Labour Day was a big event in Grand Falls since nearly every man in the community belonged to a union . The first Monday in September was a day for the mill employees and their families to celebrate their lucrative employment. It also marked the last day of summer holidays for the children which was not an unhappy thought . We looked forward to getting back with our schoolmates again.
The day began with the sound of a horn . It wasn’t a car horn or a foghorn nor a bullhorn. The horn was one of those little black rubber squeeze bag types that one associates with clowns. And this one was no exception. At 7:00 am a clown rolled through the streets of the town on a fully decorated motorcycle and woke up all the slumberers . We leaped out of bed in anticipation of the events that were about to take place that day.
As soon as we got ourselves washed and dressed we rushed through the door , down Suvla Rd. across Beaumont Ave and to the stadium which was near High Street, the shopping area. The name High Street was a geographic misnomer considering that it actually was one of the lowest streets in town. There may have been one or two other streets that were below it and closer to the Exploits River. I suppose it was not its altitude that was reflected in the name but perhaps its commercial height.
Once we arrived at the stadium, we were treated to free Dixie Cups. They are rarely if ever seen today. A dixie cup was a covered cardboard cup that contained icecream. You lifted the cover and used a flat wooden spoon to eat the contents. There was a choice of flavours; chocolate, strawberry, orange pineapple, maple,vanilla and butterscotch. All kids loved Dixie cups . The only other kind of ice cream that could compete were the bricks which we would buy regularly and are now replaced by tubs. Of course bricks were not given out on Labour Day because they were too large, about a litre today.
Then we walked to High street, a hop , skip and jump away . People lined the street in front of the department stores waiting for the parade to come by. It was equivalent to the excitement of today’s Santa Claus Parades . There were floats, bands, decorated bicycles and marchers. The group we searched for most eagerly was the paper makers because we knew our father would be there. I remember a sea of paper hats made of newsprint. My father wore one. Every papermaker had one. And how proudly they marched!
The parade over, all hands headed for the ball field. That was up Church Rd where we passed the Catholic, United and Presbyterian churches till we came to Holy Trinity , the Anglican church. Across from it was the ball field. Today it is a park and the bleachers, chain link and wooden fences are gone. However someone has placed a mural on a wall in the park that gives a good picture of what the field used to look like.
Beneath the bleachers were concessions selling hot dogs, hamburgers ,fries,cotton candy and drinks. Plenty of that was sold on that day. The whole field was super charged with the excitement and energy of what was to follow- the games. For children there were three legged races, sack races, sprints and throws. We all participated and had lots of fun whether we won or not. A baseball game amongst the young men followed. We would leave at that point while the older folk remained. A shortcut across the Anglican church property ,and down Beaumont Ave. brought us to Suvla Rd. A short distance up the road and we were home. It was late afternoon by then and quite hot . We were exhausted but soooo happy .
Next day we started back to school which was another exciting event at least till the smell of the new leather bags wore off and the pencil boxes became tattered .