Milton and the Progressive Pie – 1910

By Muriel Bristol (Transcriber) | August 4, 2019

Here we find an amusing tale of a surfeit of pumpkin pie received during a Thanksgiving journey from Portland, ME, to Cambridge, MA. This early automobile trip included a stop in Milton, NH.

Milton having just in the prior year become the southern terminus of the White Mountain Highway stretch of the state’s new Eastern Route.

[Ed. note: Progressive Pie was a party game originating in the 1890s. It was sort of a musical chairs with servings of pie.]

PROGRESSIVE PIE. Why Two Standard Delicacies Were Put on the List of Things Untouched by a Thanksgiving Guest.

The hostess looked chagrined as her guest left his generous section of pumpkin pie untouched.

She had only known him a short time, but her husband had insisted on bringing him out for Thanksgiving dinner.

“His folks are all away,” he explained, “and it would be tough if he had to dine at the club.”

Now she was awfully proud of that pie and to think that it was left begging hurt her dreadfully. And he hadn’t even taken a sip of the cider, the cider that uncle Ben sent all the way from Maine. The two crowning touches of her dinner were completely ignored.

True, he had eaten heartily of the turkey and fixin’s, but he might at least have made a bluff at eating her pie. It wasn’t courteous, but she couldn’t take her eyes off of that slice of golden goodness, and finally she said in a plaintive voice, “You don’t care for pie?”

“Madam, I don’t, came the prompt response.- That is, I don’t care for pumpkin pie. Any kind of pie but pumpkin pie. Apple, peach, plum, cranberry pie, lunch counter pie of any description but pumpkin. Pumpkin is my pet aversion, my bete noir.

“I know this is good pie and I should like to honor you by eating it, but never again will a morsel of pumpkin pie pass these lips without the use of an anesthetic.

“And I also include cider with the pie. The very sight of the combination makes gooseflesh on my spine, gives me palpitation of the medulla oblongata, produces chills followed by rapidly rising temperature.

“Madam, listen to my sad, sad story. You and your husband have been good enough to entertain me on this festal day and I know that you will not betray my confidence.

“When I was a small boy I adored pie. Pumpkin pie would make me forsake tops, marbles, three old cat or any of childhoods pleasures. And cider – why, madam, cider seemed to talk to me through stone walls. I would play hookey and hide in the storeroom with a straw and suck the liquid sweetness from the bung. My love for pumpkin pie and cider amounted to an obsession.

“Pardon these tears, but I find it hard to control my feelings as I recall the great change that came over me. It was just a year ago this morning that I was in Portland. I had just finished a business deal and was anxious to come to Cambridge and dine with a dear old aunt whose cooking would cause our worthy President to class her with Aunt Delia.

“As I was starting to the depot I met Tom Potts in his touring-car. He was just about to make the run to Boston and enticed me away from the certainties of railroad travel. In a moment of thoughtlessness I fell. We started at 8 o’clock after I had wired my aunt that I would be in Cambridge in time for dinner.

“I had indulged in a lunch counter breakfast and the sharp tang of the fall air whetted my appetite before we got well under way. We were about 15 miles out of Portland when a rusty nail reached up and bit a slice out of one of the tires.

“Tom may be able to drive a car, but he can’t qualify as an expert mechanician. It took him a couple of hours to get a new tire on and we had a nice audience before we were through.

“An old farmer with worsted whiskers watched us and offered suggestions. The only reason that I didn’t slay him was that just before we got under weigh he went to the house and returned with a bundle of hot pumpkin pie and a pitcher of cider. Now that was right where I lived and Tom and I made short work of it.

BG101124-1“Nearing Milton, N.H., the engine got hot and we had to make another stop. It was dinner time all along the line, and a hospitable farmer appeared at the roadside with a Thanksgiving offering of hot pumpkin pie and a pitcher of cider. And said offering was sacrificed on the altars of our appetites.

“At Portsmouth we were way behind time and I wired the aunt that I would be late getting in, but to save dinner. And two miles out of Portsmouth we picked up the little brother to the puncture we had met earlier in the day. Before we had that tire mended we were presented with hot pumpkin pie and cider by a dear old lady who just couldn’t think of anybody missing out on such delicacies on Thanksgiving.

“I was beginning to crave turkey and onion dressing and celery and bread when we ran into a culvert near Powwow river. We sprained something and while Tom was rubbing liniment on the running gear the afternoon wore well along and we had a caller. He was a nice old chap and said that he was sorry that we didn’t break down earlier so he could have asked us in -to dinner. He assured us that the girls were redding things up, but he insisted that we have some of his cider and pumpkin pie. Now for once in my life I had had enough pumpkin pie, likewise cider, but 1 didn’t have the moral courage to refuse.

“The next stop happened about 30 miles from Boston. We ran out of gasoline, and Tom trudged off to get some. He left me to guard the machine, and told me that if I got hungry before he returned that I would find some lunch under the back seat. I got hungry all right, and a little later I opened up the hamper and found a nice pumpkin pie, and one of those keep-it-hot or cold bottles, filled with – cider.

“It’s really too sad to speak about, and when Tom came back to the car he found me with my head bowed in grief and my salt tears splashing on the varnished tonneau.

“We made 10 miles on the next spurt, and then sat in the mist where the roads crossed, and were about to toss a coin to see which road should take when we heard somebody coming. He was a nice old codger and gave us the cheering information that we were off of the right track. Said if we’d wait a minute he’d get us a map.

BG101124-2a“And then he reappeared out of mist, like Ganymede [cup-bearer of the Olympic gods], bearing cider and pumpkin pie. He had forgotten the map. We forgave him when he sent his son with us to the proper turn and we finally came in sight of Cambridge.

“My spirits began to rise, and while I didn’t expect to find the sizzling turkey intact on my aunt’s table, I knew that I could do justice to anything in the line of solid food, even if I had to eat it off the ice chest. I wasn’t as ravenous as I have been, but while a steady diet of pie and cider may be filling it is not always satisfying.

“Tom’s little machine was working beautifully now and he ran right up on the lawn by the side door. I looked through the window and saw aunty bobbing about and I was blessing her for the dear good cook that she was.

“Tom spilled a couple of honks out of the horn and saw aunty scurry to the door. She stood against the light and called out a welcome to us. We readily assured her that we were there and ready for dinner.

BG101124-2b“And now, madam, comes the saddest part of this sad, sad tale. ‘Bob,’ said aunty, ‘I kept dinner waiting three mortal hours and then uncle and the boys got so hungry that they couldn’t wait a minute longer, and when they sat down to the table they just cleaned that turkey to the last bone. But never you mind. I’ve saved some pumpkin pie and cider for you.’

“And when they brought me to I found myself unable to look at pumpkin or an apple without tremors.

“Madam, If you will pardon me, I will pass the pumpkin pie and cider but I would take another little slice of that dark meat and some stuffing” (Boston Globe, November 24, 1910).

See also Milton Automobiles in 1906-07Milton and the Eastern Route – 1909, and Milton, Straight Thru (North), in 1918


Author: Muriel Bristol

"Lady drinking tea"

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: