Feature Contributors

Column: George Washington, first in the hearts of his countrymen

Dear readers,

Monday, we celebrate George Washington’s birthday. It is a day set aside as a federal holiday to remember the father of our country. In the words of Major General Henry Lee, George Washington was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

The millennials reading my column are already busy fact-checking me.  They, and probably many of you, mistakenly believe Monday is President’s Day. If you must fact-check me today, be sure to read some of the longer articles about how Washington’s birthday became President’s Day. From the information on the Walmart flyer to some articles online, there’s a lot of fake news floating around in the ether.

I got my facts about George Washington and this federal holiday from three trusted sources, Saturday morning cartoons, teachers in school and personal knowledge.

Every Saturday morning when I was a boy, I woke up early to watch cartoons. This was long before the pups of Paw Patrol were busy keeping Adventure Bay safe.

I watched Hector Heathcote. Hector was a drummer boy during the American Revolution. Hector was busy helping George Washington defeat the British. 

 

 

I next learned all about George Washington in school from grade school teachers Miss Ford, Miss Lyles and Mrs. McNamara. An unfinished portrait of George Washington was on display in most classrooms.  Later at Shelbyville High School, I learned more from history teacher Mr. Hinshaw. 

In grade school, I learned how Washington once took his hatchet and chopped down a cherry tree. When his dad discovered the downed tree, he became angry. 

Who chopped down the cherry tree he yelled? George famously said, “Father, I cannot tell a lie, I chopped down the tree.” 

George grew up both honest and strong. I always thought that all that chopping probably helped develop his arm muscles. One of Washington’s well-known feats of strength was his ability to throw a silver dollar across the Potomac River.

George Washington was the most important figure in American history.  Many cities, counties and streets are named in his honor, including our nation’s capital. Washington was the victorious general of the American revolution and our first president. I learned the historical facts from Mr. Hinshaw in U.S. history class.

I have personal knowledge about how the confusion concerning the federal holiday came about. I was in high school at the time. Richard Nixon was president and the Uniform Monday Holiday Act moved holidays to Monday.

It was popular. Let’s face it, who doesn’t like a three-day weekend?  Answer: Veterans 

In 1971there were still a lot of people left over from the 19th century walking around. The old-timers hadn’t forgotten why Nov. 11 was a sacred day. Many of them got their fountain pens out and wrote angry letters to Congress. Veterans Day was soon returned to Nov. 11 where it belonged.

Unfortunately, no 18th century people were around to sharpen their quills and write angry letters to Congress. The order was signed by President Nixon and still the law today named the holiday to be celebrated on the third Monday in February, Washington’s birthday. 

A million advertising flyers later, Washington’s birthday has morphed into President’s Day, a day to get a good deal on a new mattress. So it goes.

As Paul Harvey always said, “now you know the rest of the story.”

See you all next week, same Schwinn time, same Schwinn channel.

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