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LABOR DAY: Not like other Mondays

Good morning and welcome to a new week, fine readers. Thanks for starting your day with The County Line. 

Today is Monday, rightly regarded as the week’s seventh-place finisher in any popularity contest. This one, however, might be redeemable, because it’s a rare instance that Monday hitches itself to Saturday and Sunday to become a temporary addition to the weekend. 

Happy Labor Day.

Sure, many folks work on Labor Day—this writer included—but hopefully those of you lucky enough to be off enjoy the 24-hour addition to the weekend. 

Regular readers of this website know that I write about holidays with absurd regularity. Real holidays, fake holidays, famous holidays, and obscure holidays—all have been spotlighted. Some have earned praise, and many, many more have been mocked and made the butt of my bad jokes. It really is indefensible, but do not expect any excuses nor apologies. 

Almost every single one of these morning posts devolves into a commentary about the day’s holiday. Scour deep enough into the darkest corners of the calendar, and there’s at least one or two wannabe holidays for every date. Some days require more digging than others, and sometimes the options are weird and obscure, but I have learned something through this ridiculous process: Every day can be a holiday if you try hard enough, if you look hard enough.

Sept. 5, 2022 requires no such effort. There’s no fake holiday to examine today because it’s unnecessary. We have the real deal—a rare but always welcome occurrence, a reason to not resort to discussing Dirty Shoes Day or Dry Cough Day or whatever else we might find if we look hard enough. Labor Day is widely known, commonly celebrated, and comes with that coveted stamp of approval from the federal government.

Sitting down to write this essay, I already knew that Labor Day would be my topic, but I didn’t consider one obstacle. To my surprise, and perhaps embarrassment, I quickly realized that I know very little about this holiday. As a kid, I knew it was a day off from school but never thought about the reason or history behind the day. In my late teens and into my 20s, I enjoyed a few Labor Days out on the lake with friends, but still never thought about the reason or the history. For the past decade-plus, I’ve worked almost every Labor Day, so of course I never thought about the reason for the holiday, nor its history. The point is this: I have been blissfully uninformed for decades, with a Labor Day-sized hole in my catalog of holiday knowledge. To be completely honest, sometimes I still get Labor Day mixed up with Memorial Day, its sibling holiday on the other side of summer. 

No more. Starting today, it’s a new path. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I know it includes at least a basic understanding of Labor Day, and that’s good enough for now. If you’re like me and have been drifting through Labor Day year after year like some kind of oblivious fool, let’s put those dark times behind us, together. Let’s delve deep (but not too deep—we only have a few hundred words left before everyone stops reading) into the topic and come away with a better understanding of September’s first Monday. Better yet, let me do the work and I’ll report back my findings. 

Ok I’m back. This one is more of a mystery than expected—there’s not a ton of background information available. After countless hours of diligent research, I am now ready to share my meager findings. It’s hopefully enough to improve you from knowing absolutely nothing to knowing just a little bit:

Let’s get this out of the way first. There are conflicting reports regarding the individual who first proposed Labor Day in America. They were both actual workers, not politicians or employers. The most interesting fact about this tidbit is both men have the same last name, just spelled differently—McGuire and Maguire. As we are about to learn, however, this detail is mostly irrelevant. Neither would-be founder deserves much credit because it was basically a copycat idea.

There are many similar, older holidays across the globe, but Labor Day in the United States traces its origins to the late 1800s. It began as a public relations effort by workers’ unions to celebrate labor. 

Several states adopted a version of the holiday in the 1800s, but the dates often varied state-to-state. By the time Congress got around to officially recognizing Labor Day in 1894, 30 states already had their own version. To distinguish the American version of the holiday from other worldwide celebrations of labor, and the socialist beliefs associated with said holidays, the September date was chosen. Most other labor days were celebrated May 1, which is now known as International Workers’ Day.

From a cultural perspective, Labor Day has long been known as the unofficial end of summer—or at least the summer tourism season. Additionally, according to the always-credible source known as the internet, Labor Day marks the last day of the year it’s acceptable to wear white or seersucker. This writer had long assumed that wearing seersucker had not been acceptable since the early 1980s, but obviously that belief was incorrect.

To my disappointment, the few paragraphs directly above amounted to all the Labor Day information I found that could be described as even borderline noteworthy. I guess the point is that giving workers a day off from the grind is just a good idea every now and then. Labor Day doesn’t need some exciting origin story or sordid stories from the past to remain relevant. Workers way back when knew that they were the backbone of the country and they made sure they got at least one day a year as a “thank you” for their labor. Their belief was right in the 1880s, and it’s still correct in the 2020s. 

If you consider yourself a worker, this day is for you—whether you get the day off or not. Hold your head high this Monday, even if you must keep your nose to the grindstone.

Let’s check in with the intern for today’s weather report:

At 6:30 a.m., it’s currently 70 degrees and cloudy across The County Line coverage area, with identical temp readings in Russell Springs, Jamestown, and Columbia. Expect the cloudy skies to linger throughout the morning, giving way to rain and thunderstorms by early afternoon. The high today will only reach the mid-70s. 

That’s all for now. Thanks for including The County Line as part of your morning routine, and check back throughout the day for more fresh content, always from local voices.

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Wes Feese is one of this company's owners and founders. He has previously worked as an editor, news reporter, sportswriter, photographer, and freelance contributor for newspapers across central Kentucky. He grew up in the Egypt community of Adair County and is a graduate of Adair County High School and Lindsey Wilson College.