Back in the early 1900s, unmarried mill workers became holiday orphans when Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled around. Lodgings for single men didn’t supply holiday meals, and restaurants were closed, forcing the workers to turn to the one place they would be guaranteed a cheerful spread: the local bar. Here, Christmas loners could dine with like-minded company and escape the seclusion of their rooming houses. And though it wasn’t legal for taverns to be open on holidays, the law didn’t seem to object to discreet conviviality.
Cy Brown’s children, Bernice and George, remember their father, the proprietor of the Genoa Café in Lawrence, asking his wife, Winifred, to cook two turkeys each Thanksgiving and Christmas: one for the Brown family and one for the Genoa Café family.
After their holiday meals, men from our local mill cities attended Christmas boxing matches. A rare occurrence in fistic annals, and somewhat surprising for our staunchly Catholic communities, Christmas Day boxing was popular in Lawrence, Lowell, Haverhill and Nashua, N.H.