The Origins of Father’s Day

Jun 18, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Food Fun, Hometown History, Margaret Mendel

by Margaret Mendel

At the end of this article you will find a fun recipe of something you can make for Dad on this Father’s Day & a coupon for Valentino’s Italian Restaurant in Reedley so you can take Dad out for a belated Father’s Day lunch next week!

In 1906 when Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, learned of the establishment of a new holiday, Mother’s Day, she began to work toward a day each year that would honor fatherhood. Ms. Dodd’s father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran, had raised Ms. Dodd and her five siblings all by himself after their mother died.

With the help of Reverend D. Conrad Bluhm and the YMCA, Ms. Dodd was able to have a day set aside on the calendar in Spokane and the first Father’s Day was celebrated June 19, 1910. On that day young members of the YMCA attended church wearing roses—a red rose to honor a living father, a white rose to honor a deceased father—and Ms. Dodd and other volunteers traveled through Spokane in horse-drawn carriages delivering gifts to fathers confined indoors by illness.

Father’s Day was not an instant national success and more times than not the holiday was seen as a foolish and a humorous occasion. In 1913 a bill was introduced to recognize fathers, but the bill went nowhere. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson traveled to Spokane to speak at the Father’s Day celebration and though he was willing to make it an official holiday, Congress defeated the bill stating that the holiday would become too commercialized.

In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge recommended that a day be set aside to honor fathers but he did not issue a national proclamation. Then in 1966 more than forty years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued a proclamation honoring fathers and designated the third Sunday of June as Father’s day. In 1972 President Richard Nixon signed the holiday into law making Father’s Day a permanent national holiday.

Father’s Day did not at first reach the popularity that Ms. Dodd had hoped for. Then in New York City in the 1930s the Associated Men’s Wear Retailers formed a National Father’s Day Committee that was later renamed National Council for the Promotion of Father’s Day. The sole goal of the committee was to promote and legalize Father’s Day in the minds of the public.

Ms. Dodd was a grand supporter of the commercialization of the holiday. By the 1980s the committee had turned Father’s Day into a three-week commercial event and many merchants dealing in men’s apparel consider this holiday to be a second Christmas.

I remember many years ago when my sisters and I were very little girls. We would get money from our mother to buy dad a Father’s Day present. Left to our devices to decide what to get him, we headed for the drugstore to pick out something very special. Most of the time we decided on an aftershave lotion we thought smelled heavenly. Though we never smelled any perfume on our father, we thought he certainly must have used our gift because, after all, he shaved every day.

It wasn’t until many years later that we learned he never did use the aftershave because it burned his skin. He never said anything and each year we gave him a new bottle of the aftershave. Over the years I’ve watched my husband and now my son-in-law as they graciously receive the specially chosen offerings on Father’s Day. Sometimes the gift is handmade, sometimes a hand-picked item the child is sure their father would want, and always given with a grand smile, an offering from the heart.

In preparing this Father’s Day article I wanted to include something yummy for dad to eat. So I did a survey thinking that I would then present to you the most requested food. What I discovered, and not surprisingly, was that the dads I spoke to wanted meat; some dads wanted steak, some hamburgers, and some ribs.

One dad said he would want grilled salmon on Father’s day but no one said anything about vegetables or a green salad. Since I had to make a decision I chose something that I thought my father would want—ribs.

The dessert question was just as interesting to me, though no surprise there either. The requests ranged from something chocolate to fruit pie with a sprinkling of those dads wanting an old-fashioned ice cream sundae. So, for dessert I let my six-year-old grandson make the decision about what he would make for his father and he said his dad would want an ice cream sundae.


6 pounds spareribs
1/8-teaspoon rosemary
1/8-teaspoon thyme
1/8-teaspoon marjoram
1/8-teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 cup orange juice
½ cup tomato ketchup
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
3 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon minced garlic

Rinse and pat dry the ribs and put into a large bowl. Turn on the slow cooker to medium high. Put all the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Add to the ribs making sure that all areas of the ribs are covered with the mixture. Place ribs in the slow cooker and leave on medium high for two hours then turn the slow cooker down to low and cook for at least another five to six hours.

I like to prepare this kind of food the day before because the meat is fatty and greasy. I remove the meat from the slow cooker and put it into a bowl, pouring the sauce into a separate container and place the meat and sauce in the refrigerator. The next day I skim off the fat that has risen to the top of the sauce and pour it into a fry pan where I cook it until it is reduced by about half the original amount. The ribs are then added to the sauce to be reheated and made ready for serving.

These ribs can be prepared in the oven with the temperature turned down as low as the oven will go. Put the ribs in a roasting pan after preparing the meat. Pour over the sauce, coating thoroughly. Cover with lid and cook for six to eight hours.


1 or 2 scoops of ice cream (flavor of choice)
Bottled or jar of chocolate sauce (brand of choice)
Chopped nuts (Walnuts are usually preferred, but if dad likes peanuts, or any other nut, use those.)
Put the ice cream into a serving bowl that is large enough for either the one or two scoops. Pour chocolate sauce over the ice cream and sprinkle with the chopped nuts.

Don’t forget to take Dad out for that special meal at Reedley’s own Valentino’s, or just treat yourself–their specials are listed on their Facebook page. Check out this special coupon for KRL’s readers!

Margaret Mendel was born in San Jose and has a Master’s degree in Counseling from the University of San Francisco & a Master’s of Fine Arts in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Currently residing in New York, she has had several short stories and articles published.


  1. Tried to share this great article and spareribs recipe using the Facebook share icon above but Facebook kept kicking me off.

    • Hope the ribs turn out yummy for you!!!

  2. How strange it seems to be working now. You can always just paste the link into your status post as well. Glad you enjoyed the article!
    Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher

    • Thanks Lorie for helping out in the virtual kitchen!!!

  3. Superb writing, research and information we have never had! kudos to Ms. Mendel for her excellence!
    Thelma Straw, New York City

  4. We celebrated Father’s Day when I was “young” so I was surprised to find it wasn’t declared official until I was a “grown up”.We are blest to have fresh Columbia River salmon on our table tomorrow but I’m saving the rib recipe for an effortless but yummy meal. Thanks.

  5. Thanks Margaret – enjoyable article
    and as much as I like the sweets I vote on the side of the ribs!


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