Turkey Notes: A Davenport Thanksgiving Tradition
Turkey Notes are said to date back to about 1890 (though this cannot be confirmed), and are considered to be strictly a local custom.
The origin of Turkey Notes is unknown. One theory is that a local family wrote them for a large Thanksgiving dinner, and the guests and/or the adult children took the idea home to use the following years. Another claims that German immigrants brought the tradition to Davenport and used it to celebrate their first truly American holiday. A third suggests that an enterprising teacher invented the Notes in order to keep her holiday-minded students under control.
However the first Turkey Note came to be written, there are now basic rules to be followed in creating new ones:
A Turkey Note is a short, three- or four-line poem, using “Turkey” as the first word of the first two lines. Purists use colors for the second word of these first lines, but this is not strictly necessary. The poem can be a compliment, an insult, or just funny (depending, of course, on your sense of humor):
“I love you!”
There’s always room
For pumpkin jello!
Turkey cries, “Please choose the ham!”
The poem, which is usually left unsigned, is rolled into a tube and wrapped in colored paper, which is tied at both ends with string, yarn, or ribbon. These Turkey Notes are left by the side of each plate at Thanksgiving dinner or are passed out to friends, like Valentines.
Feeney, Bob. “Those Turkey Notes.” Times-Democrat. November 21, 1965.
Servison, Barbara. “’Turkey Notes’ Go From Bad to Verse.” Davenport Daily Times. November 15, 1962.
Wundram, Bill. “Turkey Notes simply won’t fade away.” Quad-City Times. November 24, 2002, p.A2.
Wundram, Bill. “Turkey Trot: You’re right-- those notes are back again!” Quad-City Times. November 24, 1998, 2A.