Turkey Notes: The 2019 additions

Please type the words Turkey Notes into the search bar on the right to find past Turkey note blogs.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching so we thought we would try to get in the holiday mood this week. For those individuals with a Davenport connection that may mean thinking about your annual Turkey Notes.

For those new to Davenport, or this blog, a Turkey Note is a three-or-four line poem where the first three lines start with the word “Turkey”. Traditionally, these little poems are handwritten and then rolled in tissue paper or colored paper that extends past the paper the poem is written on. The ends of the rolled Turkey Note are tied with yarn or ribbon. The edges of the tube are then frayed to create a festive atmosphere.

On Thanksgiving Day, the notes are frequently handed out before or during a meal.

When asked by those uninitiated to the tradition for an example, most Turkey Note writers will respond with a well-loved traditional Turkey Note:

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

Turkey Note traditionalists say that the second word in the first-and-second lines should be colors, but many Davenporters do not follow that theory:

Turkey Juicy,
Turkey Dry,
Turkey Says,
“Please pass the pie!”

What might you write a Turkey Note about? Some might follow the positive Turkey Note approach and spread compliments and positive thoughts. Others tease about sports rivalries or long-standing family jokes. We’ve even heard rumors of Turkey Notes being used to ask a person out on a date or to propose to them. Turkey Note ideas are endless.

Where did this long standing tradition come from? The truth is no one remembers. We do know that its unique origins come from Davenport and Scott County, Iowa.

We located a two newspaper articles that help us narrow down the beginning of this festive tradition. The Davenport Democrat and Leader reporter Bob Feeney mentioned memories of the Turkey Note tradition from his childhood on page 25 of the November 23, 1939 edition. Born in 1901, this helps us learn the Turkey Note tradition would have existed in the early 1900’s. Mr. Feeney remembered Thanksgiving parties in school where Turkey Notes were passed out into decorated boxes much like Valentine cards in February.

In The Daily Times on November 22, 1940 (page 3), reporter Fred Bills asked Mrs. Harry Downer for memories of Turkey Notes. Born in 1875, the former Alice Rinaldo, had been educated in Davenport schools. She had no memories of Turkey Notes before she moved from the area in 1890, but when she moved back in 1900 she was introduced to the little poems.

The same Daily Times article also asked Miss Anna Mittelbuscher who taught in Davenport schools for 51 years before retiring in 1938. Miss Mittelbuscher did not know who invented the Turkey notes, but supported the idea it was a local school teacher who created them in a classroom.

Invented sometime between 1890 and 1900, these little poems soon became the center of Thanksgiving parties in the classroom and became a tradition on Thanksgiving Day in the children’s homes.

And finally, in a tradition of our own, a few Turkey Notes from our Davenport Public Library staff.

Turkey Baked,
Turkey Ground,
Turkey’s good all year round.

Turkey Up,
Turkey Down,
Turkey’s heading out of town!

Turkey feels worried,
Turkey feels dread,
Turkey says,
“Eat Impossible Whoppers instead.” 

Turkey Takeout,
Turkey Cook,
Turkey says,
“Come to the library and check out our new books!”

Turkey Pebble,
Turkey Clay,
Turkey says,
“Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!”

posted by Amy D.

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