WARNING: The following contains some truths, half-truths, and outlandish flights of conjecture. You are therefore urged to not quote any of the below for scholarly research. On the other hand, your school is probably closed because of the Chinese Flu. So, this may be the best you’re gonna get. Yeah, that kinda blows.
NOTE: Yes, Presidents Day isn’t for another five days, but I’ll be out of town that day. A North Carolina Christmas Shop is having a 50% off sale and I need to get another skeleton for my collection. What do Christmas and Halloween have to do with each other, you may ask? Just shut up and read.
Until fairly recently there was no such thing as “Presidents” Day. Rather, we celebrated “Lincoln’s Birthday” on February 12th and “Washington’s Birthday” on February 22nd. What’s more, those days were one shot deals, instead of the three-day extravaganzas we now observe.
I remember feeling gypped whenever they fell on the weekend. So, schoolchildren across the fruited plain were thrilled when the feds decided to ignore history (a pretty common thing nowadays) and insisted that George and Abe were born on Mondays. Screw ‘em, I guess they figured. They’re dead anyway.
Like I said, though, we now have Presidents Day instead of two separate holidays. Created to make room for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday holiday (no sense giving mailmen too many days off), Presidents Day was meant to commemorate both our 1st and our 16th presidents. And sales on cars, sheets, and living room furniture.
So as not to offend either the Washington or Lincoln Fan Clubs (suffice to say, you don’t want to get them together in the same room), Presidents Day was set in the middle of their birthdays. Or the third Monday in February. Or whichever made for the better three-day weekend.
Like Thanksgiving, this makes it pretty easy to plan for, as a quick inspection of a calendar would quickly identify when it was. This is in stark contrast to Easter, which I know is on a Sunday. Other than that, I have no idea from year to year when it will happen. Something to do with the lunar cycle and first day of spring. During leap year. When Jupiter aligns with Mars. And the Pope consults his Magic 8-Ball. Or something like that.
You used to be able to count on whenever The Ten Commandments aired on ABC. No more, unfortunately. Just as well. All the preaching in that movie got on my nerves. Plus, did anyone really buy Edward G. Robinson as an ancient Egyptian?
Eventually, Presidents Day transformed to a celebration of all the nation’s chief executives, even the sucky ones. Like Buchanan.
Don’t know who James Buchanan was? Well, he was a president. A sucky one. Google him, if you like. But trust me. He sucked.
As the concept of Presidents Day caught on, my family tried to come up with a dignified way to recognize the men who guided our nation’s ship of state.
I have to admit, it was pretty difficult to get all jazzed up for a holiday sandwiched between the saccharine-sweet chocolate debauchery of Valentines Day and the inebriated bacchanalian debauchery of St. Patrick’s Day.
We finally decided on a “Dress as Your Favorite President Day.” That way, we could most suitably honor who it was we most admired as the leader of our country. And, even though my powdered wig and breeches got a lot of stares at Sears, I felt it was the patriotic thing to do.
This practice worked quite well for a number of years. That is until my brother, dressed as Bill Clinton, got arrested for loitering around a Nursing School.
To avoid possible litigation, we then decided to pick a president who was not so well-known. I mean, how likely would it be that a descendant of Martin Van Buren would call us before Judge Judy for saying their great-great-great-great-grandfather’s head looked like a beachball with feathers? Not terribly likely.
It really did, though, when you take a good look at it. Google him when you’re done with Buchanan.
To be sure, there are plenty of obscure stiffs from which to choose, guys who could be genuine stumpers in Trivial Pursuit. In fact, were it not for their bosses catching cold at inauguration, having one heck of a tummy ache, being assassinated, dropping dead from a stroke, or resigning, we probably would never have heard of Tyler, Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Coolidge, or Ford.
Bad enough we had Jimmy Carter.
I remember the year I chose an unknown president who was yuge in the Republican Party. A man who put the needs of his fellow citizens before his own. A man whose hard work paid off handsomely. A man who had the fortune of being Vice-President when James Garfield was assassinated in 1881: Chester Alan Arthur, 21st President of the United States.
Known primarily for his facial hair and uncanny ability to remain innocuous, Arthur was the Commander-in-Chief during the Gunfight at the OK Corral when Kurt Russell, starring as Wyatt Earp, defeated the Clanton gang with the help of his brothers, Val Kilmer, and a killer moustache.
Arthur became president the year Alexander Graham Bell perfected the first metal detector. This was a step up for the beleaguered Bell, whose previous attempts tried to locate the bullet lodged in Garfield’s (the president, not the cat) body.
To give you an idea how well that worked out, Chester Arthur and his whiskers became president.
President Arthur was especially opposed to the Spoils System. This was even after he was informed by his cabinet that it had nothing to do with milk being left out overnight.
A champion of Civil Service reform, because he wanted to avoid “another Civil War” at all costs, Arthur is regarded as the “Father of the Civil Service and Union-Mandated Ten Minute Coffee Break.”
Not content with remaining somnambulant on the domestic front, he furthered his nation’s foreign policy outreach, also known as “talking to fuzzy-cheeked foreigners who smelled like cabbage.” During his administration, the United States established formal diplomatic relations with Korea (thus discovering Ping Pong), organized the Alaskan territory (it was a mess), and continued the process by which land was stolen from Native-Americans and millions of buffalo were slaughtered by drunks hanging from the windows of passing trains.
Shockingly, he was denied nomination of his party for the presidential election of 1884. Evidently, party bigwigs weren’t terribly impressed with neither his record nor his campaign slogan of “Wait Until You Get a Load of Joe Biden.”
Instead, they gave the nomination to someone whose name escapes me, but, honestly, who cares? Whoever he was, he was defeated by the Democrat candidate for the presidency.
Yes, Grover Cleveland became the 22nd President of the United States primarily on the strength of HIS slogan: “I May Be Fat as a House, But I Ain’t No Chester Arthur.”
Hmm, maybe next year I’ll choose Benjamin Harrison.