Entering “This Day In History” into the Google search box returns over two billion results. If all days were created equally, that would average almost 5,500 hits per day, with each site listing multiple events. Could anyone really read a list this long? Would anyone really care?
Take May First, otherwise known as May Day, a day that conjures images of spring sunshine, the sweet fragrance of flower blossoms, girls in white dresses with ribbons in their shining tresses, and long streamers from the ubiquitous maypoles. The celebration of May Day takes place in hundreds of towns, villages, and school yards across the United States.
But just in case it’s raining this May Day or you live in an urban condo with no fresh green grass or your child has come down sick and can’t dance around the maypole, perhaps you’d like to have your own reason to celebrate May 1st. Try out one of these causes célèbre.
May 1, 1926 – Weekends. Ford factory workers get a 40-hour work week. Henry Ford was forward thinking in his treatment of the Ford Motor Company employees. Already doubling the standard day’s wage from $2.34 to $5.00 a day in 1914 and reducing the work-week from 6 days to 5 in 1922, Ford adopted the 5-day, 40-hour work-week in 1926. In years following, other companies followed his lead. However, workers were expected to be more productive during the shorter work week. So, while you celebrate May 1st for the wonder of weekends, remember that you also have to do more with less the rest of the week.
May 1, 1962 – Discount shopping. My personal favorite. The first Target store opens in Roseville, Minn. If you happen to live in an un-Targeted area, then May 1st could be one of many uncelebrated days.
May 1, 1967 – The King. Elvis Presley marries Priscilla in Las Vegas. Although it lasted only six years, the joining of Elvis and Priscilla lives on as one of the famous royal weddings. Celebrate May 1st by putting on some really good rock ‘n roll – “Blue Suede Shoes,” “All Shook Up,” or “Unchained Melody,” to name only three of 756 The King recorded.
May 1, 1884 – Tall buildings! The Home Insurance Company building begins on May 1, 1884, the first building to carry its entire weight on a steel frame. Tall buildings had traditionally been built of stone or cast iron, both unsuitable for stability or large windows. An 1896 investigation by The Engineering Record declared that in spite of patents and innovations in other states and countries, that the building’s engineer, William Jenney, did in fact design and erect the world’s first skyscraper.
May 1, 1931 – King Kong. The same year that the Home Insurance Building was torn down, the Empire State Building opened in New York City. At 102 stories, it would be the world’s tallest building for the next 41 years. The movie King Kong was released in 1933, picturing the giant ape holding a beautiful woman and swatting airplanes from atop this skyscraper. Fix popcorn and watch the original or any of the Kong’s sequels and remakes to celebrate great buildings and great movies.
May 1, 1918 – Late night TV. May 1, 1918, is Jack Paar’s birthday. Although no longer a household name, Paar revolutionized the Tonight Show and with it, all late-night TV. Jack hosted the show called only “Tonight” on NBC in 1957. Up until then, late-night TV had consisted of variety hours or news, but Paar’s introduction of celebrity guests, witty interviews, and frank commentary on current events set a new standard hugely popular with TV viewers. Johnny Carson stepped into Paar’s shoes in 1962, followed by other great late-night hosts. Take your pick from David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Fallon, or others, and ring out May 1st by staying up till midnight – or later.
With so many ways to celebrate May 1st without ever leaving your home, why would anyone need a maypole. Enjoy this famous day in history your way. If you want the frivolity to last longer, enter “May 2nd” into your favorite search engine and begin celebrating all over again.
By Carla Beasley