Diary of Lois Elaine Jelin: Entry One Hundred Ten

Entry One Hundred Ten

Tuesday, May 20                 Weather marked as Clear.

Dear Diary,

Went to the Hollywood Bowl with Mr. & Mrs. Mendleson, Lynn, Ricky, Bob & me. We saw “I am an American” day. The show was good. But I had an awful time as Bob wasn’t in a very gay mood. His dad bought him a car. I cryed my eyes out when I got home because of him.

Baby sat for Frances.

Editorial Note:

According to Richard M. Fried’s The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! Pageantry and Patriotism in Cold-War America, I Am An American Day was conceptualized in 1938 by either Benjamin Edwards Neal, creator of the I Am An American Foundation, or The Helios Foundation, and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. The day was celebrated annually across the United States on the third Sunday of May, and commemorated the citizenship of newly naturalized immigrants and youngsters who had just come of age to vote (then the age of 21).

Following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the popular event acquired a patriotic immediacy and was used to reinforce and publicly display one’s devotion to the American cause, as a citizen. The end of the war augmented the event’s rhetoric as Cold War tensions focused the narrative on a need to find and report subversive activities; understandably, the popularity of I Am An American Day suffered and it fell out of favor. In 1952, Congress changed the name of I Am An American Day to Citizenship Day, and the date was moved from May to September 17th. It was again reformatted as “Constitution and Citizenship Day” at the request of late Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia in 2004, and now celebrates the signing of the United States Constitution in 1787.

Seen below, courtesy of the Los Angeles Examiner Negative Collection, 1950-1961 maintained by the University of Southern California, is the Hollywood Bowl decked out for I Am An American Day in 1951–the very same one attended by our Lois. Perhaps if you scrutinize the crowd long enough you can see her, seated between the Mendlesons and gazing forlornly at Bob.

I Am American Day at the Hollywood Bowl, 1951

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