What says Christmas dinner better than a roasted turkey on the table? In a move that brings Dr. Seuss’ Grinch to mind, not a single gobbler could be found on Christmas Day 1910 in Hermiston when a band of tramps absconded with the town’s entire supply of the birds after being asked to skedaddle.
Hermiston resident E.P. Dodd brought the news Dec. 26, 1910, while visiting friends in Pendleton. It seems that a large group of hungry hobos had been hanging around Hermiston for days prior to the holiday, breaking into cellars and stealing whatever they could find. The morning of Christmas Eve the tramps were given the heave-ho by Marshal Phay, who ordered the men to move along.
Hermiston residents awoke Christmas morning to find that every live turkey in town was gone, with the homeless men the chief suspects. Before the advent of giant turkey farms and grocery stores, most families raised their own meat, including turkeys destined for holiday dinners. The residents were forced to scramble for substitutes for the birds they had carefully raised all year in anticipation of a festive meal.
The biggest loser in the turkey theft was the Chinese proprietor of the Hotel Oregon cafe, who lost four big turkeys to the thieves. Dodd related that the man, having exhausted his repertoire of English profanities, was said to have continued on swearing in his native language.