When I was a kid living on Parkway Avenue in Trenton, New Jersey, all the capital city’s parades marched by my house. Brass bands played their instruments in flashy uniforms, tiara topped queens perched on festive floats, military regiments marched in stately uniforms, and the top-hatted mayor waved from the back seat of a convertible Cadillac – all of them strutted along the route. Horses too, the magnificent beasts without whose presence a parade is just the leftover straggle of a city garage sale.
I doubt I could tell the difference between the Christmas spectacle and the one for Labor Day, except one showcased Santa in a sleigh pulled by a fire truck (where were the reindeer?) and the other highlighted city workers marching beside their union alliances.
Labor Day is a public, federal holiday established to honor the contributions of the American labor movement. It promotes the prosperity and well-being of our country, supported by those who build, serve, clean, maintain, and defend the many enterprises that comprise the enduring and independent fabric of the United States. Their work is usually grungy, often dangerous, sometimes heroic, and rarely makes the nightly news.
I don’t know if Trenton’s parades still march by the house. The house is still there, Google Images showing it’s barely changed in sixty years. But producing a parade is a task requiring a monumental budget with minimal financial recoupment possible. It’s a traveling billboard, perhaps, advertising the best goods for sale, gambling on future purchase of products, city tax base growing among the ranks.
Maybe the Santa parade still treks along Parkway Avenue through the winter snow, but Labor Day? Most of those for whom the end-of-summer holiday was created will work on Labor Day. Holiday pay (yeah, nice, but still…) and no recognition are more the norm than processional exhibition for those who serve in the lowliest service jobs.
If you’re out and about today, smile big at the folks taking a day ON, not off, and leave an extra tip. It’s Labor Day and they’ve got work to do. Taking care of you and me. Here’s where I put my hand over my heart and give a nod of appreciation.
Just a Thought 49
Photo of Labor Day Parade, Buffalo, New York, circa 1900, courtesy commons.wikimedia