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Everybody’s Port: Thanksgiving From A Different Perspective

Fred Blumlein with Sgt. Lee Van Cua, a South Vietnamese army photographer attached to his photo unit, in front of lab where his squad’s photos were processed and printed

Fred Blumlein with Sgt. Lee Van Cua, a South Vietnamese army photographer attached to his photo unit, in front of lab where his squad’s photos were processed and printed

Friends, does it really matter whether the Pilgrims did or did not sit in down with the Wampanoag Indians for the first Thanksgiving near Plymouth, MA, in 1621?

Especially since what actually occurred was a repetition of mouth-to–ear reports that were eventually committed to paper by only one or two persons who were not there, no one knows for sure. It is believable, however, that the first what-we-call Thanksgiving was in reality a religious holiday. A savage winter had depleted the Pilgrims’ ranks and the survivors gave thanks to the Almighty for the harvest that kept them alive. (Smart move, I say.)

It was President Lincoln who, in 1863, made Thanksgiving a national holiday by issuing a proclamation, primarily, as a reminder for his fellow Americans to give thanks for “the blessings of a fruitful sky”, and added, “We are prone to forget the source from which they come.”

There is one of Port’s people in particular that comes to mind who unequivocally agrees we should never forget the thanks at Thanksgiving, but, his is from a different perspective.

Ever hear of the Bull’s Head Hotel? Of course not; how could you? Well, in 1890, Aloysius Huwer sold his Alsace Lorraine glassworks, came to America the beautiful, bought himself the Bull’s Head Hotel, and before you could learn to spell Aloysius, he became an innkeeper.

His hotel was on the corner of Northern Boulevard and Glen Cove Road in North Roslyn (a.k.a. Greenvale). The Bull’s Head Hotel has disappeared, but Mr. Huwer’s great-grandson Fred Blumlein, and his wife, Pat, have remained very much in evidence in Port Washington for 44 years. His is the different perspective mentioned in the previous paragraph. How Fred gained it is worth the read.

He joined ROTC while a student at the venerable Pratt Institute, graduated with a degree in Industrial Design in 1965, and immediately was called to active duty as a 2nd Lt. with the US Army Signal Corps. A year later, Fred was in Vietnam and a captain commanding a squad of Army photographers. What follows makes clear his Thanksgiving perspective.

“It’s hard for me to remember the exact events that occurred on Thanksgiving Day when I was a soldier in Vietnam. But I’ve kept a message our battalion’s commanding officer wrote for all of us. It began, ‘How can a soldier, separated from his family and loved ones in an out-of-the-way jungle land, feel the spirit of Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving seems so far off.’”

Those words, Fred said, were a reflection of his feelings. “And I guess those emotions were mostly a mixture of sadness and longing. However, something else appeared on that day on that day that seemed a near miracle. The US Army served us a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner. It was amazingly complete, down to the fresh roast turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and even a printed menu.”

Why a near miracle? “You see,” Fred explained, “we were used to eating what we called ‘mystery meat’ and not at all happy about it.”

However, he had nothing but praise and gratitude for this particular Thanksgiving dinner. “To distribute this feast,” he said, “many brave soldiers jeopardized their safety in the air and on the ground to deliver every soldier this same glorious meal.

“To me,” Fred said, “that every officer and enlisted man received this unexpected traditional offering was a demonstration of the caring given us by others. It was an uplifting gift that gave us hope, comfort and peace. Today, when I think back 47 years to that ‘special meal’ distributed by brave, selfless men to a group of thankful soldiers, I pray that the Thanksgiving feasts we put on our tables remind us not only of the multitude blessings we individually enjoy, but also of the need to become more selfless about sharing those blessings with those who are ill, poverty-stricken or simply deeply saddened by being alone and helpless.”

When once again a civilian, Fred Blumlein founded an eminent industrial design agency, taught and still lectures at Pratt, chaired the Library’s Arts Advisory Committee, and has been a dedicated leader (Pres., VP) of the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society forever, it seems.

Thanks, Fred, for reminding us to count our blessings.

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