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By Whitney Keith
Local couple Morris “Morrie” and Carol Wash had a special Thanksgiving tradition with their children and grandchildren.
Starting in the 1970s and lasting several years, The Wash family would gather together on that special day for the first football “Bowl” game of the season.
“We always said it was the first bowl game of the season, before any of the college bowl games started,” Morrie said. “We called it the Turkey Bowl.”
The Turkey Bowl began in Goose Lake, Illinois in the 1970s.
“Mostly the boys played, but we had a few girls who played too,” Morrie said.
Morrie and Carol had four children – two boys and two girls – and nine grandchildren, many of whom loved playing in the annual gridiron game.
The game was played in Illinois for a few years, then in Wisconsin, then back to Illinois.
“We played in over a half dozen towns over about 10 years or so,” Morrie said.
The bowl was always on Thanksgiving day, but the time of the match was dependent upon the weather.
“Sometimes we’d play before Thanksgiving dinner, or sometimes we’d play after,” Morrie said.
The teams would be divided evenly (usually six against six), with Morrie playing the quarterback for both squads.
“I was the quarterback all the time,” he said. “It was pretty much me passing to the kids and grandkids.”
The end goal wasn’t to score a lot of points (at least for the adults). Morrie always tried to make sure each grandchild caught the ball and made a touchdown.
The entire game was filmed by a cameraperson close to the action – namely, Carol Wash.
The big game even included cheerleaders – a few of the girls who weren’t interested in playing.
“We would play in all kinds of weather,” Morrie said. “We played when it was rainy and muddy. The kids loved slipping and sliding in that.
“We also played when it was nice out, like it is this year…so far.”
Morrie said each game tended to include at least one sprained ankle, with his sons being the most likely victims.
The Turkey Bowl ended when Morrie was 59 years old, and the old players now range in age from 30 years old to 78 years old.
Even though the bowl hasn’t been played in several years, several young “turkeys” are currently in “training camp” at their local schools in Ava and Jonesboro, Ark.
Reflections is a weekly column exploring the history of Douglas County. Current topics include local festivals, school history and Douglas County residents who have a special talent. If you have an idea for an article, please call 417-683-4181 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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