World-famous turkey garments have new home in Town Hall

By Jessica King

After more than 70 years in storage, garments that introduced Ramona to the world will soon be on display in Town Hall.

The garments are made almost entirely of turkey features and were made in the late 1930s to promote Ramona as the turkey capital of the world. They were modeled in Life magazine and other publications by a lifelong resident who died this summer.

Mary Kay Pinkard, formerly Mary Kay Holly and, before that, Mary Kay Kearney, died June 30 of natural causes at the age of 94. Her family decided to donate the garments, along with other historically significant items, to Town Hall earlier this month.

“Ramona’s Town Hall was always near and dear to Mom’s heart,” a family statement read. “She actively supported the fundraising efforts of the Town Hall board through the years … She talked about childhood memories there, including acting in live plays and musicals, and going to the movies there in the ’40s.”

Family members also said they were confident she would agree, Town Hall was the perfect place for the items to go to so that others could enjoy them.

Town Hall Board President W.T. “Woody” Kirkman said it was an exciting and welcome surprise to get the call this month that some of “Mary Kay’s treasures” would be donated to the hall.

“The different things that she had cover a wide spectrum,” said Kirkman. “The main part of it is the feather dresses and other feather costumes but that’s not all it is.”

In addition to the garments, which were made by Pinkard and her mother, the “treasures” include old photographs, an old Ramona Rodeo belt buckle, and at least two satin Honorary Mayor jackets from the early 1980s. She earned the title by raising money for Town Hall restoration efforts.

According to Pinkard’s family, the turkey-feathered garments include two skating outfits made of white turkey feathers, a pajama set, and a hoop-skirt dress donned with bronze turkey feathers.

“The other big part of what we are receiving are a lot of photographs that were just going to be discarded a long time ago but Mary Kay took them and kept them safe,” said Kirkman. “If they’re not originals, they’re second copies off of originals. A few we’ve seen through the years in newspaper articles, but there’s a lot more that we haven’t seen.”

A full inventory of what’s being donated is a work in progress, said Kirkman.

Many of the items have been packed away in trucks, preserved with old newspapers, and have to be handled carefully. Kirkman said Town Hall volunteers will be cataloging every item digitally. The smaller items will be put on display in antique pharmacy cabinets previously donated to Town Hall, while a special, taller case will be built to house larger garments, according to Kirkman.

The local hall is one of the oldest and last original town halls in California, having been built in 1894. Kirkman said the goal is to put Pinkard’s gifts on exhibit in the hall’s west wing by February, in time for the hall’s 119th anniversary.

“The display will represent an era in Ramona’s history when the poultry business dominated the local economy,” the family statement read. “Most of Ramona’s old-timers remember fondly the Turkey Day celebrations and the excitement generated in the community because of the nationwide recognition sparked by Mom’s turkey feather costumes.”

Pinkard’s family includes her childhood friend and second husband of 45 years, Lee, and her daughters from her first marriage, Lancey Wilson of Bella Vista and Markay Schroeder of Laguna Beach.

Her first husband was Alanson “A.P.” Holly, also known as Lance. When She married Holly in 1936 and subsequently made the famous garments, the Holly family ran one of the town’s largest turkey ranches.

Before and after marrying Holly, she also helped her family run Kenilworth Inn on Main Street before it burned down in 1943. The family also once owned the smaller Adams House hotel, also on Main Street. She was born there.

From 1970 to 1993, she worked for the Ramona Chamber of Commerce as its secretary.

“She was the town’s cheerleader,” said Kirkman. “If you needed to know something, she was the go-to source. I don’t know how many people besides Mary Kay who could actually say they were born in town.”

   
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