Hail to relief - Presidents Day offers chance to shop, relax

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

and Heather Kronmueller ~ Southeast Missourian

On Valentine's Day, people love. On Memorial Day, people remember. On Christmas, people give.

But on Presidents Day, people shop.

Instead of mulling over important presidential trivia like who was the first U.S. president to live in the White House -- it was John Adams -- or who was the first president to receive a patent -- that was Abraham Lincoln -- many Americans spent their day buying things.

Local department stores, normally quiet on a Monday afternoon, were crowded with shoppers who were probably too busy bargain hunting to ponder which president never attended school -- Andrew Johnson -- or who was the only president to never have a dog in the White House -- Missouri's own Harry S. Truman.

These people, knowingly or not, were likely doing something than any president could appreciate -- bolstering the local economy.

"We are very busy on Presidents Day," said Donna Miller, a JCPenney manager. "We have big sales and everybody's out shopping. It's always a big day for us."

'A bonus day off'

Regardless, 20 percent off shirts probably wasn't the intent of the original holiday more than 200 years ago.

The holiday was supposed to be a day to celebrate George Washington's birthday, but has since been expanded to honor all 43 men who have served as commander in chief.

But those who are lucky enough to have the day off -- mainly teachers, students, government employees and bank workers -- seem most likely to use the day shopping or relaxing.

Miller said some people are bothered by the fact they have to work on the day, but she has worked on the holiday for 25 years and it hasn't bothered her at all. "It's just another day," she said.

"We didn't think much about Presidents Day," said Kim Duncan of Poplar Bluff, who spent Monday afternoon helping her daughter shop for prom shoes. "Most people probably go shopping or spring cleaning. It's just a bonus day off."

Lana Andrews couldn't wait for Presidents Day so that she could enjoy a day off work. The Cape Girardeau teacher said she's been praying for a snow day since January because she needed a restful day.

"During the weekend, there's stuff that you have to get done," she said. "On snow days you get to rest."

Andrews didn't get her snow day, but she did get a holiday, which she said was close enough. As she sat at Capaha Park reading a magazine, her 4-year-old son ran and jumped on the playground.

Lorie Robert of Scott City, Mo., chose to spend the day with her children and dog at the park as well. She said they were going to stay home, but since the weather so nice they decided to go to the park instead.

"A lot of people shop because of the sales," Robert said. "If I didn't have the kids with me I'd be shopping, too."

Melanie Hurt of Wyatt, Mo., shuffled through racks of clothing with her daughter Sarah.

As Hurt held a nightgown up to her daughter to check if it was the right size she said most people probably spend the day at home with their families.

"I saw it as a chance to spend some time with my daughter," she said.

Talked about presidents

Some people saw the significance of the day, however.

"I talked about it with my kids, why we're off school," said Valerie Stueve of Frohna, Mo. "I told them how it's Abraham Lincoln and George Washington's birthdays."

Kelly Bryant of Benton, Mo., agreed.

"It's not a day to sit and contemplate things all day," she said. "But we should at least think about the country and how much respect we should have for the president."

Bryant did admit she couldn't resist shopping.

"Hey, there are big sales," she said.

For some people who had to punch the clock though, the day didn't feel like much of a holiday at all.

JCPenney worker Scott Ferguson said people fall into two categories when it comes to Presidents Day: "There are people like us who work, and people who work for the government, who go shopping," he said.

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

hkronmueller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 128

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: