Memories of past Mother's Days

Jerry Apps
A simple bouquet of hand-picked violets brought tears to the eyes of Jerry Apps' mother.

I have many memories of Mother’s Day.  It was President Woodrow Wilson who proclaimed May 9, 1914 as the first Mother’s Day.  In doing so, he asked all Americans, on that day, to give a big thank you to their mother and all mothers.

When I was a little kid, back in the late 1930s and early 1940s, I remember several Mother’s Days, when my twin brothers and I wanted to give our mother a little gift, but we had no money. The Great Depression still gripped the country—nobody had much.  Those of us living on farms, although we had little money, we had a roof over our heads and something to eat.

Just to the north of our farmhouse was a twenty-acre woodlot.  On the far north end of the woodlot was an open area. Violets grew there, beautiful, mostly purple violets. On many of my Sunday afternoon walks with my dad, we had discovered this violet patch. The violets were usually in full bloom in early May, just about the time the trees were beginning to leaf out. Just in time for Mother’s Day.

I remember one year, I was probably six or seven years old, when I invited my twin brothers, three and half years younger than me, to trek out to the violet patch, and pick some violets for our mother on Mother’s Day.

Our mother had the most surprised look on her face, when we came home, and each handed her a little bouquet of violets and said “Happy Mother’s Day.” I thought she should be smiling, but instead I saw tears in her eyes.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Sometimes the simplest gifts are the best gifts.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to