“A national mother’s day — why not a day for fathers, too?” proclaimed Ross C. Miller, city editor for The Bakersfield Californian, on May 11, 1914.
Miller’s idea came on the heels of President Woodrow Wilson’s May 9, 1914, proclamation that officially designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. The day was to serve “as a public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of our country.” And Ross concurred and added: “Ah yes, indeed, let us have a mother’s day and father’s day, too, be they living or dead. It is a beautiful thought and one that should grow until it has found its way into the breast of every man, woman and child in this world.”
Although families have always found ways to honor fathers, the first state to celebrate an official father’s day was Washington on June 19, 1910. The idea is attributed to a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, who was one of six children raised by her widowed father. Wanting to honor him, and all fathers for their important role in the family, she successfully petitioned local officials, businesses, churches and the YMCA to establish a Father’s Day to occur each June.
During the early years following that first Father’s Day, celebrations were very different than what we are accustomed to today. Without an official day set aside, many of Bakersfield’s local schools created their own way to honor dad. But instead of a designated Father’s Day, the schools hosted a father’s night that usually consisted of a special program and then a dance in the school auditorium. Also, these special events took place on various days throughout the year. For instance, the Oil Center School PTA arranged an elaborate musical and social program to celebrate Father’s Day in March 1917. Fremont School hosted a celebration in May 1922 and Washington School in November of that same year.
The celebration of fathers continued to evolve over the next couple of decades. According to the Library of Congress, in 1924, President Calvin Coolidge pushed to make Father’s Day a national event as a way to “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.”
Even with this presidential urging, Bakersfield was still working on figuring out exactly the best way to celebrate dads. Californian columnist Mae Saunders wrote on June 19, 1925: “Father’s Day arrives Sunday, but nothing will arrive for father, judging by the absence of plans for the day. No local observance will be held or at least none has been planned at present.” But that did not appear to be too big of an issue as “that doesn’t mean anything to poor Bakersfield Dads, most of whom don’t know anything about ‘Father’s Day.’”
Eventually though, Father’s Day would establish a firm hold in Bakersfield, especially with retailers, as ads faithfully popped up every June urging readers to find the perfect gift for dad.
Finally, in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson made the holiday official when he proclaimed the third Sunday in June would be Father’s Day and in 1972 President Richard Nixon made Father’s Day a federal holiday.
So here’s to all of the fathers in Bakersfield and beyond — enjoy your day! ￼