Dakota Datebook

Harvest Feast

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Three Hundred and eighty six years ago, the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians shared in a harvest feast that is now known as the first Thanksgiving. In preparation for the shared meal, men journeyed into the wilderness and hunted fowl, deer, and possibly even lobster and seal. The colonists and the Indians brought forth grains, vegetables, and fruit they had grown in their fields, orchards, and gardens. They shared their joint resources in a meal of thanksgiving that has gone down in American history, and is celebrated to this day.
Many things about today’s Thanksgiving celebration differs from the first Thanksgiving feast, but what may differ the most is the
preparation for the meal.
On this date in 1980, the Bismarck Tribune unveiled a computerized system that would stupefy those present at the Plymouth colony in 1621.
In preparation for Thanksgiving, many larger Bismarck grocery stores installed a $130,000 computerized checkout system that was designed to cut grocery ring-up time in half! By using the Universal Product Code and a computer, individuals preparing for the next day’s fall feast could quickly and conveniently cruise through their local grocery store, stocking up on all their Thanksgiving needs.
Before the new scanning system was introduced, groceries were rung up at a rate of 40-50 items per minutes, but with new and improved technology, loads of groceries could be processed at a rate of 80 items per minute — a speed that would make any pilgrim’s head spin!
Three hundred and eighty six years ago, the founding fathers of this November holiday were preparing for their first Thanksgiving by hunting, harvesting, and fishing. In preparation for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving celebration, many are merely visiting nearby grocery stores. Of course, preparation of the Thanksgiving meal isn’t the only thing that has changed; items on the menu are also different. Those present at the first Thanksgiving meal didn’t munch on ham, nor did they feast on a pumpkin pie. The menu at the first Thanksgiving feast included many dishes that may be considered odd to a modern Thanksgiving celebrator.
The Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians may have enjoyed lobster, swan, and seal! Not your average Thanksgiving dinner.
Tomorrow is a day to remember what you have to be thankful for, but today is also a day to be grateful. Be thankful you don’t have to shoot your own turkey and your groceries are rung up at 80 items per minute, instead of 40-50. So, tomorrow, remember to give thanks for the computerized grocery checkout system.
Bismarck Tribune, November 21, 1980

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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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