Elleda Wilson: Beware the turkey

Nov. 24—Peptic rerun: "Every so often, here at the Reference Desk of the Oregon State Archives, we receive requests that include (verifying) odd bits of family lore ...," the archive posted on Facebook.

The story, a cautionary tale for all and sundry who tend to overeat at the Thanksgiving dinner table, is that 52-year old housewife Laura Ann Barker of Portland, who met an untimely end the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 30, 1947. It was rumored that family members were told that her demise was caused by 'too much Thanksgiving,' which seemed to be somewhat outlandish.

Her death certificate, part of which is shown, backs up the story. It was likely no coincidence that Thanksgiving Day was three days earlier. Mrs. Barker's physician, who attended her at her home during her final 48 hours, listed the immediate cause of death as "coronary heart disease," which lasted only half an hour. The contributory cause, "acute indigestion," lasted two long, miserable days.

"Many times (the family stories) turn out to be a stretch of the truth, or incorrect all together," the archive concluded. "However, occasionally we receive one that appears to be confirmed by the original record."

True enough. A little research into what "acute indigestion" meant back in that era revealed a 1928 Journal of the American Medical Association abstract which warned that doctors should address "the possibility of acute obstruction of the coronary arteries causing abdominal symptoms which may be identical with intra-abdominal emergencies." No matter how you slice it, the dinner did it. (In One Ear 11/22/2013)