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Chicken Man: 1941

Fall 1941. Somewhere in Massachusetts or upstate New York. Plucking the bill of fare for a roadside chicken joint. Photo by John Collier. View full size.

Fall 1941. Somewhere in Massachusetts or upstate New York. Plucking the bill of fare for a roadside chicken joint. Photo by John Collier. View full size.


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Cluck cluck

My grandmother kept chickens, and once a year in the spring we would butcher them. Neither of my grandparents used the axe-and-tree-stump method of killing chickens. My grandfather would take the bird by the head and spin it; the neck would break and the body would fly off to flop around on the ground. The head was given to the dog. My grandmother had a cast-iron lid about 24" in diameter; she put the chicken's head under the lid, stepped on the lid, and pulled on its feet. After the bodies stopped flopping around, they were dipped in boiling water to loosen the feathers. My job as a boy was to pluck them, which I did out behind the shed with my grandfather. Once they were plucked, they went inside to the kitchen where my grandmother and mother cut them up and put them in bags to freeze. We ate lots of chicken in the summer and fall.

Nicest turkey

When my sister and I were kids (late 50s and early 60s) the day before every Thanksgiving our grandfather would take us to a turkey farm owned by a friend of the family in Plymouth, MA. The turkeys were grouped in a fenced areas (I now assume) according to size. My sister and I would be let into one of the pens to run around and play with them for a while, then my grandfather would ask us which we thought was the nicest and prettiest turkey. We'd then head out to get an ice cream, come back an hour or so later, and pick up a turkey (in the form we were used to from grocery stores) for Thanksgiving dinner. My sister and I were adults before we figured out what was really going on there.

4 Years, 50 Weeks

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I visit the site when I need a little inspiration or when I need a little diversion. I have referred many friends to Shorpy, have set many photos found here as my background and screensavers, and have ordered prints for my office and as gifts. I even discovered that a relative (by marriage) may be related to Shorpy Higginbotham himself.

The Intertubes have become integral to 21st Century living, and Shorpy has provided an important online connection to our past. Thanks for all you do.


"I can eat fifty eggs."

Goober Pea

Spot on chicken

Killing a chicken on the spot is totally reasonable. If they kill it before and nobody orders, they are out money. Modern day lobster tank.

Waiting for your chicken

This is the story my grandmother told; I suppose it is true (?): Her husband's family had a farm and roadside restaurant in Wappengers Falls, NY. When a customer ordered chicken one of the boys would go out to the pen, kill one and prepare it on the spot. Does this seem reasonable to you?

Chicken Little

Too scrawny for me. I prefer the nice plump chemical filled ones we have today. I expect my chickens to be the size of turkeys and my turkeys to be the size of emus.

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