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Gone are the Thanksgiving Hams Says Local Worker: Weepy Stories of the Holiday

November 25, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments
By Brock Belvedere

By Brock Belvedere

WEEPY STORIES OF THE HOLIDAY

Sherman Fenanigans is a thin, wiry man who looks every one of his 58 years. He sports unfashionable aviator glasses, repaired many times with tape and a faded grey uniform that has been brushed so often that the bare fibers are now visible. His paper hat is dented and creased.

Sherman has been in charge of cakes at the Barlow Foods Lankville Heights location for 32 years. “I don’t bake the cakes,” he is quick to clarify. “My authority kicks in once the cakes have been removed from the oven but before they have been placed in the cardboard containers.”

He has a family of eight to support. The holidays are a particularly difficult time. And they have been made more difficult since Barlow Foods, a multi-billion dollar corporation, did away with holiday bonuses.

“It’s been about five years since they did that,” said Fenanigans, who was interviewed while watching carefully over the display case of cakes as the brisk mid-morning crowd passed by. “We used to count on that.”

“Tell us about that?” we probed.

Fenanigans at work. He has just dropped a cake into some vegetables.

Fenanigans at work. He has just dropped a cake into some vegetables.

“Well, for the first 10 years, they gave us a Christmas turkey. Every year. Then, they said they couldn’t do it anymore, so they gave us Thanksgiving hams. That went on for about five years. Then, they said they couldn’t get the hams anymore but that they’d give us $10 and we could buy our own hams. That went on for another two, maybe three years. Then, they stopped giving us the $10.”

Fenanigans paused to let the weight of the sad tale sink in. It didn’t. I was genuinely flummoxed by his statement.

“What happened to the hams?” I asked.

“As I said, they stopped buying them for us.”

I still was vastly confused.

“Well, I mean, what happened to the hams they were supposed to buy for you?” I probed.

He looked at me. “What do you mean, what happened to ’em? They didn’t buy ’em.”

That’s when the picture started to become clear.

“Oh, I see. So, someone else bought them.”

“Well, yeah, I guess,” he said. “I have no idea.”

I wanted to understand further. “So, it freed up hams that just went back into the general pool of available public hams?”

I wanted to understand further. “So, it freed up hams that just went back into the general pool of available public hams?”

“Yeah, basically. And, so now we still have ham for Thanksgiving but it takes away money we could have spent on additional side dishes.”

He broke down then. He had to take a moment to collect himself. He handed his paper hat to me and asked me to mind the cake case. I did the best I could but I became so overwhelmed that I basically gave away all the cakes and made all kinds of additional wild promises. A manager had to be called.

Barlow Foods CEO John Barlow consented to a brief meeting. I explained Fenanigans’ predicament.

“The policies of giving away holiday meats were no longer viable,” he noted, calling attention to several spreadsheets with interior flip-up tables on a computer screen. “The resources were no longer there. It’s a different time now then when Mr. Renanigans [sic] was originally hired.”

But for many Barlow Foods employees, that means a skimpier holiday table.

“We’ve had to cut back on things like cranberry sauce, corn, chocolate loafs,” noted Fenanigans. “You just have to learn to let certain traditions die. But it’s difficult.”

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