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Better Days Due Abe and George

FEBRUARY, the littlest month, is not the least by any means. It manages to pack the two greatest presidents of the United States into its 28 days (29 every fourth year), as well as the nemesis of fourth-grade boys - St. Valentine's Day. It's also very apt to muffle thoughts of spring with heavy snowfalls.

George Washington, the father of "our" country was born on Feb. 22, 1732; Abraham Lincoln, the savior of the Union, on Feb. 12, 1809. You have to look hard for those dates.

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Somewhere along the line - in the era of shopping malls and auto dealerships - the two giants of American history got scrunched together on something called "Presidents Day."

The reference book "Chase's Annual Events" explains that the Monday Holiday Law moved the observance of Washington's birthday to the third Monday in February instead of his actual birth date. Lincoln was later included.

After all, if you're going to commercialize the presidency, you might as well do it with as much clout as possible. Some states don't observe Presidents Day; some give it a different title. Some include all former presidents!

President Calvin Coolidge, who rarely said anything, did say: "The business of America is business." Silent Cal would have loved "Presidents Day."

Aside from taking Coolidge's entrepreneurial advice, the merchants of 20th-century America decided they could better attract car or home appliance buyers on a double Presidents Day. They left Valentine's Day to sentimentalists like the kid with a crush on the girl in the fourth grade.

In our search for the activities that fickle February permits, some of us persist in giving more attention to those two giants: one who gave us a nation, the other who saved it for us.

There's always the possibility of a reward. Like not being talked into buying a car we really didn't need. Or maybe getting it in March at a "knocked down" price.

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