Turkey Notes: A Living Memory View

It’s time! It’s time!

It is Turkey Note time!

Yes, we get very excited in the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center right before Thanksgiving as we prepare for our annual Turkey Note blog.

If you haven’t heard about this fun Quad City tradition, please read about the history of Turkey Notes here.

For many individuals growing up in the Quad Cities, writing Turkey Notes may have been a tradition in school or at home.

I have memories of writing Turkey Notes on Thanksgiving Eve or Thanksgiving Day with my siblings. Thinking back as an adult, it was a wonderful way for us to keep busy while parents or relatives prepared for the big Thanksgiving meal.

The rules for Turkey Notes were (and still are) simple:

  • Write a short, three- or four-line poem, using “Turkey” as the first word of the first two lines.
  • Originally, we were taught to use colors for the second word of the first two lines. Some Turkey Note writers stick to this premise while others now use words outside of the color box.
  • After the poem was completed, Turkey Notes were rolled in colorful tissue paper and tied at the ends with ribbon with the person’s name written on it. Fringing the ends of the tissue always looked nice.
  • The main thing about the Turkey Note is how it is written. If you want to decorate it, roll it in tissue, hand it out flat, or anything else, that is up to the author.

What do you write about in a Turkey Note? In one word – anything.

My siblings and I were always told to write a compliment or something positive about a person (they were relatives, teachers, and friends after all). We always worked to focus on a positive character trait, accomplishments, or a hobby that was enjoyed.

We have read other Turkey Notes that focus on school or sports rivalries, the turkey’s opinion on the holiday, things that have happened during the year, and even insults.

Our family tradition held that Turkey Notes were read aloud after Thanksgiving dinner started. Depending on the year, Turkey Notes were handed out by children to adults after everyone was seated or the Turkey Notes were put out beforehand as creative place cards.

We do add one word of warning about Turkey Notes. Depending on your guests’ sense of humor, handing out insulting Turkey Notes may create a very long (and uncomfortable) Thanksgiving gathering.

Now once again, Special Collections staff have created a few Turkey Notes for you to enjoy.

Turkey Red,                                                                                                                                    Turkey Blue,                                                                                                                                  Turkey says,                                                                                                                                              “I love you!”

Turkey Oak,                                                                                                                                    Turkey Birch,                                                                                                                                Turkey says,                                                                                                                                        “Come to Special Collections for family research!”

Turkey Go,                                                                                                                                      Turkey Come,                                                                                                                                Turkey says,”Where are you from?”

Turkey Yellows,                                                                                                                              Turkey Greens,                                                                                                                                          Turkey says,                                                                                                                              “Wouldn’t you rather eat more beans?”

Turkey Turquoise,                                                                                                                                Turkey Teal,                                                                                                                                    Turkey says,                                                                                                                                              “Don’t eat to much of your Thanksgiving meal.”

Turkey Pie,                                                                                                                                            Turkey Square,                                                                                                                              Turkey says,                                                                                                                                      “Run, there’s a bear!” 

Turkey Work,                                                                                                                                  Turkey Play,                                                                                                                                      Turkey says,                                                                                                                                “Welcome Kathryn K.!”*

And one last special Turkey Note to Bill Wundram at the Quad-City Times for keeping the Turkey Note tradition alive each year in his column:

Turkey Health,                                                                                                                              Turkey Thrive,                                                                                                                              Turkey says,                                                                                                                                  “Thank you for keeping my tradition alive!”

We wonder if anyone in recent years has passed down this tradition? We would love to hear from you! Write your own Turkey Note in the comments!

Happy Thanksgiving.

(posted by Amy D.)

*The Davenport Public Library and Richardson-Sloane Special Collections staff welcome new Supervisor Kathryn Kuntz. We are excited to have her join our team!

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5 Responses to Turkey Notes: A Living Memory View

  1. Chuck Williams says:

    I am so proud to know that Davenport has played such an important part in the TURKEY NOTES history. We are introducing them to our family and friends here in Mesa. GREAT GREAT!!!!! Chuck Williams

  2. My turkey note story, “Turkey Red, Turkey Blue” will be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Wonder of Christmas this fall. I was born in Davenport and both of my parents grew up there.

  3. Rana Weber says:

    I remember making turkey notes since I was a kid growing up in Davenport, Iowa. Every year, as a tradition mom would get the Turkey Red, Turkey Blue, Turkey says, I love you! But Dad would get every year without fail would receive with delight, Turkey Red, Turkey Pink, Turkey says You stink! Living now in Montana, I keep the tradition alive, or try to anyway with my two older children. My sister in Texas we’d send in the mail a turkey note which says, Turkey sun, Turkey Blister, Turkey says I’m the Best “Sister” and poke fun at each other, or the famous note of Turkey walk, Turkey run, Turkey says “I’m number one! Thanksgiving is not complete without a turkey note on your plate! Rana Weber, Montana

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