A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

Recent entries:
“I don’t have enough coffee or middle fingers for today” (3/26)
“I like coffee because it gives me the illusion that I might be awake” (3/26)
Entry forthcoming—B.P. (3/26)
“If you are not coffee, chocolate, or bacon, I’m going to need you to go away” (3/26)
“Life happens, coffee helps” (3/26)
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Entry from November 12, 2016
“What happened when the waiter dropped the Thanksgiving meal?” (joke)

If a waiter drops a tray containing a Thanksgiving dinner, it’s “the downfall of Turkey, the overthrow of Greece, and the breaking up of China.” The joke—originally not a Thanksgiving joke—was published in the Boston (MA) Herald in 1894 and reprinted in many newspapers.


15 March 1894, Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, pg. 5, col. 5:
Ethnological.
Boston Herald.
If a colored waiter, carrying a roast turkey should drop it, what effect would it have on the nations of the earth?

It would be the downfall of Turkey, the overthrow of Greece, the breaking up of China and the humiliation of Africa.

20 September 1894, The Messenger-Intelligencer (Wadesboro, NC), pg. 4, col. 2:
The Boston Herald man, after long consideration, has concluded that if a colored waiter should drop a platter containing a roast turkey the act would be productive of a grand complication of evils; namely, the downfall of Turkey, the overthrow of Greece, the breaking up of China and the humiliation of Africa.—Youth’s Companion.

28 May 1897, Harrisburg (PA) Telegraph, pg. 1, col. 7:
All Kinds of Trouble
“Suppose yourself and a few friends were very hungry and were about to be served with a fine, big turkey, by a colored waiter. Suppose, further ,that when the waiter was about to enter the dining-room he stumbled and dropped the platter upon which he carried the turkey? What effect would that have upon several nations of the world?”

“Suppose you tell.”

“It would mean the downfall of Turkey, the overthrow of Greece, the breaking up of China, the humiliation of Africa and the disappointment of Hungary.”

1 January 1903, The Morning Tribune (Tampa, FL), pg. 4, col. 6:
PERPETRATED PUN ON WAITERS.
Smash-Up at Masonic Meeting Inspires a Joker.
During the progress of the banquet at the Masonic Temple Tuesday evening, two waiters from the Dairy Kitchen, while passing down the stairway, fell, dropping a large platter of dishes laden with good things to eat.

A wag at the Tampa Preparatory School remarked: “It was the downfall of Greece, the destruction of China, a loss of Turkey and humiliation of Africa.”

28 November 1907, St. Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch, pg. 10, col. 2:
International Disaster.
To the Editor of the Post-Dispatch,
In these times of financial disaster and, especially, as we are nearing Thanksgiving day, it might be well to give notice through the columns of your daily paper, warning the people to be extremely careful on that particular day, as we have been told a gentleman invited some friends to dinner and as the colored servant entered the room, he accidentally dropped a platter which contained the turkey. “My friends,” said the gentleman in a most impressive manner, “never in my life have I witnessed an event so fraught with disaster to the various nations of the globe. In this calamity we see the downfall of Turkey, the overthrow of Greece, the destruction of China and the humiliation of Africa.” Yours for Thanksgiving day, not attended by any disastrous results.
T. A. SON, M. D.
Bonne Terre, Mo.

24 November 1955, Omaha (NE) World-Herald, “The Town Trumpeter” by Glenn Trump, pg. 14, col. 4:
Fall, Crash
The answer to the problem by Earl Steinbaugh, “What great events happened when a waiter carrying a Thanksgiving dinner on a tray slips and drops the meal?”:

The fall of Turkey, the overthrow of Greece and the crash of China.

23 November 1975, Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, NE), pg. 1-E, col. 5:
One Very Bad Two-Liner
He: “What three international incidents would a waiter cause if he dropped a tray while serving Thanksgiving dinner?”
Se: “The downfall of Turkey, the overthrow of Greece and the destruction of China.”

26 May 1981, The Morning Union (Springfield, MA), “Fun Time—The Riddle Box” by A. Leokum, pg. 31, col. 4:
What happens when a waiter drops a tray on Thanksgiving Day?
The overthrow of Greece, the downfall of Turkey, and the destruction of China.

A Prairie Home Companion - Jokes 1999
March 22, 1999
Did you hear about the International Incident that took place when a waiter dropped the Thanksgiving dinner? It was the smashing of China, the overthrow of Turkey, the downfall of Greece… and everyone got Hungary!
Paul Rogers, San Francisco, CA

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityRestaurants/Bars/Bakeries/Food Stores • Saturday, November 12, 2016 • Permalink