Montgomery County Del. Robert Jacques swears he's not a curmudgeon and hardly, being a former history teacher, unpatriotic.
Jacques says he simply believes that the number of holidays Maryland state employes can take in commenmoration of historic events is getting out of hand and costing the state too much for the premium pay it must give to those who work on the holidays.
So, with the air of a man who's about to tell his children there really is no Santa Claus Jacques spoke before the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday to try to win support for a bill he is sponsoring that would abolish Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, Maryland Day and Defenders' Day as legal holidays in Maryland.
He found himself straining to avoid appearing anti-American or antilabor to the likes of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employes, the Joint Veterans Commission of Maryland, the Society of the War of 1812 and the Baltimore museum known as the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, all of which sent representatives to oppose Jacques' bill.
"I'm not saying these holidays are not significant," Jacques said. But, he pointed out, one could find some historic significance for every day of the year. "June 15 happens to be my birthday . . . it also happens to be the day of the signing of the Magna Carta," he said.
According to John McNulty, 76, a member the Joint Veterans Commission of Maryland, abolishing such legal holidays as Veterans Day and Maryland Day, which commemorates the founding of th state in 1634, would be setting an undesirable example for the youth of America.
"If we don't teach the history of their country and respect of their country.God help us . . we have to teach our children growing up what American stands for, what God and country stands for," McNulty said in an emotional appeal before the committee.
Jacques says he doubts most Marylanders know what historic event they are commemorating when they celbrate Maryland Day each March 25 or Defenders' Day each Sept. 12 commemorating the American victory over the British at Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812.
Of Defenders' Day S. Vannort Chapman, a spokesman for the Society of the War of 1812 inquired. "Can you find a more significant holiday to remember?" He went on to speak of the day in 1814 when citizen-soldiers from Baltimore defended the city against the British in the event that inspired Frnacis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner.
Jacques' office received about 1,400 calls from state employes opposed to the bill, which would do away with four of their paid holidays, he said.
Jacques concedes that his bill has little chance of approval from the committee, of which he is a member.