most East Texans were planning Thanksgiving dinners in 1929, four
old friends in Frankston
were sitting down for a meal of possum and sweet potatoes.
W.W. Scarborough's decision to invite Davis Gardner, Lee Jowell
and Ralph Levassar for a possum dinner at Scarborough Springs led
to one of East Texas'
most unusual culinary events during the years of the Great Depression.
The four friends enjoyed their 1929 meal so much that they decided
to invite everyone in Frankston
in 1930. Forty-seven people showed up. After that, the Frankston
Possum Dinner attracted people from all over East
Texas, as well as several neighboring states. Metropolitan newspapers
and the wire services made the dinner a celebrity event with stories
appearing throughout the country.
Aunt Eugenia Carey, a beloved Frankston
cook, prepared the 1929 dinner and the others that followed for
ten years. The meal began with a simple menu, possums and sweet
potatoes, but it soon evolved into much more.
Successive dinners included beef, pork, mutton, bear, elk and bison
meat, ducks, chickens and turkeys and some things the cooks were
reluctant to identify. And, of course, there was plenty of fresh
Side dishes included crackling bread, sweet potato pies, potato
salad, gingerbread and other traditional dishes from East
Guests often brought possums to the dinner and awards were given
to those who brought the largest. A photograph sent around the country
after one dinner showed Blue Whitesides and Gaylon Halbert holding
up two king-sized possums before they became a meal.
dinner continued for ten years during the depression, but in 1939,
following the death of founder W.W. Scarborough, his friends began
looking for a way to honor the Possum King. They decided the best
way was to make the 1939 dinner the biggest ever--something Scarborough
would have appreciated.
With only a month to set up the November dinner, Scarborough's fiends
did their job well. When the dinner began, the pits held 1,100 pounds
of beef, 900 pounds of pork, 600 pounds of mutton, and 140 fat possums.
Someone came up with the idea of picking a grand marshal for the
dinner by staging a pistol-shooting contest between three East Texas
sheriffs--Jess Sweeten of Henderson
County, W.G .Roden of Anderson
County, and Mary Brunt, who had been appointed sheriff in Cherokee
County after her husband Bill was killed in a shootout with
Out of courtesy, Sweeten and Roden allowed Mrs. Brunt to shoot first,
and she did so well that, in a chivalrous gesture, the two male
sheriffs forfeited the contest to the Cherokee
County law woman.
J.A. Houston brought in 1939's biggest possum, weighing nearly ten
pounds, and was awarded a suit of Dickey's khakis as his prize.
Although plans were made to have 140 possums for dinner, a half-dozen
were released and scrambled up a sweetgum tree to watch the crowd
devour their cousins.
Some 3,500 men and women were served possum (and the rest of the
menu) on five long tables. However, there is no record of how many
of the guests declined possum servings. Although plans were made
to have a 1940 Possum Dinner, the country's preoccupation with the
widening war in Europe put a cloud over the event. There was not
another Possum Dinner held in Frankston.
Bowman November 12, 2006 Column
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Things Historical" archive
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