Kelly Janowski 0000-00-00 00:00:00
It’s the time of year where we thank our dads for the endless hours of catch, the lessons in changing a flat tire and the mysterious answer to why the downstairs toilet won’t stop running. While we take time to give our dads a big thank you, it’s possible we all have a Lion to thank for Father’s Day. According to multiple Web sites, Harry Meek, the president of the Chicago Lions Club, celebrated the first Father’s Day in 1915 with Lions. He wanted to create a day that commemorated the contributions of fathers and chose the date closest to his own birthday for the holiday. As the story goes, to show its appreciation for this act, the Lions Clubs of America presented him with a gold watch inscribed with the phrase “The Originator of Father’s Day” on his birthday of June 20, 1920. You’ll find this story on www.Fathersdaycelebration .com and many other Web sites. At first glance, the tale seems plausible because of Lions’ close association with families and communities. But is it true? The LION Magazine set out to determine the accuracy of the Meek story. A search of our database at international headquarters showed no record of a Harry Meek. That isn’t surprising since records from that era can be spotty, and some details from the Father’s Day story may have changed through the course of time. The International Association of Lions Clubs did not officially form until 1917, two years after the holiday supposedly began. Yet dozens of Lions clubs were operating in 1915. One of the oldest clubs, the Chicago Central Lions Club, dates back more than 100 years. Lions Clubs International founder Melvin Jones was a member of the club and was its president in the early days of Lions. Much of the club’s records were lost in the ‘40s, but secretary Richard Carlson has notations about the club’s presidents since 1908. According to his records, Meek was not the club’s president, which conflicts with the story presented on several Web sites. “There could have been another organization called Lions of America,” Carlson said. Indeed, before chartering with the Lions, the Chicago Central Lions Club was known as Chicago Business Circle. It’s possible that Meek was part of another Chicago-based club with a similar name. Next, we searched old editions of LION Magazine, which date back to November of 1918. If the Lions did present such a lavish gift to Meek, one would think it would have been featured in a magazine. But the story, as well as Meek, is not mentioned. Even books detailing the history of Lions made no mention of Meek. One of the book’s authors, Robert Kleinfelder, the former longtime editor of the LION, said the story doesn’t ring a bell. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the tale was fabricated. In fact, American folklore expert, author and professor Linda S. Watts of the University of Washington said any number of stories about the origin of Father’s Day could be simultaneously true. “There were efforts at several locations at about the turn of the century to declare a day that honored fathers because Mother’s Day was already in place,” Watts said. “It is very difficult to try and tease out the absolute origins of these holidays.” In any case, it’s one of many such stories kept alive by the continuous recounting of the tale, and more recently, the proliferation of chain e-mails and easy-tobuild Web sites. “I think that there can be several forces at work — one is the power of storytellers,” Watts said. “They can take liberties that are taken literally. You can even hear them tell the story several times and it will get a little bit bigger each time.” “I find it interesting that yet another thing is attributed to the Lions. That would be great if we did in fact start something like that.” As could be the case with this story, Watts said that often when a tale is heard that seems credible and is in line with a person’s beliefs, it is retold again and continues to grow. Because of Lions’ reputation as an organization that embraces families and recognized people for the altruistic work they do every day, it’s not surprising that listeners would lend the story credence. “If there’s a story that’s compelling that taps into fears or common emotions or interest and it just gets retold, not by formal storytellers but by those who have heard it, it moves like a game of telephone,” Watts said. “It’s very difficult sometimes to tell where an urban legend truly began because the origin point is obscured by the many times and tellers.” Ed O’Farrell, the president of the Chicago Central Lions Club, said he hadn’t heard the tale before. “Anything’s believable; in the past somebody had to found all of this stuff, it didn’t just turn up over night,” O’Farrell said. “I find it interesting that yet another thing is attributed to the Lions. That would be great if we did in fact start something like that. We could use all the press we can get.” So just as Chicagoland is home to tall tales such as Resurrection Mary, Lions may be the recipient of a fabulous fable about the origin of Father’s Day. Or the truth may be stranger than fiction.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/Did+A+Lion+Begin+Father%27s+Day/394605/38189/article.html.