Labor Day is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It is national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.
Since my childhood, it has been a day that I always associate with my father — my early teacher who taught me by example that all work has honor and that every job makes a unique contribution to society and community.
My dad was a 1966 Owensboro Catholic High School graduate. He often said that he went to Vietnam on his senior trip because when he was 18, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served three tours in Vietnam. My parents married while Dad was on leave, and once his service was complete, they moved back to Owensboro and he began looking for a job. He was lucky enough to land a job at South Central Bell, which we called Ma Bell.
At the beginning, Dad was in the line crew and spent the next 30 or so years as a technician. He worked outside every day during those 32 years. I remember days when it was so cold that he would come home with his fingertips white from the cold and days it was so hot his clothes would be soaked. He dug holes deeper than he was tall. He crawled under houses with snakes and spiders and in attics with asbestos and bats. There were many full weeks he would do it without a day off. Even though Dad has been gone for more than 10 years, I still find myself worrying when the temperature is too high or too low.
Dad was my go-to guy. He could figure out how to make anything work. He taught me how to change a flat, change my oil and change my attitude when necessary.
He taught me to respect everyone and that all work was honorable. He would give examples of different jobs and talk about how each contributes in ways that make our lives better. We grew up with a unique mix of people from all walks of life around our home.
Even though Dad respected everyone, others were not always respectful of him. There was a specific customer who continued to need phone technicians due to his behavior. Dad would go to his home and repair the phone and explain how the customer could prevent future service disruptions. The customer was dismissive and on Dad’s last visit there said, “Don’t tell me how to do this, I am a doctor.” To which dad replied, “Well, you might be, but you don’t know a darned thing about phones.”
We all need one another. We all have a role to play.
Happy Labor Day to the men and women of Greater Owensboro who come home tired and wake up the next day to start it again. You make us strong.