Pinky Pie

Labor Day, butterflies in my stomach & Me

Posted on: September 6, 2010

Great friends on Labor Day ...

As a kid, even a new box of colorful chalk could not ease those marching butterflies in my stomach on Labor Day. The holiday always coincided with start-of-the-new-school-year-eve in St. Louis.

My dad, who bought the chalk, encouraged all the kids gathered for a Labor Day barbecue at our house to draw on our concrete patio, which was adjacent to the brick patio where the adults gathered. I’m sure prizes were given – to all.

Labor Day meant both excitement and terror as we wondered who would be in our class and about who would be our teacher. We bemoaned the end of summer’s freedom and yet were eager to start again.

Two days earlier we made the annual pilgrimage for school supplies to the Dime Store in the Olivette Shopping Center. If we were feeling adventurous and Mom was willing to drive us, we went to Spicer’s in Clayton, which always had a bigger selection.

At these stores, we poured over the possibilities – wide or narrow lined paper, a blue loose-leaf notebook that we could write on if ever bored in class (that would never happened, of course).

Early in elementary school my best friends were Levin Shelly and Donohue Debbie. We thought we were so clever, calling each other by our last names first just like in school rosters. In first grade we had a sacred dark-coloring-only pact. In third grade, we were separated into other classrooms, but Levin Shelly and I stayed friends for life, although we see each other infrequently. I actually talked to Donohue Debbie sometime in the last year, the first time since graduating high school a million and a half years ago.

Meanwhile back at Labor Day, we ate plenty of Dad-grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, chips, potato salad and I’m sure a Jello mold or two (Mom liked to put in crushed pineapple or fruit cocktail). Dad sold barbecue grills to Western Auto and other stores.

The next day with a pit in our stomachs, we put on our new school outfit – usually too warm for a still hot day in St. Louis – but we were too excited not to wear it. Other gear included new Stride Rite saddle shoes carefully measured for our feet to ensure we had at least a thumb of room to grow.

This sign was on a shoe store in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society.

For a while, a quality shoe store even had an x-ray machine that showed just how well the shoes fit. The insanity of that Foot-O-Scope became obvious but not before kids kept putting their feet in the machine to see what they looked like inside. Imagine how little protection there was from the x-rays and how much fun kids had using it. Apparently, there were 10,000 such machines in the United States alone and most were made in Milwaukee.

Once I had kids, Labor Day had less meaning as school started in late August for many years. In recent years, the new school year began on or after September 1 in order to ensure plenty of workers for the end of Wisconsin’s tourism season.

I still went school supply shopping with the kids, searching the ads for the best deals. They also got new gym shoes and other shoes for

Our celebration of the new school year was a donut party early on the first day. We then all walked our kids to Emerson Elementary School. Once we walked the kids inside their respective classroom and said goodbye – I was never one to cry – I went to work and/or home to await word about the first day.

Butterflies in the stomach, I discovered, could also be found in parents as well.


1 Response to "Labor Day, butterflies in my stomach & Me"

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