Bookends of Summer – Labor Day 2015

Every year about this time I talk about the Bookends of Summer. I’m referring to the two major holidays that fall at the beginning of summer and the end of summer – Memorial Day and Labor Day. I talked about Memorial Day back in May, so it’s time to think a bit about Labor Day.

Labor day. What the heck is that about? Some sort of Union inspired silliness? Another paid holiday? A pagan holiday to celebrate natural child birth? Well, heck. There I go off in strange directions again. It’s all part of having an inquisitive – and somewhat warped mind. It’s a curse, really. Other people are out grilling steaks and playing Frisbee with the dog. I’m on the computer doing research on . . . Labor Day of all things. Go figure.

For those of you who don’t know the origins of this fine holiday – it’s a day set aside to pay tribute to the working men and women of both the United States and Canada. It’s been celebrated as a national holiday here in the U.S. since 1894, when President Grover Cleveland – not a staunch Union supporter, by the way – signed the holiday into law purely for political purposes. They’ll do that, those politicians. It seems the President had authorized the use of Federal troops to put down a railroad strike in Chicago – an action that ended in the death of 34 workers – and he needed a little positive press. So, like most holidays in this country – Labor Day is tainted with a bit of bloodshed.

Labor Unions, by the way, were the first to celebrate a “labor day” in the United States. These events were largely political protests lobbying for things like eight hour days and safer working conditions. The first Labor Day parade occurred in 1882 in New York City. Early labor days were celebrated on different dates, and it took awhile for the unions to settle on the first Monday in September. It was chosen, by the way, because it was halfway between Independence Day and Thanksgiving. The Unions were always working the angles for another well placed weekend off. Of course, these days the Federal government is the new Union – making sure it’s employees get plenty of paid time off. But that’s another topic entirely.

In many parts of Europe and China people celebrate their own “labor day”. It’s called May Day, the first day in May. Those of us who grew up in the Cold War era will remember it most for the annual parade of military might through Red Square in Moscow. How that relates to labor escape me, unless they were simply saying to the world, “Hey, look at the neat stuff we built to blow up things and kill people.”

I much prefer the pagan version of May Day – a celebration of spring and the promise of summer. If you ever saw the Broadway play Camelot you may recall a nubile Julie Andrews skipping through the forest with a few nymphs in tow singing “Tra-la, it’s May, the lusty month of May.” It was a time for May poles and frolicking in the spring flowers with saucy young maidens. There were fertility rites to be observed and manly competitions like archery matches or wrestling a bear. These contests often involved large quantities of the local adult beverage – mead or ale or perhaps some homemade wine. And yes, there was no doubt some die-casting going on in the background. Humans being what they are – someone will always have a pair of dice in their pocket or purse. Sigh. I guess things haven’t really changed that much, have they?

This weekend many of you will visit the casino on your holiday off. When you do, why not attempt a “bookend bet.” Yes, that’s the name I made of for a simple play some folks refer to as “surrounding the point.” Wait until the point is established, then make a Place bet on the numbers on each side of that point on the layout. If the point is six – bet the five and eight. If the point is nine – bet the eight and ten. If the point is ten – let’s pretend the book is already checked out of the library and Lay the point. If you’re Placing numbers – just take one hit and down. If you’re Laying the point – hang in there to the bitter end. Just don’t let the same shooter beat you twice in one hand.
While you’re at the tables take a minute to remember that the dealers standing across from you. They did not get the Holiday weekend off. They’re there regardless, and they’re working for something near minimum wage plus tips. If they’re doing a good job I encourage you to take care of them. Toss out a buck or two for the boys after every stick change and give them your left-over dollar chips as a hand-in when you color up. If you won big – be generous. The dealers have families at home, too. Everybody deserves a good grilled steak instead of hot dogs once in a while, and every good dog deserves a Frisbee.

Happy Labor Day. Have a safe one.