Turkey Notes: Ode to Bill Wundram

It’s Turkey Note time again. Our annual tribute to this uniquely Quad Cities tradition. These three- or four-line poems traditionally wrapped in colorful paper, rolled, and tied on each end with fringed edges were created for Thanksgiving. They brought laughs, kindness, and more than a few good spirited pokes at our state rivalry between the University of Iowa and Iowa State. Rumor has it a marriage proposal or two occurred with the help of Turkey Notes.

This year we would like to dedicate our Turkey Note blog to newspaper journalist and author Bill Wundram who passed away on February 14, 2023. Bill was a huge proponent of the Turkey Note tradition. Bill first explored Turkey Notes in his column in the Quad-City Times on November 27, 1991. His readers responded by mailing in their own Turkey Notes and it became a regular feature around Thanksgiving to share a few Turkey Notes in his column until his retirement in 2018 after 74 years at the Quad-City Times and its predecessors.

The Quad-City Times, November 27, 1991. Pg. A2

If you are new to the Turkey Note tradition, we encourage you to go to our original blog (written way back in 2008!) to learn about Turkey Notes, their history, and how to make them. To find other blogs written on this topic over the years, type Turkey Notes in our search bar at the top right of our blog homepage. We have had fun over the past fifteen years writing our own Turkey Notes.

The Daily Times, November 26, 1937. Pg. 2

We don’t think we will ever solve the mystery of who started this tradition, but a newspaper article we found in the Daily Times from November 22, 1940 indicates a time period the notes may originate from. Mrs. Harry Downer, who before marriage was Alice Rinaldo (born 1875), remembered living in Davenport until about 1890 without ever hearing of Turkey Notes. She stated they were being created for Thanksgiving upon her return to Davenport in about 1900. We found primary resources that Alice moved with her family about 1890 to Geneseo, Illinois, and then to Sioux City, Iowa. She returned to the area in about 1898 to work as a retoucher for the Jarvis-White Art Company. Alice married Harry Downer in 1900 and the two worked for many years at the Settlement House in Davenport.

The Daily Times, November 22, 1940. Pg. 3

Now, let us commence with this year’s Turkey Notes!

And one last note for Mr. Wundram.

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