Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Fruits of Their Labor

Labor Day was first observed in the United States in the state of New York, in the city of New York, as a result of a movement put forth by the Central Labor Union. It was celebrated on Tuesday, 5 Sep 1882. The movement to make Labor Day a national observance initially took hold in 1885 and 1886 when municipalities began passing ordinances setting aside the first Monday in September to honor American workers.  It wasn't until June 28, 1894 that Congress passed legislation making that day a holiday (U.S. Dept. of Labor).

Labor Day is important to me because my family has always been proud of our history in the American work force.  Our ancestors were mostly laborers who worked hard.  My paternal lines from Nanticoke, Luzerne County, PA were generally coal miners, though the military and hotel fields were also a part of the Hodick line.  The McHugh line was made up of more coal miners. 

My maternal lines were often listed in the U.S. Census records as coal miners; however railroading was also in the O'Rourke blood, including my mother's brother, Jimmy, who retired from the railroads.  My maternal workers also hailed from Luzerne County, in Pittston.

My parents were also very hard workers. Dad held a variety of jobs throughout his life.  In Niagara Falls he worked for several years at a company known as Carborundum, I believe as a draftsman.  He's worked as a dispatcher, a beer truck driver, and as office personnel for a furniture company.  As children, my brothers' and my favorite of dad's jobs was as a garbage man for Countryside Disposal.  This was in the 1970's, in the days when garbage men rode on the backs of the trucks and manually emptied the trash cans into the truck.  He came home with the coolest stuff: Binders and portfolios, office supplies, a dishwasher.  My mother, I must say, was not the least bit pleased when he brought home a drum set!
My mother worked in business.  In Niagara Falls I can only remember her working for J.D. Calato's, a company that made drumsticks for some pretty darn famous rock 'n rollers! Odd how she hated that drum but brought us home some drumsticks! My middle brother and I loved this job of hers because she brought home stamps from all over the world and Terry and I used to have stamp collections.  In Arizona, my mother worked for a hospital, Diamonds (now Dillards), and mostly, for Greyhound Exposition Services as an office manager.

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