Wednesday before Turkey Day Should Not Be a School Holiday

Shawn Greene, a Webster Groves alumnus and Turkey Day historian, says Turkey Day tradition should be continued with students attending class the Wednesday before the big game.

Last Monday I felt like the character Ren, from the 1984 film Footloose, speaking before the city council. I had coffee with a friend the previous Wednesday who explained that a motion was being brought forth to the Webster Groves School Board regarding the district's Calendar Committee recommending the cancellation of school the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The request was that I attend the meeting to use three minutes of time to explain why canceling this day was a bad idea.

Three minutes to explain the importance of Webster students attending school the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was daunting. The argument presented by the Calendar Committee was that there was a 1- to 2-percent drop in attendance in the district and that data somehow was a driving factor. The corollary matter of students and teachers having a five-day holiday was never mentioned, nor was mentioned that students did not seem focused on school that day.

My argument to the board was not one of an emotional plea to save our Turkey Day tradition, but rather one of historical precedence. I wonder why so many fail to learn from history and, in this specific case – Webster history? The Turkey Day Game history is littered with incidence of violence and property defacement. Starting in 1939, the Webster and Kirkwood school districts embarked on establishing events and procedures to curtail the negative activity.

During the 1980s an even more focused effort began to curtail negative activity, which led to even more grandiose activities at the schools. The simple reason was that it was best to keep the students occupied at school and distracted from what they might do outside of school. Of course, the faculty is an important ingredient to keep the students monitored and channeled.

Another historical element is that in the 1980s the schools separated in size and class distinction in state competition, making the Turkey Day Game more symbolic than one whose outcome determined state championship contention. As of 2010, Webster and Kirkwood finally returned to the same size, which was likely the start of a new intensification in relations between the two schools. In 2010, Webster and Kirkwood played against each other for the first time in state competition since 1983. This year, in 2012, the playoff picture has changed drastically, putting Webster and Kirkwood in the position of possibly playing twice a year on an annual basis, once in the playoffs and once for Turkey Day. The combination of these two games, the need to beat the other for a state title, and the history that already exists may bring this rivalry to epic proportions not experienced since the 1920s.

Is now the time that students in the district should be set free to their own devices the day before Thanksgiving? Does faculty really need 24 hours to return “home” for Thanksgiving dinner? Who, working in the Webster School District, is more than 24 hours away from home? These questions continue to pop into my head but the real, trumping issue that concerns this debate is that being at school on Wednesday is about the students. Students need to have fun, relaxed days at school; they need to be a part of something; and, let us face it – they don’t need 24 hours to travel home because they are home. An important matter of taking employment in the Webster School District is the acceptance that you are a part of Turkey Day and that you will do your part.

“It’s the way it was in the beginning. It’s the way it’s always been. It’s the way it should be now.”  


Shawn Buchanan Greene

Editor's note: Greene is a 1987 Webster alumnus and Turkey Day Game historian. The Webster Groves dad also has a weekly blog on Patch called An Elementary Perspective, which runs each Tuesday.

Denise Bertacchi February 19, 2012 at 07:20 PM
I'm glad you're lucky enough to have all your family in one town. Some people actually TRAVEL to see their family on this holiday. We always drive to Atlanta for Thanksgiving and I'm sure I'm not the only one with family scatter across the nation.
rob blayney February 19, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Demise I agree with Shawn about 1 thing....is the creating of a school calendar and the holiday schedules that reside within it, supposed to be about the kids, or the district employees? We give the district the day before tday off....now the kids will only be in school 2 days that week. How many kids will concentrate knowing that they are done after Tuesday? How many families will decide to travel and keep their kids out of school those 2 days figuring they won't miss that much?
rae smith February 19, 2012 at 10:39 PM
The problem is that not everyone considers Webster Groves their home. Some people have families all over the country. Also, I think that saying "who needs more than 24 hours to go home" is very selfish! NO ONE should make the deciosn over how long someone else travels. Yes, Turkey Day is a Webster tradition. But not all kids, alumnus, or residents attend the Turkey Day game. I too am an alumnus and haven't been to one in quite a while. Do I feel like I've missed my "history lesson"? No, because to me Turkey Day is simply a part of Thanksgiving. To me family and spending time with my loved ones takes precedence over a football rivalry. And anyone who thinks otherwise, may need to have a lesson themselves on what the holiday is TRULY about.
Sheri Gassaway February 20, 2012 at 03:32 AM
@ Rae Smith, I totally agree! Thanksgiving is all about family and giving thanks for what you have!
Shawn Greene April 25, 2012 at 05:54 PM
I am sorry, but I did not know there were responses here. I will make two quick points: 1) How is that for the past 83 years other teachers and families were able to make it work? 2) Does anyone, other than me, notice that nearly all of those who want the day off did not go to Webster High School and that the vast majority of those who did think it should be a school day? Based on those two points, why should those that did not go to Webster be the ones to change the policy?


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