Labor Day has finally arrived. From now until years end….I grip each day with a hard grasp. For many years I watched the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon hosted by the popular comedian and actor and filmmaker, Jerry Lewis. The Labor Day Telethon told me that my time of year had arrived…and that it would pass like the blink of an eye. Jerry’s love for children that were stricken with MD captivated my attention. I remember MJ and Aaron and Jonathon and I traveling to Cedar Creek Lake to swim one last time…on Labor Day. When we arrived…it had already been closed for the season. We checked another swimming hole or two…and all were closed…a day early as far as we saw the issue. Since our retirement we have holidayed in the warm months and those being primarily in the summer. We have journeyed to the Caribbean for at least four separate Cruises and one weeks stay on the Caribbean Island of St. John. All were extremely hot. We do not function well in heat. We have taken to traveling in the spring or fall…or winter. Maine should be lovely in the autumn.
DuQuoin State Fair ends today. The flowers and plants that are on display in the Great Exhibition House…are a bit wilted. The Carnies are hot and tired…and ready to pack up for the next gig. What was once an impressive State Fair has been diminished to a regional event to mark the end of summer. Malones Taffy is still delicious. When I was a child…Mr. Malone…himself…made the taffy…and he called out, ‘Get it now…get it now!’ It is still a great venue to bring the hard working citizens of rural Illinois together for a bit of fun and fellowship.
MJ and I used to attend a church convention is Kingsport, Tennessee over the Labor Day weekend. Tennessee is full of wonderful and friendly people. In restaurants the servers called me honey and baby…and I liked it. We stayed with people in the church that we were visiting and the Shuecrafts treated us like their own family. I am certain that my love for the South began in Donna and Al’s basement. Each night, after church, Al and Donna would take MJ and I out for dinner or at least Fudge Cake at Shoneys Restaurant. Sundays we would attend a very popular restaurant in the mall in Kingsport…Piccadillys. They refused to allow us to pay a dime for anything. Al was a kind Kentuckian. When someone asked him why I never stayed with them when I came to Kingsport…Al said, ‘When Brother Jay comes to Kingsport…he stays with me…’ I loved Al and Donna Shuecraft.
Labor has my heart. I began my working career at Essex International in DuQuoin, Illinois. The factory made wire harnesses for Chrysler trucks. I rode to work with Karen and Carol Dean. Later I was hired by Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale as a Building Service Worker I. Later I became a Building Custodian, which was a crew leader in the housekeeping department. Finally I achieved my career goal of being promoted to a Building Service Worker III…or a foreman. I was 28 years old. Then followed my 25 years in management/administration at SIUC. During my years in management/administration I wore 2 hats. My hat as a manager/administrator…and my hat as a union advocate for my precious staff. My friend, Jerry Raney, who was the Business Agent for S.E.I.U. Local #316. On more than one occasion he invited me to the DuQuoin State Fair Labor Lunch. I was always touched that he invited me…but as a manager/administrator…I wondered if some of the union membership would feel that it was inappropriate for me to attend.
Our nation is full of hard working laborers. We have no pedigree nor degree. Our bona-fides are the callous on our hands and our love for our country and our world. Our University could not have fulfilled their academic mission…without us.