I’d have a tough time getting to sleep the night before but when morning came I was wide awake and giddy with anticipation. Labour Day !!! It was always a big day in Windsor, Ontario where I grew up – what with Windsor being the automotive capitol of Canada. The unions were strong and what they did always had rippling repercussions throughout the city.
On this day there was always a huge parade down Ouellette Avenue to start things off in the morning. Brass bands, one after the other, and marchers – Labour’s finest – proclaiming proudly their local’s credentials. Even my Dad took part on occasion – being an active member of the American Federation of Musicians local 566 – established in 1911.
So we’d all get up, get dressed – forget about breakfast for me – I had far too many butterflies to swallow a thing! Then we’d walk a few blocks to the big intersection of Giles and Ouellette – where the Cenotaph proudly stood, find a prime viewing spot and eagerly wait for flag bearers to appear. If we kids needed a better view we took turns on our Dad’s shoulders. At 6 foot 5 he had a perfect vantage point.
The parade was fun but that was not the main attraction for me on Labour day…the best was yet to come. Fireman’s Field Day and Carnival!
Immediately after the sounds of the last band faded we quickly headed home, got in our Oldsmobile and drove to Jackson Park. The Carnival – oh I must have sawdust in my veins – how I loved that Carnival. From Labour Day and for the week after – the carnival held me in its thrall. The crowds milling about – who would be there? Chances were we’d run into a bunch of people that we knew. The sounds of the rides, the shrill calls of the guys who wanted to sell you 3 tosses at the bowling pins, the sing song of the vendor with his awesome display of pink cotton candy – all beckoned.
The rides. It was a love/hate relationship – especially with the Ferris Wheel. It held a fascination for me and I loved being at the top and seeing all the way across town. But, you see, in those days I also had a bit of a fear of heights so there was always an edge of danger lurking.
The Carnival always came through and delivered on its promise of fun and excitement. Later I found out that the reason we called it Firemen’s Field Day is that it was sponsored by Windsor Firefighters.
Okay, so far we have a parade, a carnival, wonderful family day – but that’s not all that made this day so special my friends. This was the official last day of summer – next day – school! Now, bear with me. I know that for a lot of you that wasn’t exactly what you wanted to be looking forward to the next day but I was one of the kids who loved school. New pencils sharpened and ready – just could hardly wait to start the new school year.
So Happy Labour Day (or Labor Day) my dear friends and readers. I hope you have even a fraction of the fun that I remember on Labour Day and make some of your own memories. And whether you start school tomorrow or return to work and embark on some entirely new adventure I hope it will energize and delight you.
Photos provided courtesy of Anne Walsh of Windsor Ontario. They were taken in 1965 by Anne’s husband and his father. Thank you Anne!