Thursday, November 27, 2008

The way it was in 1978

My most memorable Thanksgiving? It was a long time and a lifetime ago.

Back then, Sharon wasn't yet an even "better" version of her Mother. Newly married, we were both working in the Boulder County Jail as Corrections Specialists (not deputies, which is what we were, or jailers or screws, which is what the "residents" called us), shortly after graduating from college. Boulder's jail was the first one certified by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) and its staff was young, enthusiastic and awash in liberalism.

We didn't want to hurt the feelings of these low-level criminals (we housed a few murderers, child molesters and rapists too). At the time I ran the medium security unit and Sharon was the intake processor. The townsfolk called the jail the Boulder County Hilton. Even the cops would alert their dispatchers that they were enroute with their prisoners to the "Hilton."

It was a high stress job. Some of these people were very dangerous. Most were needy for sure. We got it into our do-gooding heads that we could help out both the skeleton staff that day and the residents by cooking the Thanksgiving mid-day repast. So we signed up for that all-day duty.

What did I know about cooking turkeys? Not much but I called my Mom and mined her wisdom about oven temperatures and cooking times, weighing and rubbing the birds, and what to do with the giblets. (We made the gravy from scratch.) At 4 a.m. Sharon and I stumbled into the jail's kitchen and fired up the ovens. We got all the turkeys situated in their roasting pans amongst yards of aluminium foil and quartered onions, carrots and potatoes, and got the roux going for the gravy mix. We washed cranberries and made stuffing. We basted and basted, and even made breakfast for the residents along the way.

Around one o'clock, I started carving and Sharon and a few trusteys started serving. It was a glorious though riotous hour and a half. Three units (high, medium and minimum security) had to be trooped through the dining hall in waves for their holiday meal. We had to prepare and wrap several meals for the forlorn souls in intake. The trusteys had to eat too, and the diminished staff partook in the food on that day as well, if I remember correctly. The satisfied looks afterwards on the faces of many or most of these angry inmates (holidays in jail are very depressing) said it all to Sharon and I. What a team we were back then!

Then it was clean, clean and clean. Finally leaving behind fifty or sixty wrapped turkey sandwiches (or p&j sandwiches for the vegetarians) to be served for for dinner, we stumbled out at 5 p.m. exhausted but fulfilled after a thirteen-hour stint, the day dark again just as it had been when we entered the jail early that morning.

(You don't want to hear about my worst Thanksgiving--the first year of my divorce when Sharon Rogers took our kids out of town for almost a week without a word and left me to contemplate their empty house from the curb each day and wonder when, or if, they'd return.)

That's they way it was thirty years ago!


Susan said...

Sounds like at least for a little while it was decent to be in jail. LOL

Have you heard the 2 Guys, 1 Brain podcast? They're jailers and very, very funny.

David said...

very gratifying committment. 30 years ago.

Rainmaker said...

Very interesting post. Thanks for the insight.