Did you know that the Pacific Northwest played a significant role in establishing Father’s Day as a national holiday? There had been a celebration of fatherhood promoted by the Catholic church in Europe since the middle-ages, as St Joseph’s Day, celebrated on March 19th. The celebration was brought to Latin America by the Spanish and Portuguese, where Father’s Day is still celebrated in March. The Coptic Church has also celebrated Father’s Day as St Joseph’s Day, apparently since the 5th century, but that date is set as July 20th. Except for within the Catholic tradition, Father’s Day was not celebrated in the US until the 20th century.
The first observance of Father’s Day in the US was held in Grafton, West Virginia (West Virginia is also the birthplace of Mother’s Day) on July 5, 1908. Grace Clayton was mourning the loss of her father when a terrible mining disaster in nearby Monongah took the lives of 361 men, 250 of them fathers, leaving approximately 1,000 fatherless children. That first celebration was overshadowed by Independence Day, but more so by a July 4th hot air balloon disaster in the town that took the life of a 16-year-old girl. In 1911 the Portland Oregonian suggested a Father’s Day celebration and that recommendation was taken up the next year by the Irvington Methodist Church. A fellow named Joseph Meek was dubbed the “Originator of Father’s Day” when he self-proclaimed that he had invented the idea in 1915, but he had actually been beaten to the punch by Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington, who spearheaded a celebration at the YMCA in Spokane on June 19, 1910. Sonora, who had lost her mother young and wished to honor her father, who had raised his six children as a single parent. Sonora stopped promoting the event when she moved to Chicago to study art in the 20’s and the event fizzled. She took up the cause again in the 30’s. It was then that she aligned herself with national retailers and a Father’s Day Council was founded by the New York Association of Menswear Retailers.
More wholesome attempts had occurred to establish the holiday but all had sputtered. A bill had been introduced in Congress in 1913, but failed, and President Woodrow Wilson had attended Father’s Day celebration in Spokane in 1916, then subsequently attempted to have it recognized as a federal holiday but Congress resisted, citing concerns for commercialization. The commercial attempts at recognizing the day carried on but the following was lackluster, largely because the event was largely seen as nothing more than a commercial ploy. There was a near miss at official recognition in 1957 when Maine Senator Margaret Smith wrote a proposal that shamed Congress for ignoring half the parent team. In 1966, Lyndon Johnson issued a presidential proclamation designating the 3rd Sunday in June as Father’s Day. It was another six years before Richard Nixon signed a bill into law making Father’s Day a permanent national holiday in 1972.
So here we are, 45 years later and it certainly feels like Father’s Day has always been with us. Mother’s Day is one of the biggest restaurant days of the year, Father’s Day much less so. Nonetheless, families do like to let Dad buy the family a meal in exchange for his ritual shirt and socks. We try to help Dad out by offering brunch, a less expensive meal, and are always sure to include Steak & Eggs on the menu. You can make your Father’s Day reservation by clicking here. This link also works if you would prefer to join us for dinner. We promise to make a few things to make Dad feel okay about not grilling dinner for the family that night.