(above) Volunteers unload 100 turkeys at Kenilworth Recreation Center donated by Joseph Neri of L&J Body and Fender Works.
Photo source (1990s): Neri family

Thanksgivings past in Old Kenilworth

Over the years Thanksgiving has been observed many ways in Kenilworth. This article highlights a few with one going back more than 100 years.

(above) Mary Kerestes baked customers’ turkeys in Almar Bakery ovens.
Photo source (1950): Midge Kerestes.

Beginning in 1911, and for years after, Isaac Apgar, proprietor of the old Kenilworth Inn, held a Thanksgiving Eve pig roast. Local residents and diners from as far as New York City were annually drawn to this pre-turkey day extravaganza. Attendees crowded the dining room and tavern. Chilly temperatures did not dissuade them going outside to observe the roasting itself, or from gathering on the porch or in the picnic grove for conviviality and consumption of the entrée along with ample liquid spirits.

November 24, 1938 was an historic Thanksgiving. For the first time in over 50 years a snow storm struck. Sleet started in the afternoon; snow fell at night. In the end, 12 inches accumulated. Buses on the street and trains pulling in to the Cranford railroad station were rerunning behind schedule. Public work crews were called out on holiday night and worked into Friday. But it wasn’t over. With things nearly cleaned up, six more inches fell that Saturday.

From the 1950s into the 1970s, if you didn’t want to roast a turkey at home, you could avail yourself of the ovens of the Almar Bakery, owned by Al and Mary Kerestes. Daughter-in-law Midge Kerestes, stated (2019), “As a bonus, Mary often made homemade gravy for customers whether requested or not.” Gone since the mid-1970s, the Boulevard bakery location is now occupied by a balloon shop.

(above) Souvenir Pig Roast hat worn at 1916 event.
Photo source: Historic Signs

In the 1990s, Joe Neri, owner of L&J Body and Fender Works, made a tradition of giving away free turkeys. Known for many acts of local philanthropy, he started repairing damaged vehicles in the late 1940s in a shop behind the old Kell’s Town Station at 20th St. He left to fight in Korea. When back he renewed his craft and has been fixing people’s dented vehicles ever since. In operation for over 70 years, L&J is believed to be the longest running, family-owned Kenilworth business.

Research provided by Walter E. Boright, Ed. D., historian, and Historic Signs, Inc.

Persons with inquiries about this or other aspects of Kenilworth history may contact Dr. Boright

at drbori@aol.com or 908-256-5200.

(above) Historic Kenilworth Inn where pig roasts were held starting in 1911.
Photo source (ca. 1908): Historic Signs

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