We find that it was not uncommon for our ancestors to have large families many years ago due to many reasons. The lifestyle was very different in the early days of settling Rhea and other counties; farming was the primary occupation of the time, mainly to feed one’s family and for selling crops. The mercantile business was the secondary vocation, with trapping and tanning hides next. These families had “built-in” help with their children, in that the girls could help with housework and other light chores and the boys would work outdoors with the farm work and animals. Even though there was no celebration of Father’s Day, the family unit appreciated and depended upon the father as the head of the household and the provider for the family. Children were disciplined with “tough love” during those early times, and did not get everything they wanted because only the very wealthy could afford the luxury items. As a result, the family members worked together and relied upon one another for everything they had.

Many movies and television shows have been made relating to the role of a father in the lives of his family. Perhaps one of the best loved shows was Father Knows Best, which actually began as a radio program. According to research, the series began in August of 1949 on NBC Radio, and starred Robert Young as the General Insurance agent Jim Anderson. Margaret, his wife, was first played by June Whitley, and later by Jean Vander Pyl. The Anderson children were Betty (Rhonda Williams), Bud (Ted Donaldson) and Kathy (Norma Jean Nillson). This radio series was heard on Thursday nights until March, 1954.

In May of 1954, an episode of The Ford Television Theatre show called “Keep It in the Family” was shown, starring Robert Young as Jim Warren, head of the Warren Family. This show was developed by Young and his partner, Eugene Rodney, and was intended to be a pilot for a Father Knows Best television series.

When the series moved to CBS Television and began on October 3, 1954, Robert Young was the only radio cast member who remained. The cast included Robert Young as James Anderson, Sr., Jane Wyatt as Margaret Anderson, Elinor Donahue as Betty Anderson, Billy Gray as James Anderson, Jr. and Lauren Chapin as Kathy Anderson. This series moved to NBC in the fall of 1955, then back to CBS in September of 1958, and ran through 1960. Two hundred and three episodes were produced, which ran until September 17, 1960, and were shown on all three of the television networks at that time, including repeats from September of 1960 through April of 1963.

Father Knows Best became one of the best loved television series, and was winner of six Emmy Awards and a “Top 10” hit in Neilsen Ratings. People could identify with the characters and situations of the show; that is, the raising of three children with all the problems of life facing them in growing up. The character Jim Anderson played was of a responsible parent who loved his wife and children, and would do whatever he could to give them a better life. He was the type of father who would do a paper route in the rain for his son, if needed. Also, he would choose to see his younger daughter in a school program rather than attend an important Chamber of Commerce dinner. He was the kind of father who was not afraid to talk to his older daughter about boys and dating, and any other questions she might have. Jim Anderson’s character was that of a father who gave good advice to any of his children who might need it, and still love enough to select the right punishment for whatever they had done wrong.

According to research, Father’s Day is a special time to honor our fathers, both living and dead. The first Father’s Day was celebrated on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia. It was also observed the same year on June nineteenth in the state of Washington, and it is commemorated today on the third Sunday in June.

Grace Golden Clayton is thought to have suggested the celebration to her pastor as a church service at Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, (now known as Central United Methodist Church) in order to celebrate after a deadly mine explosion in 1907. This catastrophe occurred in a town nearby, which was called Monongah, killing three hundred and sixty-one men, many of whom were fathers and recent immigrants to the United States from Italy. Also, more inspiration for this service was Mothers Day, which had been celebrated for the first time in a town approximately fifteen miles away (Grafton, West Virginia) two months previously.

Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd is the person who is actually given credit for Father’s Day celebrations. Mrs. Dodd’s father, William Jackson Smart, was a Civil War veteran and a single parent who raised his six children in Spokane, Washington. His daughter wanted to honor him, and suggested June 5, which was her father’s birthday, as a celebration. However, there was not enough time for the organizers to make arrangements, so the celebration was held on the third Sunday of June. Therefore, the first June Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910 at the YMCA in Spokane.

After 1910, Father’s Day was well on its way to becoming a real holiday! President Woodrow Wilson’s family honored him in 1916, and it was recommended as a national holiday in 1924 by President Calvin Coolidge. President Lyndon Johnson made Father’s Day a holiday to be celebrated on the third Sunday of June, but it was not officially recognized until 1972 during President Richard Nixon’s term.

Roses are supposed to be the official flower on Father’s Day; red for living fathers, and white for those no longer living. I’m sure this was probably borrowed from Mothers Day, which has white flowers for a person with a mother no longer living and red flowers for a person with a living mother.

Most children meet their fathers while they are still babies. They hear a masculine voice and feel strong arms around them, which will affect the way a baby will feel about people when growing up. A “father” figure is very important for a child’s mental, spiritual, and emotional growth; a father’s influence and guidance is a wonderful and beautiful thing for a child. And it is also Biblical. The father is supposed to be the head of the house, directly responsible to God, and the caretaker of his family. Maybe more fathers today should look to the Bible, their ancestors, and the fictitious character of Jim Anderson for advice on being the right kind of father. Remember to study the past in order to live in the present and prepare for the future.

Pat Guffey can be reached at pat459@charter.net