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December 19, 2014

Labor Day: The holiday that unofficially ends summer

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Posted: Saturday, August 30, 2014 8:29 pm

The first Monday of September brings a welcome break for many, while also providing the final long weekend of the summer.

But where did this unofficial closeout to the summer originate?

Labor Day, first celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York, started as a movement by the Central Labor Union to establish a “workingman’s holiday,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor web site, http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history.htm.

“The Labor Day holiday is interesting because it evolved over a period of years,” said Linda Stinson, a former U.S. Department of Labor historian. “In 19th century America, there was already a tradition of having parades, picnics and various other celebrations in support of labor issues, such as shorter hours or to rally strikers.”

The Central Labor Union urged other industrial centers throughout the country to adopt the practice, and the unofficial holiday was moved to the first Monday of September in 1884.

Labor Day became an officially recognized holiday nearly a decade later.

“The legalized celebration of Labor Day began as individual state celebrations,” Stinson said. “In 1887, New York, New Jersey and Colorado were among the first states to approve state legal holidays. Then other states joined in to create their own state Labor Days. Finally, in response to a groundswell of support for a national holiday celebrating the nation’s workers, Sen. James Henderson Kyle of South Dakota introduced S. 730 to the 53rd Congress to make Labor Day a legal holiday on the first Monday of September each year. It was approved on June 28, 1894.”

The parades may be less prevalent than in years past, but many workers who receive the day off continue the spirit of the holiday in their own way by relishing the opportunity to relax and spend time with family and friends during the three-day weekend.

“We have a family reunion every year on Labor Day at the Pell City Civic Center,” said Jessica Thomason-Dorough, a math teacher at Lincoln High School. “All of the Castleberry clan comes. We’ve always held it on Labor Day, and it has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember.”

Some of these Labor Day weekend celebrations include spending time on the water as boat enthusiasts and swimmers seize their moment in the sun.

“It’s relaxing and fun,” said Ken Clark, an Ashville native taking a dip in the cool waters of Logan Martin Lake at Lakeside Park in Pell City. “This is the last good three-day weekend you get in the water and the sun with your friends and family. The park here is very family oriented.”

Though most take advantage of the chance to unwind, some career fields in the community must be manned at all times.

Tony Haynes, a lieutenant with the Talladega County Sheriff’s Department, said Labor Day is just another day at the office — or in his patrol car.

“Normal citizens may get the day off, but crime never sleeps,” Haynes said. “We’re on patrol 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to protect the citizens of Talladega County and maintain good order and discipline in our communities during the holidays.”

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