Turkey: A Thanksgiving Staple or Something More?
We sold different flavors of pies to diners, convenience stores and restaurants who then sold them to their customers.
The pies were full size, great for a family gathering, or for a single slice when dining alone. Our president at the time was Mr. Paul Marshall. Paul was a highly motivated man, and full of ingenuity.
20 years later he would invent a dessert that would change the way Americans ate pie forever. But in 1948 he was a man who owned a pie delivery business. Many of his workers lived on the North side of Tulsa—literally “across the tracks.” The North side was the poorer side of town, and the only place for African Americans and other minorities to live.
At the time, Tulsa was a very segregated town. White folks were afraid of traveling to the North side, and blatant racism was an every day occurrence.
On the morning of Thanksgiving Day, Mr. Marshall began to pull turkey after turkey from his commercial freezers. His wife, Lilah, and son, John, looked on in sheer confusion.
“Get in the car, John,” Mr. Marshall instructed.
“Where are we goin’, Dad?” John inquired.
“We’re takin’ these turkeys to the ladies that work for us. I want to make sure they have a turkey on Thanksgiving,” he said.
At the time, all of Bama’s pies were made by hand by the most skilled bakers the Marshalls could find.
However, it was deemed women’s work, and it wasn’t considered “proper” for most white women to work in a commercial kitchen. The majority of the workforce was made up of hard working, loyal African American women.
Paul Marshall knew that taking these turkeys to his employees meant going into North Tulsa, a neighborhood most men of his age and complexion would shy away from. But he didn’t care. He wanted to do the right thing.
That year, and every year since, Paul Marshall and Bama have given their employees turkeys at during the holidays.
“I remember unloading the frozen turkeys on the doorsteps of every employee we had. It took almost all day Thanksgiving day, and my mom would worry every year that we wouldn’t make it back to eat our own turkey,” Paula Marshall, current CEO, remembers.
After Paul retired, Bama began giving turkeys at Christmas, but in the last three years we decided to go back to honoring Paul’s original intent: a turkey in every pot on Thanksgiving.
A lot of things have changed for the better since 1948. Now, employees get vouchers for a turkey redeemable at any grocery store. “Now that we have over a thousand employees all over the globe, it would be hard to do the door to door deliveries,” Paula chuckles.
Some things haven’t changed at Bama, though:
- We celebrate our diversity and lift up those around us every day, just as Paul Marshall did when he did the right thing, despite what society said.
- We believe everyone should have a turkey on Thanksgiving, and a fair shot to become who they want to be, no matter the circumstances.
- We believe that as an employer and a corporate citizen, we can positively impact our community.
So, this Thanksgiving, maybe you’ll see that glorious roasted bird on your table as just another meal—or maybe you’ll look at it a little differently.