Connecticut history

A Thanksgiving Lesson from Legendary Bob Steele

It’s that time of year for turkey, football, family, and a song, that many of us think we know.  It starts with “Over the river.”    I learned the proper verbiage for this tune thanks to my co-anchor Denise D’Ascenzo who learned it from the legendary voice of  Bob Steele of WTIC AM 1080 and Channel 3, shown here in  our studios in the 1960s.*

It was 1986, and Denise was anchoring her first day before Thanksgiving broadcast at Channel 3 after moving here from Cleveland.   She recalls writing and reading a script about holiday travel that went something like this:

     “By car, by train, by plane, people all over Connecticut are going over the river and through the woods”

As soon as the newscast was over Denise received an urgent call from a man she had never met.   When he said “Denise,” she said it sounded like the voice of God.

 “This is Bob Steele from WTIC radio, I’d like to point out a mistake you made in your news copy.  It is not through the woods, but rather through the wood.  No “s.”    I wanted you to get it right.  You are new around here.” 

We thank Bob for the lesson, although Denise was at first taken aback by this call, and for a fleeting moment, felt like a dunce.   It’s an easy mistake to make.  People sing it the wrong way all the time…just check out you tube.   Besides, “through the wood,”  who talks like that?

The song is from a poem written by Lydia Maria Child in 1844.     Here it is, as Bob Steele would read it.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.
Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood—
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
As over the ground we go.
Over the river, and through the wood,
With a clear blue winter sky,
The dogs do bark, and children hark,
As we go jingling by.
Over the river, and through the wood,
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding”,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!
Over the river, and through the wood,
No matter for winds that blow,
Or if we get the sleigh upset
Into a bank of snow
Over the river, and through the wood,
To see little John and Ann.
We will kiss them all, and play snow-ball,
And stay as long as we can.
Over the river, and through the wood
Trot fast, my dapple-gray!
Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood—
And straight through the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
It is so hard to wait!
Over the river, and through the wood,
Old Jowler hears our bells.
He shakes his pow, with a loud bow-wow,
And thus the news he tells.
Over the river, and through the wood,
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, “Oh, dear, the children are here,
Bring a pie for everyone.”
Over the river, and through the wood—
Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

*Channel 3’s call letters used to be WTIC, from our inception in 1957 to 1974, when we became WFSB and split with the radio side of the company.   AM 1080 remained WTIC.

What I’ll be doing on Thanksgiving:

12 replies »

  1. I just finished reading this wonderful article to my husband. We both remember Bob Steele and got a chuckle out it. We always thought it was wood(s) too!! We miss Bob and we watch Denise every day. Thank you for putting this story online.

    Donna Costa
    Somers, Ct.


  2. Bob Steele is one of the Greats. There wasn’t a day that I missed his shows. He is truely missed. The article was wonderful. Thanks for the memories!


  3. almost every morning growing up ,my mom would be in the kitchen when we got up and on the radio would be Bob Steele, every morning… we waited with baited breath for school closings in winter, and his silly stories… Does anyone remember him reciting Albert and the Lion? I remember him and my mother dearly… I hope he has a radio station up in heaven he sure would have alot of followers


  4. I, too, have lots of memories of waking up to the voice of Bob Steele on the radio in our kitchen…..Mom, happily listening while she made our breakfast and lunches for school….and, of course, listening for the school closures and word for the day. Anyone remember ” Buffalos On My Lawn”? A great song! Mr. Steele was one of a kind and sorely missed.


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