This is an interesting and fun piece of history, from the town of Guilford, Vermont. An event took place on August 11, 1957, which became known as the Franklin Barbecue. As memorialized by a Life Magazine photographer, Walter Sanders, the event gained national attention when a farmer in that town served his 2,140-pound cow (named Samson) to the entire local citizenry to celebrate the return of his two sons from military service. I don’t know how many people attended, but it looks like quite a few people. Guilford had around 800 people then (and just over 2,000 today) so maybe the whole town did really turn out. The Franklin family prepared for a week before the now-legendary event and it was even recreated on the 50th anniversary in 2007. Not surprisingly, quite a lot of beer was served to, as evidenced in several of the photographs taken that day. Enjoy.
This account is from the Town of Guilford’s official website:
Franklin Barbecue of ’57
When a calf weighing 175 pounds at birth was born in 1953 on Warren Franklin’s farm up on East Mountain road in Guilford everyone asked what was to be done with him. Warren would answer them “Going to barbecue him when the boys come home.”
The boys he was referring to were his twin sons, Alfred (Al) and Wilfred (Bill) who were away serving in the U.S. Army. Al, who was stationed in El Paso, Texas, arrived home in November of 1956. Bill, who was stationed in Germany, arrived home in March of 1957.
By the time of the barbecue, August 11,1957, ‘Samson’ had grown to weigh in at 2,140 pounds at the time of slaughter. A cement block pit with a hut, lined with aluminum, was built and a crane was used to lift the meat where Samson turned on an 18 foot spit hitched to a tractor power take off for 64 hours over one ton of charcoal.
A week’s worth of preparation went into the barbecue in addition to the thousands of pounds of meat. Warrens five sons; Lawrence, Al, Bill, Russell and Gordon, his two daughters; Elaine and Glennie and their families spent many hours including an ‘all-nighter ‘peeling’ 500 bushels of potatoes, 50 bushels of onions’ (slightly exaggerated by those who did the peeling). Also served were 3,000 rolls 3,000 ears of corn, 2,000 bottles of soda, 100 cases of beer, 60 pounds of butter, 10 gallons of ketchup, 20 cloves of garlic, 5 gallons of cooking oil, 3 gallons of salad dressing, 2 pounds of pepper, and 15 pounds of coffee. For dessert, $150 worth of ice cream. The only food leftover—scraps!
Sightseers started coming on Thursday, 300-400 on hand most of the time. By the early morning hours of the barbecue 1,400 tickets had been sold at, $3 for adults and $1 for children. The road leading up the hill to the farm was packed with cars.
The event made news World Wide, with a reporter from Life Magazine. An article was also published in the Serviceman’s paper, Stars and Stripes. A reporter from The London Daily Express called by Transatlantic telephone for an interview and asked the question evidently on the minds of many. “Could you tell me Sir,” the reporter asked, “Did you slay the beast first?” The answer was “Yes!!!”
Ashtrays were made by Edith Franklin, to be sold. The ashtrays had the date of the event on the bottom and a replica of Sampson on the Base.
Hundreds of letters were received from people who had read the articles. Some favorable some not so favorable. The letters came from behind the Iron Curtain and Korea. Many family members, friends and neighbors, including Russell Deane of Bernardston MA. (who was in charge of the roasting, after many chefs from VT, MA and even Texas turned down the job) All worked many hours preparing. However, hundreds of folks who had never heard of Guilford before, will remember it as the town where they had the big beef barbecue.
Below is a selection of the photographs taken by Life photographer Walter Sanders.