Father’s Day Origins

Milton J. Smith Sr.

by Milton J. Smith

In 1924 the Ca1lener Bible Class of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania selected the dandelion as the flower to be worn on Father’s Day because “the more it is trampled on the more it grows.” Its use did not become general which is something for all fathers to be thankful.

Strangely, as with Mother’s Day, not much is known of the origina­tor of this Sunday’s celebration. Only the name of Mrs. John Bruce Dodd is given of her childhood history. We did not know it was in 1909 that she proposed the third Sunday in June be designated a “suitable day” to honor father.

In 1911 Jane Addams of Chicago discussed a thank father’s day as if it were something new. She complained, “Poor father has been left out in the cold and doesn’t get much recognition.”

On May 18,1913, the Portland Oregonian printed a dispatch from Vancouver, Washington which gave the impression the holiday started there. Reverend J. H. Berringer of the Irvington Methodist Church held special services which he hoped, “will become national in scope.” No official act followed.

Then, President Woodrow Wilson pressed a button in the District of Columbia and unfurled a flag on a platform in Spokane, Wash~ng­ton. Mrs. John Bruce Dodd still fighting to have her idea adopted, was present. Proud of her connection with the celebration she had organized a Father’s Day Association. Later, a young girl who became Mrs. Walter Hamlet Burgess of Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, took out a charter for National Father’s Day and registered it with the United States Patent Office. Upon hearing of Mrs. Dodd’s organi­zation she withdrew her claim.

Members of Congress from Philadelphia and New York twice introduced bills to legislate an official day to honor father, but both were unsuccessful.
Dad, it seemed would not have his day.

In 1918 Stars and Stripes, the official newspaper of the American Forces in Europe, suggested a Father’s Day whereby fathers and sons would write letters to each other to be delivered on November 24. The war was over, no risk was involved and the mission was accomplished.

The third Sunday in October, 1920, saw another observance of Father’s Day.
Harry C. Meek, president of the Uptown Lions Club in Chicago,
was able to bring this to fruition.

In 1924, ten years after Mother’s Day had become an official holiday,
President Coolidge wrote: “The widespread observance of this occasion is calculated to establish more intimate relations between fathers and sons and daughters and also to impress upon fathers the full measure of their responsibilities.” Dad now had his special holiday.

The love of fathers for their offspring may be evidenced somewhat by the large percentage who work two jobs. Also, imagine the surprise of Papa Dionne of Canada whose wife gave birth to quintuple daughters some 40 years ago. This occurrence took place many years before fertility pills. Dampening the joy of the births, we realize his sorrow at losing three in their early teens.

A Laurel father, not too many years ago, braved smoke and fire to re­enter his burning home in a desperate search for his two children.
His life given unconditionally was taken along with those he loved.

Thankfully, fatherhood has many more benefits than hardships. There is the joy of the child’s first step. Heartwarming is the smell of a baby, powdered and pink after its bath. There is the laughter that comes in gasps when a father investigates the noise in the front porch and a son is putting dents in his toy car and states,
“I’m. making an accident. “

So why can’t father love a rose on the day chosen to honor him.
It’s better than dandelions. Happy Father’s Day!

Milton J. Smith is a long-time Laurel resident who enjoys writing.


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