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970 Pounds Of Jail Birds

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News photo by Robert Chose

Larry Sanders (Left) And Robert Meyers Ready To Carve Prison Turkeys

Prisoners To Dine Well 

970 Pounds Of Jail Birds

BY JOHN BARTON Staff Reporter

So you think you’ve got problems trying to whip up Thanksgiving Day dinner for the family and all those extra guess that seem to show up for a holiday feast.

You should be giving thanks that you aren’t behind the chefs’ aprons of Larry Sanders, Robert Meyers, Andrew Pfotenhauer, Walter Wojtysiak and Bill Jones.

Try and imagine your kitchen stacked to the ceiling with the ingredients those guys had to work with to feed Thanksgiving Day dinner to 750 hungry inmates at the Milan Federal Correctional Institution:

— 46 turkeys weighing over 970 pounds.

— 300 pounds of potatoes to peel. Then mash them.

— Enough gravy, about 45 gallons of it, to go with all the potatoes that had to be peeled and mashed.

— 96 pounds of cranberries.

— Enough sifted flour to make 2,000 piping hot rolls.

— Then, for desert, pop 300 assorted pies into the oven. Not your ordinary size pie; either, but the kind that are baked on huge sheet-pans.

It sounds like a cook’s nightmare, but Jones, who has been head of food services at the institution for 10 years, says that somehow all of it will get put together for the special holiday meal. 

“We usually go all out for dinner on Thanksgiving,” Jones said while cooks and inmate helpers carried heavy pans, each containing three 20-pound turkeys, from a massive oven that takes up an entire corner of the prison’s sparkling kitchen.

“This year is no exception,” he continued. "We’ve got the traditional dinner with all the trimmings, and the dining area will be decorated for the occasion.' We try pretty hard to make things as festive as possible and make sure everybody gets a good dinner.

“It’s not,” he added, “as if they can go anywhere else if the food’s no good.”

For Jones and his civilian staff of cooks, Sanders, Meyers, Pfotenhauer and Wojtysiak, assembling the vast amount of ingredients needed to stir up dinner for over 700 began on Tuesday. By late Wednesday all 900-plus pounds of turkey had been sliced and carefully wrapped in individual foil packages along with a pat of butter.

By this afternoon, it would be reheated and dished up.

“It’s a fairly leisurely meal,” Jones continued as the turkeys were carried out of the oven in what seemed to be a never-ending stream of giant roasters. “Afterward we set out about 300 pies of all kinds and everybody gets to help themselves.”

But Jones’ crew won’t be cooking for the only captive clientele in Washtenaw County.

Up the road, in Ann Arbor, the 120 or so prisoners in the county jail will also be sitting down to Thanksgiving Day dinner with all the trimmings.

"Traditional holiday fare,” one jail supervisor described the meal. “Every year we try and make sure everybody gets a good helping of turkey, dressing and all the rest of the stuff that go with it.”

Traditionally the same Thanksgiving meal is served to the nearly 500 students at Maxey Boys Training School near Whitmore Lake. Even the Wayne County Jail plans to serve turkey and all the accompanying treats to its residents.

There is, in fact, only one place that one should not end up if one feels compelled to be arrested for the sake of a free Thanksgiving Day dinner.

That’s the lockup in Ypsilanti, where the Thanksgiving Day menu has been billed as “traditional jail fare without any trimmings.” That means a donut in the morning with a cup of coffee, and a hamburger in the afternoon.

“Hopefully,” explained Ypsilanti’s Chief of Police, E. K. Dethloff, “we aren’t going to have anyone in jail on Thanksgiving.

“But,” he added sternly, “if we do, I can positively guarantee they won’t get turkey.”