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A Healthier Nation Via . . . Bathtub Party Day

COLUMN ONE

A Pennsylvania couple has an offbeat hobby--creating wacky holidays. Dozens of their creations have earned recognition, and have perhaps helped the country lighten up a little.

November 19, 1996|RICHARD E. MEYER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MOUNT GRETNA, Pa. — Tell everyone you meet today to have a bad day.

This is Have a Bad Day Day.

These 24 hours are set aside for all who shiver with revulsion at being told, yet again, to have a good day. Your kindly words will be a welcome respite.

Then on Nov. 30, a Saturday this year, if it happens that you have to work, stay at home. It is Stay Home Because You're Well Day. Do not fake illness and phone in sick. Call in well and take the day off.

Later, in the cold heart of winter, on Feb. 20, to be exact, walk humbly out into your front yard at high noon, wave a beach blanket at the sun and yell: "Hoodie-Hoo! Hoodie-Hoo!" It is Northern Hemisphere Hoodie-Hoo Day. This is the day and the way to ask warm weather to return.

"We guarantee that it will," says Tom Roy, with a wink in his voice. "And you know what? It always has."

Roy and his wife, Ruth, have created these holidays, along with at least 37 other special observances, celebrated across the country. They are listed, soberly and with majestic prestige, in Chase's 1997 Calendar of Events, the nation's annual bible of extraordinary occasions.

Chase's is America's foremost authority on special days and events. It is consulted by officials and plain folks from Washington to Topeka to Hollywood, for its listing of presidential proclamations, the date of the Kansas State Barbecue Championship, or the selection of movies placed on the National Film Registry. It is the most complete compendium of such things available.

Most of the holidays and events proclaimed in this 752-page omnibus are serious: Labor Day, Veterans Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day. But then there are the special celebrations originated over the last 10 years by the Roys, 51 and 45, an actor and a writer, respectively, who live with their son, Michael, 5 1/2, and two cats in Mount Gretna, Pa.

Susan Schwartz, a senior editor at Contemporary Books, which publishes Chase's, says its editors "decided it would be fun to have their entries." There are other zany contributors, but perhaps none as prolific. Everyone has lost count, but Schwartz thinks the Roys have invented 40 to 50 holidays. Apart from the president and Congress, she says, they probably are America's biggest holiday makers.

Congress, for its part, has given up. Last year, it declared itself too busy to commemorate any more people, events, ideas or activities. This left William Jefferson Clinton and Thomas and Ruth Roy at the forefront. The president has created more holidays, from National Good Teen Day to Law Day. But hands down, the Roy celebrations are smarter and funnier.

Take one that the president himself, given his taste for junk food, might applaud: Eat What You Want Day, celebrated on May 11. "All the experts are saying, 'Don't eat butter, and don't drink caffeinated coffee,' " Tom Roy says. "Next week they'll say, 'Don't eat margarine, and don't drink decaf.'

"You know, I look at all this, and I wonder: How in the hell did the human race survive before we had all these experts?"

*

All of this began as a lark.

Tom Roy had been a reporter, news director and talk show host for 18 years at WIOV, a radio station in Lancaster, Pa. One day, a new station manager told Roy to take over as the personality on the morning music show.

"I didn't know what to do," Roy says. "We had Chase's Annual Events, so I started using it for ideas. One day, in the back of the book, I discovered--"

He pretends to open the book to the last page. His voice grows deep, ominous. " 'Oh, my God! There's an entry form!' "

Now he whispers. "It was to submit your own holidays!

"I sat down at the--do you remember when we had typewriters? It was a beige IBM Selectric, just like the one in Tom Robbins' 'Still Life with Woodpecker.' And somehow it just came to me to invent Northern Hemisphere Hoodie-Hoo Day."

Why did it come?

"I have no idea. I think if you're left-handed, as I am, everything is quirky, quixotic. We left-handers fake it throughout our entire lives, living on the same planet with people who aren't left-handed. Everything is always off-kilter. Our brains act differently."

He mailed his submission, hardly knowing what to expect. Somewhat to his surprise, Chase's declared that Northern Hemisphere Hoodie-Hoo Day was to be celebrated on the following Feb. 20, and on every Feb. 20 thenceforth, forevermore.

"Do you know," Roy says, in wonderment, "that there are two towns in Missouri that actually have Hoodie-Hoo events? One is at the courthouse in one town, and one is at a mall in the other town, and people actually show up at high noon and wave beach towels at the sun."

"They shout, 'Hoodie-Hoo!' "

Life, he says, as gleeful as a schoolboy in summer, "is one long recess."

The next year, he noticed a footnote on Chase's entry form. It encouraged users to photocopy the form and to offer multiple submissions. "Now I was in even bigger trouble." Tempted by his first success, he created a batch of six or seven or eight holidays. He cannot remember how many exactly.

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