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News 8 Throwback: A look back at Thanksgiving traditions in San Diego

This Thanksgiving will be different from any in the past. Enjoy this look back at Thanksgiving traditions in San Diego from the 1960s and ‘80s from News 8's archives
Credit: KFMB

SAN DIEGO — Although this Thanksgiving may be different from any other in the past, it still remains a time for giving thanks and reflecting on what we are thankful for. In this News 8 Throwback, we take a look back at traditions of yesteryear in San Diego from the beloved Regis Philbin asking people on the street about Turkey to the treasured Mother Goose Parade in El Cajon. 

We hope you enjoy these vintage clips of San Diego Thanksgivings from the 1960s and ‘80s – and we wish you a safe and happy holiday season!

The date is November 19, 1966. Regis is in bustling downtown San Diego. The first two minutes and 25 seconds are across the street from the U.S. Grant hotel on Broadway at 5th. This was a common "man on the street" location as it was the busiest spot in downtown. He asked people on the streets "why do we eat turkey on Thanksgiving?" Seems like an easy enough question but some really have to think about it and some don't know at all. "We eat turkey because it's Christmas time, you sure about that?" "Yes sir."  His signature sense of humor was evident as he converses with men and women of all ages. Everyone is dressed in their Sunday best -- it was a Saturday.

More than 400,000 spectators (so that was about half the population of San Diego!!) attended the 20th Mother Goose Parade in El Cajon on November 19, 1966. San Diego State College football coach Don Coryell was the grand marshal, his daughter Mindy along for the ride. Princess Mary Fitzgerald, a senior at Helix High held court with her attendants. Actors Barry Sullivan, Andrew Prine, and Brenda Scott served as honorary marshals. Doug Oliver hosted the parade which aired the following Saturday on TV 8. Actor Yale Summers and Judy the chimpanzee from the CBS show Daktari were there.

On October 29, 1966, the more than three-dozen candidates in the annual contest to choose a princess to lead the Mother Goose Parade were narrowed down to nine finalists. Chairman Jerry Hollingsworth announced the vote of parade officials. A princess was picked from the finalists, but her name was kept secret until the coronation ball. The girls ranged in age from 15 to 17 and represented high schools in and around El Cajon, which put on the Thanksgiving week parade.

On November 23, 1984, News 8’s Donna Downs took us shopping at University Towne Center or UTC. Downs showed us how shopping malls were transformed into wintery wonderlands with Christmas lights, beautiful wreaths and arctic scenes -- all designed to get us into that holiday spirit. Downs went in search for shoppers to get their thoughts on the holiday that starts it all off.

On November 28, 1985, News 8's Hal Clement gave us a throwback within a throwback with a history lesson about Thanksgiving traditions from 1935 to 1985 on how the turkey becomes the object of our attention for days every year – you can thank George Washington for that. He declared the first official Thanksgiving in 1789 and President Lincoln made it even more official when he made it an annual holiday on the last Thursday of every November. It was Franklin Roosevelt who changed it to the third Thursday in November in 1939. Clement even asked a turkey what he was thankful for on Thanksgiving – see what he had to say. 

In 1985, News 8’s Susan Lichtman was at Lindbergh Field during the Thanksgiving holiday season with parking spaces packed and long check-in lines. Airline flights were 80 to 90% booked with holiday travelers making their annual pilgrimage to see friends and relatives. It was peak travel time for the airline industry and they decided to take advantage of that with holiday deals too good to pass on.


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