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Molena residents share turkey tales

For many longtime Molena residents, turkeys weren’t just for Thanksgiving, they were a way of life. Starting in the 1930s, many Molena families began raising the birds. They became so popular the city named a Turkey Queen, entered parades and even dressed the turkeys in homemade costumes every year.  ’Molena was just covered in white turkeys at one time,’ said Molena resident Betty McCrary. ‘It was a good business to be in because everyone could work together and make it a family business.’ The first turkeys, like those on Lewis Lester McCrary Sr.’s farm, were wild, bronze turkeys, not the white turkeys later raised on commercialized turkey farms in Molena. Lewis Lester McCrary Jr. joined the business in 1951 and took over the business in 1965.  Buck McCrary expanded the business into the business of producing thousands of turkey hatching eggs, which were shipped to North Carolina for turkey production. Every year the governor of Georgia pardons a turkey, sparing him from meeting his end for Thanksgiving. Many believe President Harry S. Truman pardoned the first turkey in 1947. That is around the time Lewis Lester McCrary Jr. presented Georgia Gov. Herman Talmadge with a turkey from his Molena farm.  ’He presented a live turkey to Gov. Herman Talmadge in the late 1940s,’ said McCrary. ‘For a while it was a booming business in Molena and we were referred to as the turkey capitol of Georgia. There were just turkeys everywhere.’

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