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Thanksgiving, The Wamsutta Mills, and “Holy Turkey Day”

THANKSGIVING RECALLS history and family memories.

My Family’s Thanksgiving Heritage

My grandmother came to the U.S. with a third grade education. At sixteen, she sensed imminent war in Poland, a starving nation. When an American came to her village in the early 1900’s and offered $3 a week for Wamsutta Mill workers in New Bedford, Massachusetts, she thought, “This is a pretty good deal.”

The Wamsutta Mills

On the voyage to Ellis Island she met my grandfather. He became a loom fixer and together they bought a few tenement houses and started a farm. Intrigued by the November holiday which made everyone eat turkey, they decided to raise these birds on the farm. Coming from a religious nation, they named Thanksgiving “Holy Turkey Day.”

In the 1950’s, my Dad returned to New Bedford, Massachusetts from bootcamp in Pittsburg, California. He sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge on this way home from the Korean War. He went back to college on the GI Bill. He first saw my mother, a third grade teacher, playing piano in a dance band. He thought she looked cute and decided to visit her on the farm to buy one of her turkeys and ask her out on a date. They got married and had two daughters who grew up living on that old turkey farm.

In 1999, after I opened my new orthodontic office in Antioch, California, I decided to take my first real vacation. Eager to find my grandmother’s village, I traveled to Poland and drove to an address where only factories now stand. That night, I returned to my Krakow hotel later and rejoined the Harvard Alumni tour with whom I was travelling. There, I ate dinner and shared my day with an older businessman. I described California and my life as an orthodontist. Curiously, I asked him “And what do you do?.” He replied “My family owned the Wamsutta Mills in New Bedford Massachusetts.”

Wishing you special memories for a Happy and Healthy “Holy Turkey Day.”

Dr. Ann Marie Gorczyca

Antioch, CA

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