Father’s Day – How It Started In Spokane, WA

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As a kid in Spokane, WA I faintly recall hearing that the idea of Father’s Day was born here. How it came to be is an amazing story....
Father's Day 2019

What Is Father’s Day

Today is a day about celebrating the father-figure in your life, and it’s called Father’s Day. I am writing this blog not only for a wonderful Dad, I am lucky to have, but for a forgotten history of Father’s Day. As a kid in Spokane, WA I faintly recall hearing that the idea was born here. But how the idea transformed over 62 years of a young girls life is remarkable. I know our readers have places to be and things to do, so I’ll make the half-century fly by.

On the 3rd Sunday in June, 60% of the World celebrates Father’s Day. Check out this chart showing when Countries recognize this non-government holiday. It is surprising to see some vast month differences in certain areas of the World.

Here in the United States families gather to celebrate their Dad’s through gift giving and often over a special meal. Businesses are bringing in so much revenue that Father’s Day is often nicknamed the ‘Second Christmas’ in men’s gift-oriented industries. But how did it all begin?

The Start Of Father’s Day

A young girl named Sonora Smart heard about the start of the holiday known as Mother’s Day through a church. However, at a young age, she lost her Mother, only to be raised by her father, William Jackson Smart. He was a military veteran raising 6 children alone. She felt father’s like hers, needed a special day of recognition as well. So on June 19, 1910, Sonora held a celebration at the YMCA in Spokane, Washington coining it Father’s Day.  

From 1910 on, Sonora advocated every year for it to become a recognized holiday. By 1938 she had the help of the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers, known as the Father’s Day Council. A mere 2,500 miles away from Sonora, the group organized the commercial promotion of Father’s Day.

However, Father’s Day was still not a holiday and the sales ads brought out more skepticism than the intent to make it a family known holiday to celebrate Dad. There would be a long road ahead before it would become what we know it today.

Establishing Father’s Day

After all of Sonora’s hard advocating since 1910, a bill in 1913 to grant national recognition of the holiday did not pass in Congress. Sonora would face many roadblocks before seeing her dream become a reality.

In 1916 Woodrow Wilson came to Spokane, WA where Sonora established the Father’s Day idea. Congress again shot down the plan, in fear Father’s Day would be commercialized. Maybe they had a crystal ball, but I doubt they would have dreamed the tremendous sales it would bring in.  For 2019 the National Retail Federation (NRF) has estimated $15.96 billion will generate on gifts for Dad in the United States.

From Woodrow Wilson, through Calvin Coolidge’s and Lyndon B. Johnson, it wasn’t until 1972 when Richard Nixon signed into law the permanent national holiday, called Father’s Day.  Some 60 years later Sonora Smart Dodd, that little girl from Spokane, WA, was able to see her dream come true. That dream was to give recognition to her single-dad who raised 6 children and all the dad’s in the world.

Let’s Not Forget

As avid recreational individuals, we must pause and give thanks to these National Park “Father’s:” Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Stephen Mather, and Horace M. Albright. All of which played a key role in preserving the lands we enjoy today.  

How Do You Celebrate

We would love to hear from you on what your traditions are on Father’s Day. In our family, we hold a BBQ with Dad’s favorite foods, including this Potato Salad, sit outside to enjoy the warm weather, and play cards. Of course, there is gift giving, but ours is a little unusual. Our Dad receives a fun gag type gift. This can be anything from car washing supplies to the return of tools he has let us borrow of the year. And the day would not be complete with some hand-made cards.

Adventures In RV Life’s RV Friendly Potato Salad

Not A Father?

Did you know International Men’s Day is celebrated in many countries on November 19 in honor of men and boys who are not fathers?  Check it out and maybe you can start a trend in your Country.


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Melissa McElfresh

Melissa McElfresh

In 2012 I was diagnosed with Gastroparesis (stomach paralysis), which made me realize life is too short and not to take simple things for granted. As an avid indoor-girl with allergies, I did not go on hikes of any sort. But, one day my Marine husband, Don, asked if I would go on a 'nature walk' with him. It was on the paved Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park. I went and was hooked, eager for our next adventure! The desire to see new places, meet new people, experience new cultures, has aided me to share with you my new adventure.

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We are sharing our adventures to not only document our full-time living in a 5th wheel but to provide others with information.  Our extensive research involved searching for answers to these questions: how to begin this lifestyle, what RV is best to live in full-time and what jobs could we do to support our dream.  However, we did not find a lot of answers out there that pertained to our quest.  Quickly we realized people choose this lifestyle and their RV for many different reasons.  There is no right or wrong answer.  We are here to provide you with another perspective.

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