This happened in 1944, when I was 9 years old. The war was on, and Dad worked the night shift at the shipyard in South Portland. Many things like gasoline, sugar and meat were rationed at that time, and we needed stamps from the government in order to buy them.

I don’t recall if we needed stamps to buy a turkey, but I do remember it was the day before Thanksgiving and we didn’t have one. In years past I helped Mum prepare our turkey the day before, and we kept it in the icebox till morning, when it was set to roasting in the oven of our wood-fired kitchen stove.

On Thanksgiving morning, when Dad arrived home from work, everyone came running to see our turkey. But he opened the trunk of the old La- Salle, and there, wrapped in newspaper, was the biggest fish I ever saw. When it was measured, it was 2 feet long!

As we kids marveled over it, Mum said, “Let’s have this big beautiful fish for our Thanksgiving dinner.”

Little Nona asked, “Can we stuff it?”

“Of course we can,” Mum said. “We can stuff it and bake it just like a turkey.”

Mum removed the fish’s head, and I put it in the woodshed for the cat to marvel over. Potatoes were put on to boil, and while Mum prepared her stuffing I cut up carrots. When the cod was stuffed and rubbed with butter, it was placed in the oven and we waited.

Late summer and fall were good times back then because the Victory Garden that Gramp tended out back produced lots of delicious things to eat. I loved fried green tomatoes and carrots right from the ground, and big juicy red tomatoes with salt and pepper. We came home from school for lunch and Mum served hot biscuits with molasses, sliced tomatoes, a dill pickle from the crock down cellar and a molasses cookie.

When Mum called us for dinner, we found the kitchen filled with the aroma of baking fish. She placed that cod in the middle of the table with its juices still bubbling in the bottom of the pan. The little kids ogled the gleaming fish, and their happy chatter added a buzz of anticipation to the festive event.

I don’t recall being as excited about a meal as I was about that baked codfish. We were cautioned to watch for bones as Mum flaked the pure white flesh into serving pieces, and soon our plates were heaped with juicy codfish, potatoes, carrots and stuffing. I have had lots of Thanksgiving dinners since that wartime feast, but that one is remembered as the best.

— Special to the Telegram