Soaring Through the World

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

   I applaud whoever started a holiday for workers.   People like my parents and grandparents worked long hours without vacation pay and few benefits.  Still they had a solid work ethic, doing their best in each job they did.  I know they were grateful for work. 
   It was said in our family that my grandfather started working in the coal mines of southern Indiana at the tender age of nine.  I remember summers spent at my grandparents' home.  My aunt who was just four years older than me and  I would listen to the radio so that my grandpa would know if he reported to work that day.  Other days he'd work doing yard work in an up-scale neighborhood.  His own yard showed how much he loved doing that kind of work.  There's a photo of me among a multitude of yellow tulips.  The photo is in black and white, but I still have that color etched on my brain.  

  
   My grandmother worked many different jobs through the years.  One job she had before I was born was going door-to-door selling Watkins products.  Three that she had when I was in grade school were cooking in a restaurant, cleaning offices and doing washing and ironing for others.  The latter one I remember vividly because that same aunt and I delivered lace curtains that Grandma washed and put on a curtain stretcher.  Those too young to know what that was- it was a huge wooden frame-like apparatus with pins pointing up.  The curtains were stretched back into shape (this was before wash and wear) by placing them on the pins.  When they were dry, my aunt and I put them carefully into her cherry red wagon and walked to the client's business establishment, which happened to be a funeral home.
   Jobs my grandparents did would be delegated to aliens eager to earn a living in our wonderful and free country.  Laws about child labor, fair wages, unions, pension funds- none of these were in place when my grandparents started working.  And all four of them lived during the Great Depression. My mom described to me about going to the railroad tracks and picking up potatoes that were left along side.  The potatoes were supposed to have been disposed of at the land fill, but the workers knew that many Americans were hungry and couldn't abide doing that.  Thankfully no one reported it because by then, my grandma was a widow with seven children to feed.    So even though my parents and grandparents worked hard and long hours, they were grateful for their jobs.
   But neither did my parents have a pension to live into their golden years.  Of course, my mom didn't live long enough to collect even social security.  Which, by the way, was started many years after my parents started working.  They both worked six days a week; Sunday was their only non-working day.   
   I don't recall ever hearing either my parents or grandparents complain about their jobs or their employers.  They cherished their time with their families and were grateful for being able to work.
   So...here's to laborers!  God bless each and every one of you!

3 comments:

Crafty Cupcake said...

I enjoy reading your family stories! Your writing is just amazing!

The Riverside Writer said...

Wonderful Ode to laborers, Norma! You have captured the spirit of this holiday beautifully. I think you could make a scrapbook page from your writing and your pictures. Can't wait to see it some day!

Andria Helm said...

This is a touching memoir. You opened the door to memories etched into your heart and I am privileged to be linked to that era through your neighborhood.