Paul Sassone: Dad’s labor was worth celebrating

Labor Day is a holiday I have no hesitation about celebrating.

After all, I’ve been laboring since Kennedy was president.

I clerked in a drug store and sold ice cream from a truck. I’ve been a messenger and a bookseller. I’ve driven trucks and worked on a dock unloading and loading the big rigs. I’ve delivered the mail and stoked a factory furnace. I managed a university’s mail room. Most of my working life has been spent on newspapers as a reporter, editor, editorial writer and columnist.

So, yes, I am a worker, a laborer.

But when Labor Day rolls around each year, it’s not my jobs I think about. To me, work is synonymous with my father. He was the first person I knew who worked, so I received my ideas about work from him.

As a child I saw how he left early every morning. In the evening I’d watch for him from the front porch. When I saw him walking into view from the bus stop, I’d run inside and let my mother know so she could put the final touches on dinner. Dad liked to eat as soon as he was home.

My father was a printer. One college summer he arranged a job for me as a messenger where he worked. So, I had chances to watch him in action.

He was a journeyman printer, a real craftsman. His job was incredibly demanding. He set type by hand for something called an airline guide — a phone book-sized schedule of airline flights. The guide was hundreds of pages in the smallest type imaginable.

It was precise work — taking each metal letter (called a sort), placing each letter in a tray. Many trays made a page (called a forme). Pages were inked and then imprinted on paper.

That’s what my father did.

That and drive us around, fix broken things, worry about bills, teach us how to ride a bike. You know, dad stuff.

His work was work with a purpose, as was the work my mother did.

You work for a reason, for a purpose.

And when you work you do it accurately and with pride. You do the very best you can do.

Each Labor Day I still see my father standing at that type tray picking out each tiny sort to create that airline guide so that my mother, my brothers and sister and I had a good home, a good life.

I like Labor Day.

0 Comments

Modal