As we saw yesterday from a simple commentary included in a church bulletin from the 1940s, Father’s Day was seen and celebrated in a much different manner than it is now. Oh, the concept of setting aside time to celebrate the Dad in the family still remains a constant, but the sentiments expressed—and the manner in which they were delivered—seem so much a part of a different world.
And it was a different world. It was during and just after World War II—an experience that shook both men and nations to their foundations, with profound effects upon family structures as a whole.
Just the simple thought expressed in a card can illustrate that. I discovered a Father’s Day card tucked away in the stash of papers saved by Agnes Tully Stevens. It was a red-white-and-blue festooned note, with an actual ribbon of those same colors woven into the card stock at the top of the page. Though odd for a Father’s Day remembrance, it was, after all, delivered to Will Stevens during the war—in fact, just after his son Frank’s month-long leave from the Navy and just before he was assigned to the Pacific arena in July, 1944. Two crossed flags underscore the words, “A Father’s Day Tribute.” My father-in-law’s familiar inscription to his dad, “To the Auld Won,” seemed jauntily out of place for both the military décor and the syrupy poetry to which we’ve grown accustomed for such occasions, the only detour from the proper ambience conjured for the occasion.
Deftly focusing on the recipient, the two stanzas enclosed within the card focus not on things to be given, but the person himself. Despite the materialism and all that we’ve accumulated over the years since that wartime era, isn’t that really what the celebration is all about? May we honor—or remember—the person and not just the things that we choose to purchase to perpetuate his persona.
To you life is a magic cup
That overflows with zest,
And time again you share its gifts
That others may be blest.
Now let the cup be passed to you,
And others make the toast,
For you who make an art of life
Deserve the tribute most!