Honest, Abe, I cannot tell a lie (most of the time)
When it comes to February's original presidential holidays, I am at a kind of awkward age.
I am not old enough that I was able to vote for George Washington or Abraham Lincoln (although I would have given them a vote if I had a chance.)
On the other hand, I am old enough to recall the "Father of Our Country" and "Honest Abe" before the days when they began selling used cars and major appliances in Presidents' Day sale commercials.
Of course, my younger years were spent before someone came up with the idea of creating Monday holidays. The May 30, also known as Memorial Day, really did occur on May 30.
Kids of today don't miss out on much, but they only get one holiday when we used to get two. Often, they even don't even get a day off for Presidents' Day because it is used to make up a school days lost because of snow.
BPD (Before Presidents' Day), school kids got to celebrate Abraham Lincoln's birthday on Feb. 12 and George Washington's birthday on Feb. 22.
(Actually, the federal government still calls the third Monday of February Washington's birthday, but, as usual, most people ignore the federal government and think of it as Presidents' Day.)
Actually, every day was Washington Day at my elementary school, which was named after our nation's first president. In addition to his military successes, George was also the only president who did not blame his problems on the guy before him.
Every classroom was adorned with a print of Gilbert Stuart's famous unfinished portrait of George Washington. That image has been reproduced countless times. Just imagine how many more copies could have been sold if Stuart had finished the painting.
Actually, George got off rather well in having a school named after him. The rest of the presidents who had schools named after them in our town had to be assassinated first - Lincoln, James Garfield and William McKinley.
Both Lincoln's and Washington's special days were commemorated in the same ways as were other big occasions in elementary school.
The itinerant music teacher, who, armed only with a pitch pipe, visited all the elementary schools' classrooms to lead the kids in singing songs appropriate for the occasion.
For the life of me, though, I cannot remember a single song about either George or Abe. However, I usually try to forget anything which involves my lousy singing voice, so I am not saying whatever we sang was all that bad.
Memories I have not been able to successfully block include the other way of commemorating holidays - art projects.
If anything, my artistic talent is worse than my singing voice. As I recall, it was pretty hard to mess up a presidential art project, but it was easy for me.
The traveling art teacher would arrive with silhouettes of Washington and Lincoln.
They would be passed among the students so all we had to do was to trace the silhouette on red or blue construction with our trusty No. 2 pencils and then use the rounded-tip scissors to cut out our image.
Most of the cut-out presidents bore a resemblance to Abe or George. Mine were notable exceptions. By the time I got done mutilating the construction paper with my scissors, the results looked like a red and a blue jack-'o-lantern.
Oddly enough, when I tried to cut out jack-o'-lanterns for a Halloween art project, I wound up with an orange silhouette of Abraham Lincoln's profile.
The "folk tales" about each president were also a part of the holiday. We kids never suspected that it was part of a plot by adults to teach us life lessons.
Every year, we would hear about little George Washington, his hatchet and an innocent cherry tree. When Georgie's Dad asked who had cut down the tree, the lad would reply, "I cannot tell a lie. I did."
My friend Ignatz whispered what I thought was a better answer. "George should have hidden the hatchet and blamed the tree on a gang of beavers with bad attitudes."
Abe's most frequently told story involved him walking 20 miles to and from Springfield to borrow and return a book.
Ignatz had a better solution to that situation, as well. "Lincoln should have forgotten about the book and just waited until the movie came out."
Although I think Lincoln was our best president, Washington was my favorite when I was in school. My choice was based on food and not on his policies.
Miss Frumpwaggle always brought in cupcakes with each one decorated with a single cherry atop the icing.
Looking at the Presidents' Day holiday philosophically, I suppose it may be just as well that Washington and Lincoln aren't celebrated as they were.
Young people today would be more likely to believe the hatchet and cherry tree story than there were two politicians known for their honesty.
(Walter Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)