One of the glass museum cases in the LaBudde Special Collections room in the Miller Nichols Library on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus features a "subway car"-style poster clearly intended for display outside a 1940s movie theater. It advertises a holiday that one rarely hears about anymore: National Relaxation Week.
In the hectic and hot days of summer in postwar Kansas City, one of the few places to relax in the icy coolness of air conditioning was a movie theater, particularly one of the elaborate movie palaces downtown — the Empire, the Midland, the Tower, the Paramount — which had all installed expensive air-cooling systems to lure patrons out of their sweltering homes and into paid balcony seats. (Air-cooled movie theaters date back to 1911 when New York's Folies Bergere theater advertised its "air-conditioned" auditorium; in those early days, the process often involved industrial-sized fans blowing over blocks of ice). Kansas City's Betz Air Conditioning Corp. was responsible for installing an air-cooling system using refrigerated water in many Midwestern theaters, including the Massac Theater in Metropolis, Illinois.
There's still a National Relaxation Day — August 15 — but whatever happened to National Relaxation Week?
Wouldn't a week devoted to relaxing be a financial boon to massage therapists? La-Z-Boy recliner sales vendors? Cruise lines? Saloons?
Most lists of August holidays now omit National Relaxation Week; this week is, according to the Holidaypedia website, World Breastfeeding Week.
For the record, the major cultural observances for the rest of this week are Martha Stewart's birthday (August 3), National Underwear Day and President Barack Obama's birthday (both on Saturday, August 4).
Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.