How we got to Labor Day 2019

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Excerpted from

Labor Day, an annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated during one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters.

In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories,  and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages.

People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities, and breaks.

As manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of American employment, labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th Century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay.

Many of these events turned violent during this period, including the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886, in which several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. Others gave rise to longstanding traditions: On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took

Screen Shot 2019-08-30 at 1.26.02 PMunpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.

The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday,” celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on in other industrial centers across the country, and many states passed legislation recognizing it. Congress would not legalize the holiday until 12 years later, when a watershed moment in American labor history brought workers’ rights squarely into the public’s view. On May 11, 1894, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.

On June 26, the American Railroad Union, led by Eugene V. Debs, called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars, crippling railroad traffic nationwide. To break the Pullman strike, the federal government dispatched troops to Chicago, unleashing a wave of riots that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers.

In the wake of this massive unrest and in an attempt to repair ties with American

Screen Shot 2019-08-30 at 1.28.41 PMworkers, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories. On June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed it into law.

More than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day has yet to be identified. Many credit Peter J. McGuire, co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, while others have suggested that Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, first proposed the holiday.

Labor Day still is celebrated in cities and towns across the United States with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays and other public gatherings. For many Americans, particularly children and young adults, it represents the end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.


The story behind Memorial Day 2019

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All gave some, some gave all.
[Reprinted from a May 2017 posting on this website]

Beyond the cookouts, the holiday sales, the family trips, picnics and parades there is a deep and profound reason for Memorial Day.

Although we honor all military personnel on Veterans Day, Memorial Day is specifically designated as honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War but did not become an official federal holiday until 1971.

The Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865, obviously claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history because all combatants were Americans, and it required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries.

By the late 1860s, Americans in various communities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, reciting prayers and decorating their graves with flowers and flags — thus, the original name, Decoration Day.

Each year on Memorial Day a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time. It is unclear exactly where this tradition originated. Numerous communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the “Official Birthplace of Memorial Day.”

Waterloo, which first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866, was chosen because it hosted an annual community-wide event during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.

The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle.

On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

Many Northern states held similar commemorative events and reprised the tradition in subsequent years; by 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Southern states, on the other hand, continued to honor their dead on separate days until after World War I.

Although Memorial Day originally honored only those lost in the Civil War, American involvement in The Great War, later called World War I, made it evolve to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But, in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, a controversial decision that moved several major holidays from their traditional or historic dates to Mondays that gave federal — and later on state and local — employees three-day paid weekends. The law went into effect in 1971.


by Robert Louis Stevenson

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you ‘grave for me:
Here he lies where he long’d to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.


It’s going to be a happy Easter for a lot of kids

Screen Shot 2019-04-16 at 8.18.07 PMThe final tally has been made of how many Easter baskets SRC and its project partners at the Greenbush YMCA, Cub Scout Pack 253, and Danes Rotaract are providing.

The effort, to help make a lot of needy kids happy with traditional holiday baskets distributed by Circles of Mercy, is something SRC has been doing for a number of years, and each year we try to expand the effort to encompass more organizations performing various parts of the project, from shopping to donating to packaging to delivery.

Our pledge this year was 75 baskets, an ambitious number. How close did we come?

Drumroll please ……..


Thanks to all who pitched in with money, time, and hands-on efforts. You’re making a lot of kids happy again this Easter.

Time to begin our annual Easter basket push

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 9.49.46 PMIt’s that time of year, when SRC joins with Circles of Mercy to make a lot of needy youngsters in the area happy. It’s the annual Easter basket drive for kids ages 1 to 12.

Circles, a frequent public service partner with SRC, is an outreach center for poor and low-income families that is sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy Northeast Community. In 2002, Mercy Associates started for Circles what has become a yearly tradition, of providing Easter Baskets to children of our client families.  This holiday program is known as “Easter Baskets for Cate’s Kids,” referring to the founder of Circles.

First up, we need someone to step up as coordinator/s of our effort. What that entails is:

(a) lining up a work partner — the Greenbush YMCA has been suggested since SRC member Shannon Romanowski is executive director there, and fellow member Len Leonidas at Community Care Physicians has been a frequent help through his Cub Scouts kids;

(b) purchasing a sufficient number of baskets, artificial grass, clear wrappings, etc. (the club will reimburse for expenditures) and delivering them to the work partners;

(c) being sure all assembled, clear-wrapped baskets are delivered to Circles of Mercy no later than Monday, April 15.

We strongly urge one or two of our members to step up to handle this short-term initiative, an excellent way to get your feet wet in community service for a grateful clientele. All who are interested are asked to contact President Andy Leyhane ASAP.

Meanwhile, here is the shopping list to distribute to our club and to our work partners:

  • traditional Easter candies
  • coloring books
  • crayons
  • color pencils
  • facial tissues
  • toothpaste and tooth brushes
  • dental floss
  • combs and brushes
  • age appropriate (1-12 years) small stuffed animals, toys
  • reading books

Last year, more than 150 requests for Easter baskets was met, and the same number or larger are expected for this year. The April 15 dropoff deadline was established to be sure the volunteer staff at Circles has time to get the baskets to their client families in time for the April 21 Easter holiday.

It’s time for another New Year’s party

Screen Shot 2019-02-01 at 2.04.58 PMNext week the world ushers in the Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year as it is known in some areas.

To mark that occasion, SRC will have a Chinese New Year-themed dinner meeting at 6:15 p.m. Thursday. Where? Where else but at an Irish-named sports bar — in our very own Quigley’s meeting room.

In addition to having an Asian-accented buffet dinner from the Quigley’s kitchen, Bill Dowd is putting together a brief fun quiz focusing on the nation and culture that gave rise to this major international holiday.

Debbie Brown will be sending out her weekly RSVP request in a few days. When she does, please be sure your name is on the reservation list or email her  ( to have it added so you can join your fellow Rotarians in a social setting.

Looking forward to seeing you on February 7!


No dinner meeting this week

As everyone undoubtedly knows — since it has been listed on the club calendar every day since last July 1 —  there is no dinner meeting scheduled for this Thursday, January 3, 2019.  But, it never hurts to remind people.

We will resume our weekly dinner meetings at 6:15 p.m. next Thursday, January 10, when we will have a Club Assembly with Terry Brewer presenting the results of the recent member survey for your consideration and discussion.

Meanwhile, please be sure that all checks you write carry the 2019 date, turn in your Clynk recyclable cans and bottles, and have a Happy New Year!