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Early politician argued for change in Groundhog Day

Mary Phillips Published: March 11, 2013

Political candidates often make promises to their constituents in hopes of being elected, but changing the date of Groundhog Day to Valentine’s Day seems a bit of a stretch.

In 1918, Dr. M.W. Romine was elected to the state House of Representatives by the citizens of Le Flore County.

According to a story in the Jan. 20, 1919, edition of The Oklahoman, Romine was going to try to make good on one of his promises.

“In the good old days gone by, Oklahoma legislatures have been called up to wrestle with many weighty problems of statecraft — stategraft, also.

Regulatory measures without number, ranging from suggestions to require women to wear their skirts long enough to drag the ground, on up the line to declaring the piercing of ears to be barbarous and unnecessary voluntary punishment and placing it under ban, have in times received great and serious consideration.

John Barleycorn has lost many a memorable battle within the walls of Oklahoma legislative assemblies.

Only recently both houses decided within the brief space of a few hours that a league of nations … is a good thing for this old world and ought to be established.

But all of these momentous problems, which received the best thought and effort of some of the most distinguished men who have ever signed a legislative payroll in Oklahoma, are soon to be relegated from memory, which is the only place they remain, and a newer, more weighty and far reaching problem — it reaches all the way to Arkansas — is to receive the closest attention of the best legislative talent.

It is the question of establishing once and for all that date which is to be observed as ground hog day in Oklahoma.”

Apparently, before 1919, Arkansas and Mississippi would celebrate Groundhog Day on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.

Oklahoma farmers along the eastern state line would tend to follow their Arkansas neighbors.

“In farming communities ground hog day, the elements permitting, is considered the day upon which potatoes should be planted. At that particular time Old Mother Nature is ready to receive her potato crop.

So when people of east-side Oklahoma plant on February 2 and their crop fails, and their Arkansas neighbors do their planting on February 14, and their crop is a success, bad feeling develops.

‘And now I have decided,’ said Representative Romine of Spiro, Le Flore County, ‘to ask the legislature to settle the argument and fix ground hog day by statute. I have no particular date to suggest. I am willing to leave that matter to the judgment of the legislator, but the question must be settled on the Arkansas line.’

Romine said that when he made his campaign for member of the house he promised to work to this end, ‘and I am going to remain true to my constituency and do the best I can,’ he said.”

It seems the Hon. Mr. Romine intended to keep his promise.

I was unable to verify an official change, but since Groundhog Day is celebrated nationally on Feb. 2, it’s possible his bill never made it out of committee.