A '60's Thanksgiving Tradition Celebrates 50th Anniversary

“Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”

For those who were young adults at the time, our rebellious side was treated to the story of Alice's Restaurant in song form, as performed by Arlo Guthrie. While it factually premiered in October of 1965, it was featured by FM radio stations across America on Thanksgiving Day of that year; a tradition that lasted nearly two decades before stations began changing to their current "screaming DJ's and advertisements"environment.


Allison Steele - "The Nightbird"
Again, for those who remember, FM radio stations had just revised their formatting; a virtually commercial free venue hosted by smoky-voiced personalties who developed a cult-like following of listeners. The music was presented without fanfare, often continuing for hours before anyone spoke again and in may ways similar to contemporary satellite music stations. Frankly, it was glorious. 

How The Story Started
“Alice’s Restaurant,” Arlo Guthrie’s beloved musical ode to garbage, small town policing, and military conscription, celebrates many anniversaries. The song – its full name is “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” – has its conception on Thanksgiving Day, 1965, when Guthrie, then 18, and friend Rick Robbins, 19, were clearing out the Stockbridge, Massachusetts, home of Alice and Ray Brock. Guthrie and other students spent much of their free time at their home, a former church. Eventually, Alice, a Brooklyn native like Guthrie himself, opened a small restaurant just off Stockbridge’s main street.

Fittingly, it was a Thanksgiving feast prepared by Alice that started the events memorialized in Guthrie’s song--a work that capsulized a young generation’s disaffection with bureaucratic stupidity, resonated as an anti-war anthem and still captivates audiences with its simple melody, gentle narrative and infectious chorus.  

On that fateful holiday, a dozen or so young guests overnighted in sleeping bags on the church’s first floor sanctuary—the Brocks occupied the bell tower. Appreciating the hospitality, Arlo, on Thanksgiving break from his first (and last) semester as a Montana college forestry major, decided the least he could do was help clean up.

“The junk” the guests cleared out, according to a contemporaneous article in the Berkshire Eagle, “included a divan plus nearly enough bottles, garbage, paper and boxes to fill their Volkswagen bus.” With the city dump closed for the holiday, Arlo and a friend added the trash to a pre-existing heap they saw on the side of the road. On November 29, four days later, the two malefactors pled guilty to “illegally disposing of rubbish” and each paid a $25 fine. Ordered to remove the rubbish from residential property along Stockbridge’s Prospect Street, “they did so…following a heavy rain.”
Source - www.smithsonianmag.com

The rest is history embodied in the following audio presentation. So enjoy and relive the days of your youth or if younger, maybe start a tradition of your own.


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