Although the month of June is named for the Roman goddess Juno bringing good luck to marriages that today makes it a favorite time for marrying, other quite noteworthy occasions this month include the first day of summer on Friday, June 21, as well as Juneteenth celebrating the abolition of slavery around Wednesday, June 19 and Father’s Day to honor dads on Sunday, June 16.
So, June gives us the opportunity to revel in a range of activities — from graduations to a myriad of jubilees — and simply forget about the “riff-raff,” as my late dad used to say.
In fact, how could I ever forget anxiously waiting to burst out of the doors of the local schools I attended as a kid in Cheltenham, Germantown and even Philly’s Center City on the last day of class before summer break — generally in mid-June?
After all, there were forthcoming trips to the Steel Pier amusement park in Atlantic City, as well as nearby Willow Grove Park where the mall of that name rests today, places we soared on roller coasters, ate so much pink, sticky cotton candy and mustard-saturated hot dogs galore, as well as flirted with the “chicks” as we moved into our teens.
Yes, those were the times when a “Stoned Soul Picnic,” as the hit group The 5th Dimension would sing, was rocking as we in Fairmount Park knocked off well-seasoned potato salad, tangy barbecue spareribs, juicy home-cooked fried chicken and much more, as well as even attended an array of street fairs.
In nearby Germantown, for instance, one of my upcoming favorites is the Philadelphia Juneteenth Festival scheduled for Saturday, June 15 from noon to 6 p.m., centering on the Johnson House Historic Site in the 6300 block of Germantown Avenue that served as a major stop on the Underground Railroad, a system that secretly harbored and shuttled runaway slaves.
Held on Germantown Avenue between Washington Lane and Johnson Street, the event will feature arts and crafts, food, historical presentations and reenactors, including the 3rd United States Colored Troops (USCT) that was based during the Civil War (1861-1865) at Camp William Penn in what’s today Cheltenham Township.
Juneteenth pays tribute to when such troops informed slaves in Galveston, Texas, that they were free — even after local slaveholders there illegally held them in bondage following the war.
With the celebration reignited in the Philadelphia area and state by the likes of Ronald Brown, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Juneteenth Coalition, Juneteenth has been hailed as being the oldest celebration marking the end of slavery in the United States.
Several other important Juneteenth celebrations will also be hosted in the region, so keep your eyeballs open for them.
Meanwhile, we dads have much to relish when Father’s Day cruises in on Sunday, June 16. But first, we should thank the daughter of a Civil War veteran, Sonora Smart Dodd, for advocating that first celebration on June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington.
Commemorated on the third Sunday in June, Father’s Day honors dads that started with her pop, William Jackson Smart, the “father of 14 children, one of whom dedicated her life to the creation of Father’s Day in honor of her devoted and selfless dad,” notes Dave Roos for the www.history.com’s article, “The Man Who Inspired Father’s Day Was a Single Dad and a Civil War Vet.”
Sonora remembered her dad “as a 'great home person,' a man who exemplified fatherly love and protection,” wrote Roos.
Really, I can’t help but think of my own father, Dr. Henry Scott, M.D., who died in 2008, with similar qualities, accentuated with immense intelligence and humor. I remember not long before dad expired, insisting that he did not want to be cremated simply because there was no sense in “being burned twice,” jokingly implying that after all he was already headed to Satan’s underworld.
There was no way that a man so good and God-fearing, in my book, could ever end up in such a place.
Simply put, my dad certainly never did tolerate or accept “riff-raff.”