Labor Day Memoir

So Labor Day 2014 is here and I am trying to remember a time long ago that was significant about this day. Oh, I know the first Monday in September “constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being” of our great county. I’m looking for something a little bit more charming than that boring sentence. You know, like a parade or a band performance in the town square. Maybe there is a huge family reunion where unforgettable tales, are told and the new generation is fortunate to hear them for the first time. I don’t know. There are so many different ways to celebrate this day you’d feel like you were caught between a dog and a fire hydrant if I were to tell you all of them. So, let me just shorten this list by telling you one that is dear to my heart.

I have searched the web. I have asked everyone I know and cannot get the answers I am looking for. No one else can remember this day. I try with diligence to summon up these recollections so that I can convey them to you as unforgettable…for me anyway.

My family was one of musical inclinations. Somewhere along the line I got left out except for thoroughly enjoying the melodious sounds made by others. I guess that is why this memoir is so important to me. So here I am conjuring up this tale, not a big tale now mind you, but since I cannot remember all of the details of my story I reckon it does account for what I remember.

Overlooking a small lake and surrounded by majestic live oaks stands one of Baton Rouge’s most prized possessions. A stately mansion stands to prove the glory of the great state of Louisiana. She is beaut, for sure. She struts her Doric white columns with a great southern pride and like many of the plantations of the South she is built with magnificence and attitude. It is from here I appeal to my memory and petition this one recollection of the past to come forward.

“A standing joke in many of Louisiana’s small, country churches goes,

“Well, there are two things we know how to do around here, worship and eat!”

Put the two together and you’ve got the country church tradition of all-day singing and dinner on the ground.”
louisianafolklife.org

Dinner-on-the-Grounds-plate

Dinner on the grounds is a long-standing tradition in the South and is usually done after church on Sundays. This was a special occasion for a special holiday. Our arrival at the governor’s mansion was early. We knew it was going to be a long day. The heat was relentless but we knew it would be worth all the sweat, the bees and the flies to get one little morsel of that so delicious southern cooking. There were people from all over the state and I think a few strangers from the North snuck in too. But that’s ok, it was time for them discover they have never really eaten right anyway.

Every family brought a dish of some kind. Tables were set with various meats including wild game and fried chicken just bustin’ with goodness. A variety of vegetables grown in large and small family gardens soaking in potluck laid out end to end. Another table severed up corn bread butter-shined so bright you could almost see yourself smile when you bent over to take a long whiff. My favorite was of course the dessert table. Cakes were OK but pie, now that is a boy’s aspiration, especially when it came to the chocolate one. Oh, and there was always more than one. Yes indeedy.

One of the things about a gathering of this sort was that it was not just the food. No sir. It was about so much more. Boys and girls spent the day playing games on the six-acre mansions land. Some went fishin’ in the lake. Most folks enjoyed the fellowship of friends and family and even new acquaintances.

“All-day singing and dinner on the ground, sometimes simply called fellowship, is a chance for a church to come together as a family, to fellowship, to visit, to swap recipes, to sing, to pray, and to eat.” louisianafolklife.org

dinner on the grounds-M

However, second only to the food was something really special. Groups from all over Louisiana came to sing. There were even some from other states who joined in this special day. I loved to watch my family most of all. You know, the ones, unlike me, that could actually sing and play instruments. My Uncle Edgar was always one to watch. His bald-headed little self was quite the show. He played his box guitar and sang with his brothers and sisters, one of which was the states Commissioner of Agriculture. He wore a harmonica holder around his neck and played that along with his guitar on some songs. He could surely lay out a whiny conglomeration of notes that folks just loved to hear.

Other groups displayed fancy guitars, mandolins and fiddles. There were so many different instruments that as a child I was mesmerized. I loved the banjo pickin’; I promised myself I would learn to play that someday. Well, someday never has shown up. Combined with great piano playing, accordions and even a diddly-bow, there was music so wonderful I believe old Gabriel was blowing his horn along side the Father and Son while they were dancin’ with the saints. Now, put all of these instruments together with some great country gospel nasal, some good food and fellowship and all I can say is good gracious alive, heaven was on the grounds.

Like all memorable days this one had to come to and end. I have to admit it was an enjoyable day. I lay in the back window of the old Chevy, allowing the hot wind to blow through open windows, staring toward the mansion. When I enjoyed something I would watch it until it was out of site. I wish I could remember more about this day, but this will have to do.

As I look back on it now. Singing in those days was more like what God put in His Word ~ Make a joyful noise unto the Lord. I guess I was the only one struck by the profound significance it would have on my life. I am thankful for this memoir however, and will pass it on to those who follow.

LABOR-DAY-BANNER- 3X4-2___

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27 thoughts on “Labor Day Memoir

  1. I rem ember some of this from class It is an important story to remember the Sunday picnics on Labor Day. Norhterners don’t have similar family gatherings. Here I go with critique: May I suggest that you not spend several paragraphs apologizing for not remembering? Get right into the story with a good opening about Labor Day. Cut out the wordiness. You need to avoid the passive voice, maybe use it one time. I am guilt of same and when Word Pro called my attention to the number I had used, I had a time figuring the shape of the sentence with a strong verb. That’s what’s missing sometimes in our writing: strong verbs.

    I hope you don’t mind my assessing your work. I certainly need your help. Date: Mon, 1 Sep 2014 15:44:51 +0000 To: plsend626@outlook.com

  2. Hi Andy — I remember those church gatherings, though not quite as festive and elaborate as yours. Labor Day memories for me were different. It signaled the last weekend of the summer before we started school.

    My cousins and I would spend the whole summer with our grandparents in Virginia in a little town near the beach. I hated to see it end knowing I’d have to go up north to PA back home with my parents for the rest of the year.

    Two different places and seemingly two different worlds — one representing warm, care-free summer days, playing, and the other an onset of cold, wintery days and homework. Hence, the labor part. I guess there are always two sides to everything and I can be thankful for both. I sure remember those summer days, though. They were the best.

    • Thanks Pat for sharing your memories here as well. This was a one time event sponsored by Governor Jimmie Davis himself if I am not wrong. I’m not sure what year but I believe it was when he served during the 1960-64 term. We were on the mission field buy ’62 so I must have been 10 or 11 at the time. I love that you were able to share in our southern tradition for the summers. They are really fun times. You should write you memories such as these and save them for your grandchildren. Thanks for taking the time to make such a lovely comment. Blessings!

      • You’re welcome, Andy. It warms the heart and is good for the soul to reflect and remember those good times. I didn’t realize this was a one-time event. Evidently, it was big enough to impress you as a child for you to remember.

        Funny, how we can travel across this country and discover so many different types of people and traditions. I love it and will always truly remember what it was like in the south with Sunday church, fried chicken and prayer meetings. It’s the beauty of living in these United States.

        I have been writing about these memories on my site. I call them “kitchen table” stories. In fact, I just posted about a story I contributed as a guest on a fellow blogger’s site. It’s called “Guest Post — Sweet Days of Summer: #Story”. Those times with my grandparents are such a part of me and, hopefully, they’ll be passed along in generations to come. I hope you’ll check it out.
        (http://plaintalkandordinarywisdom.com/guest-post-sweet-days-of-summer-story/)

        Thank You!

  3. What a great post!! I especially liked this: Singing in those days was more like what God put in His Word ~ Make a joyful noise unto the Lord ❤

  4. Sounds like a very memorable gathering. Thanks for giving us a peek into the past. I do have to disagree with the first person who commented — we did and still do have family gatherings for Labor Day picnics up here in the North. 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment Mama. I lived in Indiana and North Dakota for many years and enjoyed many family gatherings. I never had a dinner on the ground unfortunately where the entire church gathered outside and ate for the entire day. I am thankful you have been privilege to be a part of that where you live. What state do you live in? Thank you again for commenting and one of these days, “when we all get to heaven” we will all have an eternal dinner on the grounds and singing festival 🙂

    • Thank You Ellen! I loved your essays as well. I especially smiled at being, “cool, hip and happenin’. That sure brought a smile to my face. I think that is something we all want throughout our lives. blessings to you!

  5. Great post! I love nostalgia. Pot luck dinners at church, fellowship, banjo picking and piano playing bring lots of fond memories to mind. Mom–the quintessential preacher’s wife– played the piano. Daddy picked the banjo. Mom played everything from hymns, “Alabama Jubilee” and “St. James Infirmary” to Mozart. They often played music together.

    By the way, when I drive from Montross to Warsaw, Virginia, I pass “Oldham Road” and think of your blog. Blessings! 🙂

    • Good Morning Sheryl. I am glad you enjoyed the nostalgia. It is always great to hear of others who enjoy it too. Were you able to record any of your dad and moms playing for a keepsake? Sounds like you had a beautiful and fun family. Do you write about it? You should for the future generations.
      That is interesting about “Oldham Road” the only Oldham’s I know up that way is my great grandfather who is buried in Fort Harrison burg. He died in the civil war battle there. I have found several Oldham Counties in other states. There are more Oldham’s around than I ever thought there was. Thank you again, for your comment. Blessings!

  6. We had family reunions… 10 plus families. The elders put it all together and the dates centered 3 yrs in advance…. Sorry to say i’m one of the elders now.. I couldn’t bring 10 people to celebrate our achievements over the previous year… but we still remember and pass it on hoping the next generation would put something together.

    • Isn’t it nice that you are one of the elders now. I love being in that position 🙂 Perhaps you should go with the number of people you can bring together and start the tradition over anyway. It is such a great time together. The younger folks cannot carry it forward if they do not know what it is. Thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate your words and love your site. Blessings to you my friend!

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