Labor Day signals ... Change in the Air
by Rebecca Johnston
columnist
September 02, 2012 12:00 AM | 722 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rebecca Johnston<br>Cherokee Tribune Managing Editor
Rebecca Johnston
Cherokee Tribune Managing Editor
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Labor Day might mean weightier things to many, but for me it signals the end of summer and the beginning of fall.

My mother always loved the fall of the year and as berries on trees turn red and the first leaves begin to show signs of the season I am always reminded of her.

Growing up here in Canton, summer always seemed to stretch endlessly, then suddenly it evaporated, school started back and our whole life seemed to change in the blink of an eye.

Gone were the long hours spent playing outside from dawn to dusk, running in the grass, playing in our tree house, stalking all sorts of insects, including June bugs we tied with strings and lightning bugs we captured in the early evening hours.

We seemed so much more in touch with the seasons back then.

We didn’t have air conditioning. No one that I knew would even have thought about the necessity to cool the air artificially.

During the summer we sat on porches on swings and gilders and rocking chairs. We cooled off with paper fans or sometimes the whir of an electric one.

We talked to each other. That was our entertainment, to hear stories about each other’s day, to discuss old times and future dreams.

We drank glasses of iced tea or lemonade, putting the bottom of the glass on our foreheads to let the condensation run down our faces for a bit of relief from those last Dog Days of summer.

Summertime often brought soaring temperatures, and we would sometimes lie in our beds at night, wishing for a breeze to come through the windows and cool us off.

Sounds almost crazy now, to live with the seasons and what they brought, but that was how it was.

My mother must have found those summers long with three children running around the house all day.

Of course she didn’t complain, but she always seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when Labor Day approached and we began to buy school supplies and new shoes.

Canton was a thriving center of commerce back then in the 1960s with stores of all types like Rosenblums’s, Worley’s Shoes, Canton Drug Store, Fambro’s, Kesslers and of course the largest of all on Canton’s Main Street, Jones Mercantile.

As school approached we wanted new Buster Brown shoes, Blue Horse notebooks and pencils and crayons.

One of the things my mother loved was a return to routine. Perhaps for a week or two at the beginning of summer it was fun to sleep late, stay up a little longer and take life a bit slower.

But that soon wore on my family and my parents were ready to get the household back in shape.

At my house, my dad ruled. He did it with a joke and a smile, and my mother probably was the decision maker on many things, but my dad handled all the finances and our daily routines.

He would get up each morning during the school year and cook breakfast for the family. Eggs, grits, bacon, pancakes, he could do it all and he loved doing it.

That was everyday. He always greeted us with a smile as we stumbled into the kitchen, and we always ate breakfast as a family at the table. There was just no other way in my household.

When Labor Day came and went, the pace picked up, we were up early, and went to bed strictly by 9 each night.

All lights out — house dark. That was the rule.

My father was truly an early to rise, early to bed type of guy. And he expected the rest of us to be on that schedule with him.

Mother was in many ways a slower person, getting up later, never a morning person. I also think she was glad to see us pack up and go each morning once school was back in session.

That gave her the entire day at home alone.

My father would drive us to Canton Elementary behind his office in downtown every morning. Mom would pick us up each afternoon.

We were expected to do our homework as soon as we got home, and no television until it was complete. Mother didn’t like us sitting in front of a box, she wanted us outside.

Often in those mellow early September afternoons she would come outside with us, something she did less frequently in summer.

She loved the cooler temperatures and the feel of the year drawing in.

We would pick up persimmons from a tree in our yard or walk down the road and gather muscadines.

Simple things, but they left lasting memories for me and as we turn the corner toward September I cherish those long ago days.

Rebecca Johnston is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune.
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