weird and wacky holidays happening in June

June 27 is Happy Birthday to You Day

happy birthday to you dayToday is Happy Birthday to You Day. On this date in 1893, teachers (and sisters) Mildred and Patty Hill composed a tune and lyrics for kindergarten students to sing before starting their school day. It was called “Good Morning to All” and used the music we now recognize as “Happy Birthday to You.”

Good morning to you,
Good morning to you,
Good morning dear children
Good morning to all.

It was published that year in Song Stories for the Kindergarten. A few years later the lyrics were modified and the first note split to reflect the two syllables of Happy. Copyrights for that second version have been sold many times over the years. Many have complained that a song almost 125 years old should be in the public domain.

In 1996, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the industry’s main professional guild, sent letters to 6,000 Girl Scout camps demanding payment of fees for the singing of “Happy Birthday to You,” and “God Bless America,” among others. ASCAP’s director of licensing later apologized, saying, “What we were really chasing here…was going after the summer camps that are really like sending your kids to a resort.”

On August 5, 2013, scientists sent special instructions to the Mars Rover Curiosity’s surface sampling device. The apparatus, which employs a sound transducer at the business end to help it more easily penetrate a variety of soils and clays, audibly “hummed” Happy Birthday to You in celebration of its first year on the surface of a planet an average of 140 million miles away from Earth. NASA paid a royalty fee.

Fights over the validity of copyrights continued until June 27, 2016, when a judge affirmed a $14 million class-action judgment against Warner/Chappell Music, which had purchased the copyright in 1988. Poetic justice? Perhaps. Estimates that the company has made at least $2 million in fees per year since acquiring it rendered the penalty more poetic than just.

At least, we can all sing happy birthday without having to pay a toll. But what about this other schoolyard favorite:

Happy birthday to you,
You live in a zoo,
You look like a monkey
You act like one too.

That one might cost you.

Copyright © 2018 Worldwide Weird Holidays

June 26 is Barcode Day

barcode day

Today is Barcode Day. On June 26, 1974, at Marsh’s Supermarket in Troy, OH, a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum became the first product bearing a barcode to be rung up by an electronic scanner.

That historic moment had been a long time coming. In 1952, American inventors Norman J. Woodland and Bernard Silver were granted a U.S. patent for a classification method and apparatus utilizing identifying patterns. Diagrams showed code in straight lines and concentric circles with varying degrees of reflectiveness. Unfortunately, they were ahead of their time and eventually sold off the patent for $15,000.

Railroads began to use bar codes in the late 1960s; companies encoded identifying information onto plates mounted on the sides of each car. Trackside scanners read them and transmitted the results so owners could keep track of their rolling stock on a grand scale.

As usage spread,  the establishment of a universal standard became imperative to avoid confusion between disparate systems.  In 1970, a company called Logicon, Inc. created the Universal Grocery Products Identification Code (UGPIC) for use throughout the retail industry.

The UGPIC evolved into the Universal Product Code (UPC) symbol set, still used in the U.S. today. The first piece of equipment built to use UPC was installed in the Troy, OH, grocery store which, along with that pack of gum, made history.

barcode day

visual approximation

In 2002, Forbes magazine reported that the same pack of gum was on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History. While the scanner is housed there—no longer on view—a staffer has clarified that the 10-pack of Juicy Fruit accompanying it is not the 10-pack of Juicy Fruit, just a representation.

Our guess is that the gum was chewed over 40 years ago without a thought to its cultural significance, which is okay if you think about it. It served its purpose, maybe even got stuck to more than a few shoes—it had 50 sticks in it, after all.

Happy Barcode Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

June 23 is Pink Flamingo Day

pink flamingo day

Today is Pink Flamingo Day, founded on June 23, 2007, by Mayor Dean Mazzarella of Leominster, MA, to honor the 50th birthday of the iconic lawn ornament.

In 1957, art school grad Don Featherstone was tasked with creating a pink flamingo for his employer, Union Products, located in Leominster, often called the Plastics Capital of the World. Using National Geographic photographs as reference material, Featherstone sculpted two pink flamingos. They were meant to be a festive way for homeowners to personalize the identical yards of postwar suburban subdivisions.

Featherstone would go on to create 750 items for Union Products and become the company’s president in 1996. His flamingos were popular but eventually became a target of derision, a symbol of tackiness. Many fans remained defiantly loyal, while neighborhood associations plotted their extinction.

No history would be complete without the mention of John Waters and his 1972 movie, Pink Flamingos. An enthusiastic proponent of all things kitsch, camp and lowbrow, Waters helped bring the decoration to a new audience, one that reveled in irony. It’s clear that pink flamingos continued to sell. So many knockoffs were produced that in the late 1980s, Featherstone added his signature to the molds to identify the real thing.

Featherstone retired in 2000. Union Products closed its doors in 2006, after producing more than 20 million flamingos. Cado Company in Fitchburg, MA, bought the rights a few years later and now manufactures birds with the inventor’s signature on the bottom.

Featherstone passed away on June 22, 2015, at the age of 79, one day shy of the 28th annual Pink Flamingo Day. Claude Chapdelaine, VP at Cado, told Boston Magazine,: “He was just a really nice guy, never took himself seriously. Throughout his career, he made all kinds of lawn and garden ornaments. A lot of people referred to them as being kind of kitsch. He said ‘You know what? It makes people laugh and brings a smile to everybody’s face’ and that’s what he liked.”

Bring a smile to everybody’s face today by planting some pink flamingos of your own. If you have some already, display them prominently—no hiding them behind shrubbery allowed. Even if the closest thing you have to a yard is a plant on your windowsill, there’s always room for these Lilliputian versions.

pink flamingo day

Happy Pink Flamingo Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

June 22 is National Onion Ring Day

national onion ring dayToday is National Onion Ring Day.

The first known iteration of the onion ring appeared in the 1802 cookbook “The Art of Cookery.” The recipe for Fried Onions with Parmesan Cheese called for onions to be sliced into 1/2 inch rings, dredged in a batter of flour, cream, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese, then deep fried in boiling lard.

For recipes and more information about onions than you might ever want to know, read the National Onion Association’s blog, written by the mononymous “Onionista.” There you will also find a video demonstrating how to cut onions in a way that will elicit fewer tears.

Have a happy, dry-eyed National Onion Ring Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays