By Jessie Reestman
Dressed in a white blouse and a skirt, the young girl was ready to begin her first work shift at the annual Thanksgiving Bazaar. The year was 1942, and she was 12 years old. At the time, she probably could have never imagined she would be celebrating Thanksgiving in the same manner for 76 years of her life, but in sitting down to visit with her, it is clear she would have wanted nothing else.
Today, Juan Hoefer is 90 years young, and this year is only the second time since the age of 12 that she was unable to work a shift at the St. Boniface annual Thanksgiving bazaar. She explained that both of her absences were health-related. The first absence came when her son Gary was only ten months old and had become ill. Her second absence happened this year, as she has been home recovering from Covid.
Although many things about the event have changed over the years, Juan’s love and commitment to the event has not. She shared, “I was in the 7th grade when I worked my first bazaar. My duties included waiting tables, bringing all the food to each table, clearing tables, and setting them again. Of course, back then, we used all-glass dishes and real silverware. “The dinner was then held in the basement of the St. Boniface school and was meant as a get-together for parishioners. We would typically serve anywhere from 200 to 300 people. Families would wait upstairs in the school rooms until they were called when their table was ready. The dishes were washed in the Sisters’ laundry room located in the school building.”
Juan vividly remembers the meal from the first bazaar.
“The meal at the time was very similar to the meal we serve today, but instead of turkey, we served chicken. It was chicken and sausage. I remember my mom’s job was to clean the hog intestines to create the casing for the sausage. It was hard work. They would take the intestine and turn it inside out and scrape the inside with a knife, but that is where the tasty sausage came from. They always cut and cleaned the hogs in the church basement.” Smiling, she added, “We always knew when it was time for the bazaar when we smelled cigar smoke, as John Moser would always arrive to help butcher, puffing on a cigar.” To read the story in its entirety, turn to this weeks edition of the Elgin Review.