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Home or Not, Southlanders Dig Into Turkey and Stuffing

Times Staff Writer

The common denominator, of course, was turkey.

Lots of it.

After all, it was Thanksgiving. But for thousands of Angelenos, the day didn’t necessarily mean they would be sitting down to a traditional home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner.

At Hollywood Park, for example, almost 19,000 racing aficionados stuffed themselves with free turkey and trimmings while scrutinizing the charts.

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The general manager of the track’s food operations, Robert J. Creelman, said the two dozen helpers scurrying around the track’s cavernous kitchen began preparing for the mammoth turkey bash last Monday.

Supervising the preparation of about 18,000 pounds of turkey and enough sage, apple and raisin stuffing to fill a 40-foot truck was the track’s chief chef, Michel Grobon.

“I would give it one star,” said the chef, who said that he started as an apprentice at Maxim’s in Paris, once a three-star operation, so his accolade is not to be taken lightly.

Benny Betancourt, 56, of San Pedro wouldn’t argue. Grobon’s kitchen produces a great turkey repast, he said, while stuffing himself in the park’s Winners Circle room. He suggested, however, that he might quarrel about the meal being on the house.

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“I just missed the daily double,” he groused. “It’s going to be an expensive dinner.”

Another 5,000 or so people decided to have their Thanksgiving meal away from home, too--in the half-century-old Clifton’s Cafeteria at 7th Street and Broadway, while holiday shoppers crowded nearby streets.

The restaurant’s manager, John Lennon, said his kitchen prepared 80 turkeys weighing 30 pounds each, 250 gallons of gravy and 400 pumpkin pies for the occasion. At about $6 a dinner, he called it a bargain.

Digging into the stuffing at a nearby table was Cresenzia Sincore, 60, of Los Angeles, who said she didn’t mind eating Thanksgiving dinner alone.

“I like myself, I’m not lonely,” she said. Anyway, she said, “it was an important day, but not now” because her two children had grown up and left for other cities.

A few feet away was Ana Munoz. For her, turkey was no big deal. “I eat turkey all the time to lose weight,” she laughed.

At Los Angeles County jails, cooks were feeding more than 22,000 inmates dinners of turkey with giblet gravy, candied yams, cranberry sauce, buttered peas and pumpkin pie.

And for the street people, consuming about 1,500 pounds of turkey on Thursday at the Union Rescue Mission near 2nd and Main streets, it was never a question of how to spend a traditional Thanksgiving.

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It was a matter of survival.

Volunteers around the Southland transformed churches, missions and swank nightclubs into Thanksgiving dining halls, serving heaping plates of hot turkey to thousands of the homeless.

From a Pacoima church to the Fred Jordan Mission on Skid Row and the Stock Exchange and Hard Rock Cafe night clubs, lines stretched down the street as men and women gathered to enjoy a traditional holiday dinner with all the trimmings.

Some of the less fortunate made the most of the sudden bounty.

Freddie, 37, a construction worker without a job, had been walking the streets, hungry and cold on Wednesday.

But on Thanksgiving, he discovered to his delight that several missions were distributing free turkey dinners and, Freddie said, he’d had six that very day.

“I’m having a wonderful Thanksgiving, but I don’t want to see no more turkey for months,” he said.


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