Today is my first Father’s Day – at least my first as a father. Facebook is churning away tagged father posts and I can never keep up with it all. My wife made cheesecake last night (which I ate for my Father’s Day breakfast), my seven-month old was especially fussy, I called my dad, and life is going on. I’ve always been wary of things like Father’s Day. The cynic in me thinks it’s just a trick for Hallmark to sell cards. I wanted to see where this particular holiday tradition came from. A few google searches later I had my answers. (I found this on the interwebs, so it has to be true!)
The first origins story comes to us from December 6, 1907. Location – Monongah, West Virginia. Circumstance – “the worst mining disaster in American History.” An explosion rocked a coal mine killing 361 of the 367 men working within. Of the fallen, 250 were fathers. This left approximately 1000 children fatherless. A thousand fatherless children. I read it twice, I’m writing it twice. The following year the Williams Memorial Methodist
Episcopal Church South (their sign must have been long
to fit this name on it) had an observance for the lost fathers, marking the first “Father’s Day.” They did it on July 5th, 1908. This was an issue because the day before was Independence Day, thus, the Father’s Day didn’t really get traction beyond the city of Fairmont, West Virginia where this first observance was held.
The second origins story comes from the daughter of a civil war veteran. Sonora Smart Dodd’s father was a single parent who raised six children in the early 1900s. Dodd was sitting in church in Spokane, Washington during a Mother’s Day service and thought it was ridiculous fathers don’t get the same deal – after all, her dad did it all alone. She spoke with her clergy and on June 19, 1910 Father’s Day services were held throughout the city of Spokane. She kept the tradition alive with the clergy until she went off to school and Father’s Day fell away once again.
Dodd came back to Spokane in the 1930s, started cracking clergy skulls, and pushed Father’s Day into the national spotlight. Much of the nation discounted the holiday as a cheap trick to create a commercial holiday and sell stuff. Help came in the form of the Father’s Day Council, which was headed up by various men’s retailers. They ran advertisements in major publications to push the idea of this holiday, hocking their various wares as well. If mom gets flowers on her day, dad should get a nice new tobacco pipe on his!
Ultimately, from 1913 to 1972 multiple politicians and presidents attempted to turn Father’s Day into an actual federal holiday. Every time there was resistance from Congress. They feared it would become a commercialized holiday. President Nixon, with a fist of fatherly love, signed it into law in 1971. He may have been a lot of things, but Tricky Dick obviously loved his father.
And here we are. What have I learned from this? Yes, Father’s Day is a commercialized holiday. Hell, what ones aren’t anymore? However, the catalyst that created this day was love, loss, and remembrance. It is a holiday highlighting the concept that we will never forget those people we love and how they impacted our lives. So, in short, happy Father’s Day to all those dads out there. Past and present included. May the lessons you teach and the love you impart echo through eternity.
More of rant today than anything, but hey, thanks for reading. Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!