While chatting with my daughter JoAnn about Thanksgivings of days gone by, I recalled a Thanksgiving disaster I myself created many years ago. (What a surprise 🙂 )
I was still in high school, working part time at Graf’s Sausage Kitchen, a small deli and catering business on the south side of Kenosha, Wisconsin. I worked on and off for the business, owned by Leo Graf, for several years prior to entering military service in 1968. Leo was a great guy, and working with him over the years, I learned much about butchering, business and life.
Leo’s wife and young kids all helped out at the store, which provided groceries, deli products and catering to local weddings, graduations, and other large gatherings.
One year, the day before Thanksgiving, Leo had two large beef roasts cooking in a huge Nesco roaster, earmarked for a wedding the following Saturday. I worked the afternoon shift that day, and as always, was by myself as it was a very small business. One of the things I was supposed to tend to before closing that night, was to turn off the Nesco roaster and put the beef roasts in the cooler. The store was going to be closed Thanksgiving day and reopen Friday.
Very early Friday morning, at home after enjoying Thanksgiving day with family and friends, I got a call from Leo’s wife. Someone had called the fire department after seeing smoke pouring out of the vent above the front door of the store. The fire department responded, called Leo and met him in front of the small building. When they opened the door, black smoke billowed out, forcing the firefighters to don masks as they entered the building. They quickly found the source of the fire…the smoldering Nesco roaster containing two very blackened, shrunken beef roasts.
The roaster was doused by chemical fire extinguishers, and the rest of the building was checked for any other sources of fire. None were found, and the doors of the building were opened to allow the smoke to clear out.
I lived only two blocks from the store, and headed over as soon as I got the call. When I got there, the fire had been put out and the fire department was already leaving the scene. Leo, his wife and some of the kids were checking everything to see how badly the acrid smoke had damaged any other food stuffs or products.
When I arrived, Leo just gave me a look while his wife and kids said nothing. I, of course, was responsible for the disaster, forgetting to turn off the roaster and put the beef in the cooler the night before Thanksgiving. There was nothing I could say, other than “I’m sorry Leo” as I joined in the cleaning and washing of products that had an oily film from the smoke. It was a very long day for everyone, and a very miserable and humbling day for me.
In the days and weeks that followed, I repaid Leo for the destroyed roasts and other damaged foodstuffs out of my wages. Leo, being the good-natured soul he was, teased me good naturedly about the mishap. The small store had a close-knit clientele and many of them also teased me about it for a long time after.
I continued to work on and off for Leo until I entered the U.S. Air Force. During my tour of duty in Vietnam, Leo sent me several care-packages, much enjoyed by me and friends I served with.