Sunday, September 3, 2023



Happy Father’s Day wishes to all fathers and grandfathers on this Father’s Day in Oz, and a reflection on those of us who have lost our fathers but who live on in our memories and hearts.

Some facts, trivia and thoughts . . .

“The power of a dad in a child’s life is unmatched.”

- Justin Ricklefs

Father’s Day was not immediately accepted when it was proposed. Mother’s Day came first, being officially recognised in 1914. Fathers were the head of the family and expected to lead, care for and fund the family, no special recognition being required, much less a day associated with flowers and sentimental tributes, as Mother’s Day was.

The first known Father’s Day service occurred in Fairmont, West Virginia, on July 5, 1908, after hundreds of men died in the worst mining accident in U.S. history. Grace Golden Clayton, the daughter of a dedicated minister, proposed a service to honour all fathers, especially those who had died. However, the observance did not become an annual event, and it was not promoted.

In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, was inspired by Anna Jarvis and the idea of Mother’s Day. Her father, William Jackson Smart, a farmer and Civil War veteran, was also a single parent who raised Sonora and her five brothers by himself, after his wife Ellen died giving birth to their youngest child in 1898. While attending a Mother’s Day church service in 1909, Sonora, then 27 years old, came up with the idea.

Within a few months, Sonora had convinced the Spokane Ministerial Association and the YMCA to set aside a Sunday in June to celebrate fathers. She proposed June 5, her father’s birthday, but the ministers chose the third Sunday in June so that they would have more time after Mother’s Day (the second Sunday in May) to prepare their sermons. On June 19, 1910, the first Father’s Day events commenced: Sonora delivered presents to handicapped fathers, boys from the YMCA decorated their lapels with fresh-cut roses (red for living fathers, white for the deceased), and the city’s ministers devoted their homilies to fatherhood.

"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years".

- Mark Twain

Recognition of Father’s Day did not catch on right away, perhaps due to the perceived parallels with Mother’s Day.

- The first bill was introduced in Congress in 1913, but in spite of encouragement from President Woodrow Wilson, it did not pass.

- Eight years later, President Calvin Coolidge signed a resolution in favor of Father’s Day “to establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.”

- In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed an executive order that the holiday be celebrated on the third Sunday in June.

- Under President Richard Nixon, in 1972, Congress passed an act officially making Father’s Day a national holiday. (Six years later, Sonora died at age 96.)

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”

- Sigmund Freud

Father’s Day places the apostrophe before the S, just like other holidays such as New Year’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. However, the reason this is done for Father’s Day is because of the precedent set by Mother’s Day.

Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother’s Day, insisted on the apostrophe being before the S to highlight that the day should be dedicated to each family honouring their particular mother, rather than a day honouring mothers in general.

“A dad is someone who wants to catch you when you fall. Instead he picks you up, brushes you off and lets you try again.”

- Unknown

It wasn’t until the 1930s that Father’s Day was widely recognised in Australia, and it didn’t reach present-day levels of popularity until the 1960s. According to newspaper records, the concept of Father’s Day was a bit of a ‘silly American idea’ to Australians in the 1910s, after it was introduced in the United States.

Mother’s Day has been celebrated in Australia from 1910 onwards and became widely recognised in the 1920s, but it took much longer for Father’s Day to be generally accepted by the public.

initially revolving around special church services, Father’s Day began appearing in commercial advertising in the 1930s, indicating the holiday had reached the mainstream. By the 1950s, Father’s Day was recognised in official calendars, and in 1956, the Father’s Day Council of Australia was formed. To this day, they present an annual ‘Father of the Year’ award to an inspirational Dad, with state-level awards also granted.

“Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever.”

- Unknown

Mother’s Day in Australia lines up with the rest of the world, in May. Father’s Day; however, is celebrated here in September while dads in the UK, US and most other parts of the world celebrate it in June.

There are a few explanations as to why Father’s Day in Australia is celebrated in September and not in June.

Some suggest the date was moved to September to evenly space it from Mother’s Day and remove ‘holiday fatigue’ from the first half of the year. The Aussie date spaces out Father’s Day six months from Mother’s Day in May. When first introduced, Australia used to celebrate Father’s Day in June, but most people saw the holiday as a ‘rip off’ of Mother’s Day. Records show that Father’s Day only really took off in Australia around the time the date was moved to September. It’s possible someone decided to evenly space the holidays rather than celebrate Father’s Day just five weeks after Mother’s Day.

It has also been suggested that celebrating Father’s Day in September developed as a marketing strategy. September is the start of Spring in the Southern Hemisphere. This means that from a marketing perspective, Father’s Day is a perfect opportunity to sell virtually any item that dads enjoy or find interesting. Outdoor tools, sports and camping gear, fishing gear and travel essentials become hot sale items during this month.

“By the time a man realises that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.”

- Charles Wadworth

On Father’s Day in 1945, a discharged RAAF pilot, Maxwell Bishop Holland, took off from Mascot in a Moth plane on a mission. He flew to his father’s home in Vaucluse, descended from 3,000 to 100 feet, and threw out sweets with a Father’s Day message attached, “With love to pop”. However, the sweets were seized by children and Holland was fined £5 for flying without a civil licence and another £5 for having dropped an article other than ballast from an aircraft.

“[Fatherhood is] the greatest thing that could ever happen. You can’t explain it until it happens; it’s like telling somebody what water feels like before they’ve ever swam in it.”

- Michael Bublé

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