Over the years, public officials of all kinds have designated particular days to honor people or concepts noteworthy enough for official recognition, but not famous or comprehensive enough to be given longer periods of reflection, such as a week or a month. The more than three dozen mayors that have led our city since its incorporation have certainly been no exception. Nearly every date on the calendar has at one time or another been assigned by the city’s top executive for reflection on outstanding contributions to the general welfare made by individual citizens, groups, locally manufactured products, or locally originated ideas.
The ceremonies associated with these declarations are publicized for a few days surrounding both their announcement and their observance, but most are as quickly forgotten. And all too often the motivation behind such acknowledgment is also lost in the currents, eddies and backwater pools of history. Lest they be forgotten entirely, here are just a few ‘declared days’ in the city’s history:
January 4, 1912- TransAtlantic Travel Day
This day was specifically intended to honor the Emerald Sky Line, which ran a fleet of passenger liners from Keets Harbor to cities in Europe and South America in the early part of the 20th Century. Though this company was bankrupt by 1919, at its height it was the second largest non-manufacturing employer in the city, and its largest ship (the world’s seventh largest), the Colossus, briefly held the record for fastest intercontinental passage.
February 9, 1927- Hugo Chandler, IV Day
Chandler was the head of Security Fidelity Bank, the city’s largest investor in real estate development in the 1920s. At 787 feet, the Chandler Building, completed in 1932, was the tallest structure in the city. It retained the title until 1970 and still ranks as third tallest today. Sadly, Hugo Chandler IV did not live to see his tower completed, having passed away under tragic circumstances at the city’s fifth tallest building on October 29, 1929.
March 10, 1975- Lucky Stone Day
Eastside entrepreneur Jason Simmons put a piece of granite in a plastic tube, and the rest is local retail history. Sixteen thousand flew off the shelves in the first month of 1975, leaving local government officials scrambling to associate themselves with the budding phenomenon. By the end of the year, however, the fad had abated – though Simmons could still occasionally be seen hanging around Wedgewood Park, trying to peddle the last few units, until as recently as 1998. Over the past several years he made a fortune on the auction site eBay, and last September relocated to Aruba.
April 1, 1954- Spanky Spellman Day
Spanky was the first big local television celebrity, with his locally produced Saturday morning show Spanky’s Palace, featuring ‘tough guys’ Wrangler Willy and Jehosophat Johnson, and goofy sidekick, Li’l Peter. Fans were stunned when his contract was not renewed for the 1955 season, for undisclosed reasons. Bruce ‘Spanky’ Spellman passed away in 1986 at the age of 67.
May 1, 1991- Thomas Trenton Day
Lieutenant Colonel Trenton was lauded for his bravery as the pilot who flew the most sorties over Iraq during the Gulf War. He was briefly suspected in the accidental bombing of an Iraqi oil tanker which set off one of the largest crude oil spills in history, but after a thorough investigation he was cleared by military officials, and promoted to full Colonel just prior to his ceremonial day. He later served as an Assistant Undersecretary of the Air Force from 2001 until resigning the post in February 2003.
- D. Andrews