In November, 2002, our family’s finances were in a horrible state, as they had been for most of that entire year. We were going to be hard-pressed to find a way to have any kind of a Thanksgiving dinner, let alone get through the rest of the month.
A local radio station in Flint, MI, WWCK 105, was having a Thanksgiving contest. Every couple of hours the D.J. would announce that it was time for the contest and that the 5th caller to their station would win a “Plymouth” Rock and an entry into the grand prize of a $100 Thanksgiving gift certificate at a local grocery store, Mr. B’s.
For all of my non-American readers, according to folklore, Plymouth Rock was the name of the large boulder in North America (now in the state of Massachusetts on the East Coast) that the Puritans stepped on while disembarking from the ship, “The Mayflower” in 1620.
The Puritans had a rough first year in America. The Native Americans gave them friendship and a lot of needed help and advice. The Puritans were able to then plant new foods, hunt new animals and search out new nuts and fruits and hold off starvation and decrease the numbers of deaths.
After the harvest, the Puritans then put together a huge group feast and invited their new friends to join them. And that is the basis for our Thanksgiving holiday today: fixing a huge dinner and sharing it with family and friends.
My family on my mother’s side is directly related to two families who came over to America on The Mayflower: the Howlands and the Tilleys. So the story of the Pilgrims and why we celebrate Thanksgiving makes that a very important holiday to us.
But as a funny twist for their contest, the radio station dug up a bunch of good-sized rocks from the Plymouth, Michigan area and those were the “Plymouth” Rocks that they were giving to the 5th caller winners.
So every day I kept the radio turned up loud as I went about my daily chores and when the time to call in was announced, I wore my fingers to the bone trying to be the 5th caller.
I figured that that was most likely the only way we could have a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner was to try and win that contest, even though I knew the odds of doing so were depressingly high.
About a week before Thanksgiving, I finally got a ringing phone during one of the contest times instead of the usual beep-beep-beep of a busy signal.
When the D.J. answered his phone saying that I was caller #5, I started whooping it up in happiness!
He took down my name, address and phone number and he told me that I could come by the radio station any weekday between 9-5 to pick up my “Plymouth” Rock. The D.J. also said that my name would now be entered into the grand prize drawing that was going to be held in a few days.
I excitedly began yelling for my mom and my daughter, Tara, after I got off the phone and I told them the wonderful news that maybe, perhaps, I could win a $100 gift certificate for groceries for Thanksgiving.
But if not, at least I had won a “Plymouth” Rock. And the next day, Tara and I drove to the radio station to get my rock.
When I walked in and explained to the receptionist that I was here to get my “Plymouth” Rock, she gave me a peculiar look and then she went to get the person in charge of the Thanksgiving contest.
A man came out to the lobby with a heavy cardboard box filled with different sized rocks and he laughed as he told me that I was the very first person who had actually come in to get a rock in all of the several weeks they had been doing the contest. So that explained the peculiar look on the receptionist’s face!
I told him that I wanted my own “Plymouth” Rock as a joke because my family was a direct descendent from two of the Pilgrim families on the Mayflower.
The man laughed and said, “How appropriate! Yes, you really should have your own ‘Plymouth’ Rock in that case!”
I then asked him if these rocks really did come from Plymouth, which is about 25 miles west of Detroit. He reassured me that oh, yes, they most certainly did! That him and a co-worker had spent a very rainy hour digging these rocks up from out of the garden of their mutual friends’ home in Plymouth over a month ago.
He set the box on a table and Tara and I pawed through them before I finally chose an especially pretty and well-shaped one that didn’t roll all over the place.
That man said that that rock had been his favorite out of all the ones they had dug up and he wished me luck on winning the grand prize. I thanked him for giving me my very own “Plymouth” Rock and Tara and I left.
When I got the rock home, I washed it all up and dried it off. Then I wrote on the bottom of the rock, Plymouth (MI) Rock, with a Sharpie black marker. After that had dried, I put three coats of clear nail polish over the entire rock to keep it looking shiny and pretty forever.
I was convinced that that rock would be my good-luck charm and that it would help me win that contest and win that badly needed grocery store gift certificate.
I tried really hard to not get my hopes up too much but it’s so difficult not to when you stare at the dwindling cupboards and refrigerator shelves each day.
Finally the day arrived when the radio station was going to announce the winner. I had the radio up loud as I sat in the dining room, as near to the telephone as I could get, biting my nails and trying so hard to be unconcerned and blasé.
On the radio, instead of announcing the winner, the D.J. said that they were going to be calling the winner in just a minute after they aired a commercial, and I groaned from the tense anticipation.
Suddenly my telephone began to ring. I checked the Caller I.D. but it showed that it was an Unknown Caller.
So while it rang the first three times, I debated about answering the phone. Then I decided to go ahead, answer it, tell whoever it was real quick that I was waiting for an important phone call, then hang up on them.
So I answered, “Hello, I’m waiting for an important phone call…” but then the caller loudly said over me, “This is WWCK 105 and you are the lucky winner of the $100 Thanksgiving gift certificate from Mr. B’s Grocery Store!”
Stunned, I stammered, “What? What? What did you say? Oh my god, I won? I won the contest?” “Yes, you won! How do you feel? You just won $100 for your Thanksgiving dinner!”
How do I feel? How do I feel? I was so stunned and happy that we could now have a decent Thanksgiving dinner and perhaps have food left over for the rest of the month!
How do I feel? How do I feel? I was completely overwhelmed and I bust out crying in the D.J.’s ear from the shock and the relief.
But I didn’t want to blurt out how poor we were, how desperately we needed this gift certificate, and how much winning this contest meant to all of us.
So I quickly snuffled up my tears as I told the D.J. that this was very, very happy news and that I loved being a WWCK radio listener, which made him happy that I put that plug in for them.
So he said he was going to put me on hold for a few minutes and then while I was holding, I heard, with amazement, my voice on the radio telling the D.J. how winning this contest was very, very happy news and that I loved being a WWCK radio listener.
Ohhh, so that’s what they had done, they had taped me in advance of announcing the winner so that they could play back the happy excited person getting the news.
Then while music played on the radio, which I turned down, the D.J. came back on the line and verified my name and address and he told me that I had to use the gift certificate by the Friday after Thanksgiving and that I could pick it up at the radio station either later that afternoon or the next day, which was the day before Thanksgiving.
I told him that he, and the rest of the radio crew, and the grocery store, had no idea what winning this contest meant to me, to my mom, and to my daughter.
He said, in a quiet voice, “I kind of got that idea when you burst out crying. Is this going to be helpful for your holiday dinner?” and I started half-laughing and half-crying as I told him, “Oh yes, this is going to make our Thanksgiving dinner a most especially thankful one this year, and I want you to know how very, very grateful we all are.”
My mom and Tara got all teary-eyed too when they heard the good news. We had all sorts of fun that evening making out our grocery list and we called several relatives and friends and invited them to come and share our good fortune with us too on Thanksgiving.
We all went together to pick up the gift certificate from the radio station early the next day and then we had fun filling up two grocery carts full of Thanksgiving food items from Mr. B’s grocery store on Dort Highway in Flint.
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner the next day and we all gave heartfelt and grateful special thanks for WWCK and Mr. B’s for hosting the contest.
The next day, my mom, Tara and I each wrote and then mailed “Thank You” letters to both the radio station and the grocery store for hosting the contest and donating the gift certificate.
So maybe that “Plymouth” Rock was a lucky rock after all!
But every Thanksgiving since then, I think of that rough year and I think of that special Thanksgiving and I silently thank that radio station and the grocery store owner for making a sure-to-be-grim holiday into a very happy one for me and my family!
Here’s my “Plymouth Rock” that I have kept all of these years as a reminder to be grateful for many things, and that if times get rough, they will eventually get a lot better!