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Labor Day at Columbian Park

It is past 10 a.m. and no one is setting up for a Labor Day picnic yet. What is wrong with this town? Granted, Labor Day isn’t the big holiday it used to be. Not since president Reagan fired the Air Traffic Controllers and started the downgrading of the American labor movement. But still…does everyone stay home and watch “reality” tv on demand? I can’t figure it.

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Labor day has always been a big deal for me, well less since I moved to Lafayette, but it always marked events like the end of summer, the return to school, or the ACD festival when I lived in Auburn. The first year I lived in Auburn I was surprised one day to see a banner stretching across a street, and it read: Welcome ACD Festival. Of course I misread it and thought it said Welcome ACID Festival. I wondered what kind of town held a celebration of LSD. In that I was terribly wrong. ACD stands for Auburn-Cord-Dusenberg. All were autos from the early 20th century with ties to Auburn, IN.

There was one Labor Day weekend from my years in Auburn that I shall never forget. Listen closely, children, I seldom tell this tale.

When I lived in Auburn I rented the upstairs of an older house, one probably built in the thirties or forties. As it happens, the house was on the parade route of the ACD Festival parade. The highlight of this parade was a stream of restored Auburns, Cords, and Dusenbergs. It was quite an event for car buffs. It was not uncommon for me to sit on the porch roof to watch the parade.

Near the end of my stay in Auburn, the house I lived in was sold, and I had a new landlord and landlady. I don’t recall their names, but they were a young couple with a baby. They had moved to Auburn from New Orleans. Actually, he was from Auburn and was returning. She, poor thing, was new to Indiana and had no idea what it would be like in the winter…but that is another story. I must admit that I found her to be quite fetching. She was a tall ( at least 3 inches taller than hubby), willowy, blonde beauty. Yes, quite the eyeful…but she was married and, thus, off-limits.

On the Labor Day weekend I mentioned above, my landlady invited me to a small party they were having to watch the parade and to celebrate the union movement. Right. Like most Labor Day parties it was an excuse to eat fried chicken and drink beer or other libations. I told her that I planned on watching the parade from my rooftop vantage point, but might drop in (not literally) to help them celebrate. And so I watched the parade, applauding at appropriate times, and snuck sips from a few beer bottles as the parade progressed. After the parade I climbed back in the window, put on some music celebrating the labor movement, and dozed off in my chair.

Some time later there came a pounding on my door. I drowsily went to the door, opened it, and found my landlady scowling and asking, “Are you going to come down to the party so that I don’t have to put up with a house full of in-laws alone?” Well, what could I do? She looked so appealing when frazzled.

I followed her down the stairs and met her father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, the sis-in-law’s wastrel boyfriend, and a few assorted cousins. I tried to make small talk with these people with whom I had nothing in common and tried to think of a way to escape. In the course of the chatting I was told more than once that the sis-in-law had been an outstanding high school cheerleader. Big whoop. The wastrel boyfriend was a used car salesman. And I don’t really remember what anyone else did for a living.

My landlady invited me into the kitchen to sample a new recipe she was trying for rum punch. I accepted. The mother-in-law went along with us, either to sample the drink or to chaperone, or both. The rum punch was good, very good. I liked it enough to have a second. Then we heard a loud THUMP! and felt the house shake. What could it be? Well, the sis-in-law, after one line of coke too many, had decided to relive her past cheerleading triumphs and had attempted to do a backflip in the living room. She failed in her attempt. She lay sprawled on the floor while her wastrel boyfriend and the assorted cousins guffawed.

I decided I should leave before the strong drink brought out the lecher in me and that did or said something that I would regret. The landlady was married after all. If I ever forget that weekend, it will mean dementia has set in.

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