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Column: Fall Saturdays were different in Worthington 'BTD'

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By Ray Crippen

WORTHINGTON — What did Worthington do before there was a Turkey Day?

I don’t know this well.

Did you ever hear of Worthington BTD? Before Turkey Day?

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I think most Midwest community celebrations trace a beginning to just before mid-20th century. Turkey Day actually is older than the Minneapolis Aquatennial (Turkey Day, 1939. Aquatennial, 1940.) By this date in the 21st century, nearly every community has some manner of summer celebration or summer festival.

There were ways Worthington once celebrated Turkey Day that have been dropped along the way. In the beginning, the entire business community from clerks to tellers to telephone operators dressed in varying types and degrees of country and Western garb through the week BTD. It was a denim and bandana time.

On Turkey Day, barrels of turkey tail feathers and barrels of corn cobs were set out on the curbs of 10th Street. Kids (but not only kids) would push the turkey quills into the ends of the cobs and send them twirling and sailing. There were cobs and feathers flying everywhere.

Women (mostly) from several churches erected stands on Worthington’s downtown streets and offered menus of turkey dinners and turkey sandwiches.

I am quite certain this was the beginning of Worthington’s summer celebrations.

Much more was made of the county fair before that time.

Worthington, for one, had no fast food restaurants. The Nobles County Fair was your opportunity for a hamburger or a foot-long hot dog. Burgers and wieners were special attractions of the fair. Jars of mustard and bottles of ketchup were set out on the wooden counters.

It could be said there were more exhibits, more exhibitors, more attractions at the fairs. The Minnesota DNR — which was the Department of Game and Fish or some such thing — used to bring giant aquariums for county fair displays. The aquariums were filled with filtered water and the fish of Minnesota were put on display. Fair visitors could stand and watch walleyes, Northerns, crappies, sunfish, bullheads swim about in leisure. At feeding time you might see minnows meet their final fate.

Appliance dealers displayed new wonders that included refrigerators and gas ranges. The high school band was part of the grandstand entertainment.

When the fair was tucked away, that was largely the end of community celebration.

What might happen on an October Saturday afternoon before there were turkey marches? Well, residents would be raking up dried and fallen leafs,of course. This was not quite the same chore that it is today. There were no power mowers, no riding mowers with which to mulch the leafs. Push mowers. Fan-shaped leaf rakes were novel. In most yards you would see someone out with a garden rake.

There were no plastic bags. Leafs were commonly packed into bushel baskets and some homeowners dumped leafs along the curb out front and set them on fire, or dumped them in the burn barrel out back. The smell of smoke from burning leafs was certainly part of an autumn Saturday.

Jim Pearson, a longtime Worthington fireman and fire chief, kept records on fire calls. As I recall, Jim said fire trucks were called out at least once every 48 hours but, in the fall, there often were several calls in a single day. A gust of wind might lift burning leafs as high as the housetops. Of course there had to be a stop to this, a ban on burning, but in the heyday of leaf raking (BTD) watching the coming and going of the fire trucks was a form of community recreation.

An autumn Saturday was a time for taking off screens and screen doors and for putting on storm windows and storm doors. It was a time for buckets or basins of soapy water on the lawns, set out to wash the windows. You might see a fireman going up a ladder at one house and homeowner across the street climbing down another ladder with a screen.

Screens, storm windows and tar paper. Somewhere along nearly every block you would see someone who hoped to block winter winds by unrolling tar paper along their house’s foundation and tacking it securely with wood laths.

That was a Worthington Saturday BTD.

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.

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