It’s Labor Day 2009. For some it’s the end of summer, for others it’s back to work, back to school. For me it’s another day.
All the ample parking that existed in Hoboken for the past couple of months is gone. They’re all back and shopping at the supermarket all at once. It’s a madhouse.
Labor Day for me was the last holiday before school started. Growing up it was usually the weekend of the Romaine Singer VFW Post 3484 picnic at Saddle River County Park in Saddle Brook.
My father was a member and most of my family would go. There were other kids to play with as the adults generally got really drunk. Usually there was a major fist fight each year, sometimes because one guy smacked his wife and someone would intervene.
“Don’t hit your wife!”
‘Don’t tell me what to do! Mind your own fucking business!’
Bam! Pow! Smack Smack!
Me and the other kids would get all sugared up at the 7Up trailer, drinking as much orange soda as we could. There would be egg tossing contests and a tug of war and softball as activities. Most families knew to stay away from the picnic area on those days, drunken veterans were not to be fooled with.
We would also play in the Saddle River, avoiding the carcasses of water rats as they floated downstream. Eventually the picnic would end as the park would close at dusk. Lot’s of drunk driving home, no accidents reported.
Remember this was the 1970’s when if you were pulled over by the police you would be told to drive directly home.
Mostly the veterans were all from World War II and the Korean War. A sprinkling of Vietnam vets were eventually represented. At some point in the 1970’s the picnics moved from the County Park to a space behind the VFW on Market Street in Saddle Brook, between the road and Riverside Jewish Cemetery.
The other children of the veterans and myself would play in those woods before it was developed, learning how to smoke cigarettes.
It was more contained in that space by the cemetery, still a fist fight would occur, oyster shuckers would throw down their shucking knives and join the melee. I only went to one or two of the picnics there.
No 7Up trailers there and the other kids were off doing other things, perhaps joining Al-A-Teen. It started not being fun sitting there watching the adults get 3 sheets to the wind.
In the 1980’s I did go to the Labor Day parade in Manhattan with my friend Lois. That was sparsely attended by both marchers and spectators.
I also went to the Carnival in Flatbush a few times on Labor Day. Each successive year I had less and less of a good time, eventually avoiding it all together. I
went with Rand & Lisa once, also with Julio once and another time hanging out with my old Rasta pal Marcus. The time with Marcus was mainly a blur since I was quite red eyed when I left. I am pretty sure I had a good time though.