first year the turkeys were given by the Company, but it is doubtful whether any more headaches are generated.  Old-timers will recall the issuing of turkeys from the Company store when that venerable institution was housed in what is now known as the Doukhobor Block.  The store moved to its present site in 1925 and the turkey gift was an established custom even at that time.  Early attempts were made to deliver the turkeys to each house, but as Trail homes in those days were without numbers or other means of identifications the plan was dropped and the practice established of issuing cards and having employees call for their birds.

Of late years the Trail rink has been used as a storage and distribution spot for Trail employees and the Rossland Courthouse for Rossland employees.  These same arrangements have been made for this year and the gobblers will be distributed during the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on December 22 and 23.

As in past years, the birds will be grade A turkeys, carrying the seal of government approval, and will be allotted according to the size of the family or the number of dependents.

It is conceivable, even with the great amount of care that is taken, that some person rightfully entitled to receive a turkey may be missed.  If this should happen to you, please communicate with the Industrial Relations department as soon as possible on the morning of December 24 and if an error has been made, it will be rectified immediately.

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Pick up a copy of the Trail Journal of Local History at the Trail Historical Society’s office in Trail City Hall or visit the website www.trailhistory.com