I am just about to leave the office on Labor Day for one last trip to the store for our salmon barbeque, and I cannot wait. Like many others, I often forget the reason for the holiday. When I do take the time to contemplate, I cannot help but think about my Grandfather and Grandmother.
Raised in an orphanage, my Grandfather made to the fourth grade, and then started working at thirteen years old shoveling coal into railroad cars. He was paid very little, of course. He then went to work at the Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia, where he operated a crane, and helped build the ships the won the War. Even with a full-time schedule and several children at home, he and my Grandmother also raised chickens and grew vegetables on a truck farm. I remember my father telling us stories about the thousands of chickens on the farm during his childhood, and the large strawberry field that eventually became our baseball diamond.
My Grandmother made it to the eighth grade, and worked as a farm laborer as a child. She told stories about how the farm worker children, who were of Italian descent, were separated from the other children in the school classroom, and how the Klu Klux Klan came to the school to pass out candy to the children. She went on to work butchering chickens for Campbell Soup (her soups were far, far superior, no offense to Campbell Soups).
Eventually, my Grandfather became a shop steward at the Shipyard, and represented over two-thousand shipyard workers. He never talked about his experiences at work. Actually, he did not say a lot at all, but when he did, you listened. We have learned much of what we know about him through my father and his brother and sisters.
My Grandmother was also quiet, and she taught us by example. When we helped in the field at the farm, she made us look bad, even well into her Seventies, working down a row of tomatoes at a swift pace. If she assigned a task or project, her inspections were tough, and she often found something that could be done better, or done over. We called her "The Boss."
Our grandparents made sacrifices for their children, and their children did the same, and a lot of that had to do with hard work. Each generation has passed down the lesson that all honest work, no matter how menial or unapprecited, is honorable. So that is what I think about on Labor Day.