August 31st

Well here we are the last day of August.  The end of summer. Labor Day weekend the best way I can address Labor Day is to let you read from my book.

Here is the chapter from my  book “Growing Up in the Rockies”

Chapter 2 Labor Day

When Labor Day Weekend would roll around it was the end of summer and the beginning of fall.  If you were lucky you might have one last weekend of summer fun before fall would set in, warning us of the coming of winter. School usually didn’t start until after Labor Day, allowing for those last few warm days with family activities and preparation for the fall season ahead. Labor Day would bring the warning to prepare for the winter. Soon the snow and the cold would begin to come. When I was growing up there were times when the snow did come on Labor Day. When in Montana the weather can change at the blink of an eye. You never knew if it would be a few flakes or a blizzard. Because Labor Day represents the ending of summer, and the beginning of fall, most people from my hometown area would plan Labor Day Weekend for family fun. This would usually be the last big family weekend of the summer.

Labor Day was an important holiday because it was a mining town and a Union town. It represented the holiday when miners took time off from work to enjoy their family. They took time to be treated with the respect and pride which they had earned year round on their job. It was a chance for miners and their bosses to have fun side by side and be equals together. Only emergency personnel worked on his day, such as your hospital staff, policeman and fireman.

 In my early growing up years, the majority of the town, on Labor Day would head for the Columbia Gardens. This would be a day, which would include family activities, races, carnival activities, rides, and family picnics, if the weather permitted.  Many people would also go fishing and camping. The Columbia Gardens had been a parcel of land bought by W. A. Clark in 1899. He was one of the great mining “Kings”. The people of Butte had always been told that W. A. Clark donated the “Gardens” to them. However, when he passed away there was no mention of it in the fourteen pages of his “Will”.  It was believed that in the twenties when he sold his company, he also sold the gardens. However, “The Company,” that purchased it kept up the tradition of the Columbia Gardens until 1973.   It was a beautiful place, like no other place, sitting at the foot of the “Rockies,” for everyone to enjoy during this time period. It not only was a place where families could go and have picnics, ride on swings, and the merry-go-round equipment. But visitors from all over came to enjoy its fun and its beauty.

The Rocky Mountains surrounding the Columbia Gardens were a beautiful background scene that sheltered this exquisite spot from nature’s elements. The landscaping was covered with beautiful floral designs. My favorite one was the large butterfly, which they kept every year, but rotated others. These flowers not only were beautiful to see but the aroma filled the entire park, and they could be seen from a distance. Driving up the valley into the mountains gave one a sense of entering the closest place to paradise that one might find. Upon arriving at the Columbia Gardens you entered the spacious parking lot allowing for all that came to visit. The family picnic area was situated in the groves, off the parking lot. There was plenty of space to enjoy a wide variety of adult and children activities once one finished eating and was ready for the many entertaining activities of the day. Many enjoyed walking through the scenic groves, feeding the swans and ducks, just strolling through the park visiting as they saw their neighbors and friends.

In the middle, it had its playground area like no other playground I have ever seen. The merry-go rounds were more like a carousel with wood seats. The Horsy swings for two were big and heavy and you pulled back and forth to pump them up. They had been one of a kind set made special for the Anaconda Company. You wouldn’t see another set like them due to their expense. The regular swing sets had bucket seats for toddlers and regular wood swing seats for bigger children. The wood seats were eventually replaced with modern swings. The monkey bars were too big and round for my hands, and too tall for me to reach. It was a place that reminded me how small I really was, but it was beautiful and I loved to go there.

Down below the groves, it had its own little boardwalk where one could enjoy carnival booths. “GO FISH,” was a favorite because you could win a prize, and it was easy for the younger children. However, you could also play a variety of other games that they provided. The boardwalk also had food areas where you could buy a hotdog, hamburger, sodas, chips and fries. They even had popcorn and cotton candy.  Along the boardwalk were Pavilions where they held dances throughout the year, such as my high school prom. Organizations could rent the pavilions for conferences and large gatherings. However, on Labor Day they were closed to the public.

Directly to the right of the boardwalk you could see all of the rides. My favorite was the roller coaster ride. It was high, fast and scary. It fascinated me because of the wood lattice structure. I also liked the airplane rides, which would hold two per seat. Then there was the Horse Carousel, where I could pick a beautiful black stallion and ride it as long as the money lasted. The Horse Carousel also had tiny horses that didn’t move up and down, with seats behind them for parents, of very young children, to sit and watch or hold an infant. The Carousel Music was wonderful to hear and it had a way of calling out to you, “Come and Ride Me.”  This was as close to a fantasy world as any person could get to. Everyone from the area was proud of his or her wonderful “Columbia Gardens.”  This was our world and we loved it.

When we would arrive at the park we would start at the top where the picnic tables were, and we would prepare the Cornish Pasties that my mother had made for that day, a Pasty was a meal in itself. They were called a “Letter from Home,” by the miners, as that was what they usually had in their lunchbox at work. They were made with a flaky pie crust, which was filled with flank steak, potatoes, and onions which had been cubed. Then a dab of butter, salt and pepper were added. My mother always basted milk on the top of the crust to help them brown. Some people put other vegetables in them, my grandmother liked rutabagas in hers. The Welsh would make fish Pasties that were similar; however, they had the full fish with its heads and tails sticking out each end, which wasn’t done in our family.

Many people would bring fried chicken, with lots of potato and macaroni salads. The cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles would all be together for a family time of fun. I remember one time when I was little asking mom to bring Jell-O. She explained to me, that you couldn’t take Jell-O because it would melt. After that I didn’t ask to take Jell-O anywhere, although it was a favorite of mine.

While we were waiting for cousins, aunts and uncles to arrive, my sister and I would go off to the swing area. This was our time of fun together. We would usually get on the Horsy Swing together and pump it up. It was the one time we agreed because it took two people working together. My mother and father would come and get us and he would stop the swing so we could get off. My sister liked the monkey bars and monkey swings, but I couldn’t reach them unless my father lifted me up. There was a variety of children’s swings and climbing equipment. But my favorite was the Double Horsy Swing.

When everyone arrived, we would all sit down and eat together, sharing the family feast. Friends and relatives would all be together eating and sharing. My cousin and I would slip away from the table while the adults finished and we would explore. We liked to go to the wooden playhouse. We often pretended that we were “Snow White,” and the “Seven Dwarfs,” or some other fictitious character that was popular at the time. You could go in and out of the playhouse and it had windows that you could sit in.  We could use our imagination to the fullest.

We also loved to watch the squirrels that would scamper around looking for food that had been dropped. They especially liked the popcorn from the boardwalk, and given the opportunity we would try to feed them. There were still a few animals left at the gardens such as swans, ducks, and geese. However, there were no longer the deer and other large animals that had once been there. The water animals were above the grove area, and we rarely walked that far to see them. They lived over by the grounds keepers’ home. Their area had become an animal sanctuary that was rarely disturbed by anyone, although an occasional fox or coyote would come down from the mountains to have dinner.

After eating we would pack everything up, returning it to the car, which was in the parking lot, so that our hands would be free for the day. We would then precede our walk through the groves to the daily activities before heading down towards the carousel and the roller coaster rides. It was traditional every year for everyone in the area to celebrate Labor Day in this manner.

The various organizations would sponsor activities for the children and the adults. They had sack races and horseshoe throwing contests and many more children’s activities. This was a day of competition between the miners and they had a variety of activities throughout the day. However, the final and best activity of the day was when the safety crews from the mines competed. They demonstrated what they would do in an emergency situation. Do you know how funny it is to watch grown men bandage each other, while in a competition, with a timer set? Oh boy! Some I wouldn’t want to have taken care of me, but it was all in good clean fun. However, it also earned them a good deal of respect from the community, to see what they had to know everyday at work.  Safety was an important part of working in the mines. Although I don’t ever remember a major mining incident while I was growing up, I did know people who had a father killed in the mine. Mining was a hard and treacherous job and this was a day when they could celebrate and forget about the mines.

After all the competitions and games were over there was plenty of time to go on the rides. The Columbia Gardens was a place that was safe and no one ever worried about strangers, kidnappers, or such things. Children ran freely while their parents watched on. It also was a day when you knew that you would do plenty of walking and you had better wear good walking shoes. What a great life and such wonderful memories we had from those days.

I loved to go on the merry-go-round and the airplane ride. My mother never liked me to sit on the outside of the airplane ride, so I always had to let someone else sit there. However, it didn’t matter to me. I just liked the way it made me feel, so free flying over everyone’s head. I could have stayed on that ride forever if they would have let me. It was fun to look down and have the people look so small. It reminded me of ants in a jar.

The roller coaster ride was a favorite of mine in the beginning because it went up and down. Then you dropped very fast sometimes feeling like you had left your stomach at the top. To my knowledge I never got sick on this ride. Later on I would learn not to like it so well when I had the experience of riding it over and over again. Parents would walk around taking photos while the young people were on the rides. No one ever had to worry about strangers or safety. It was the friendliest and safest place in the world making me feel like a child without a care in the world. After the rides, if you had any money left over, you could go to the boardwalk, and play the games. However, they usually closed earlier, and my family spent time on the rides instead of the games.

The gardens also offered children’s day in the summer, when you could ride the bus out for the day. Then children had more time without parents hanging around. The gardens opened Memorial Day weekend and went through Labor Day. They closed for the winter. It made for a long winter, but you knew you would have something wonderful to look forward to. Many years were spent going to the Columbia Gardens, and I would remember it for the rest of my life. Times were beginning to change and those changes would later on affect the Gardens forever. The town would never forget it when it happened. The tradition of generations would be gone forever.

My children would never know it, for when I was in College, “The Company,” in 1973 decided to close the Columbia Gardens forever. The town put up such a fight to save it.  People came from miles around. They had such a large turn out and fought so hard.  They thought they had won, but it was lost one night when a fire broke out. This fire destroyed the roller coaster, merry-go-round and all the equipment in storage; which would end the park and its traditions forever. Only a few carousel horses were saved, and they were sold to individuals and restored. No one ever knew where they went. I cannot say to this day the actual cause of the fire; however, there had been talk of arson. I do not have any knowledge of what is in the final report.

Butte people would never get over the loss of their once beautiful Columbia Gardens.  The beauty that was once known to the town’s people was gone forever. No longer could one see beautiful trees at the foothills of the Rockies. There would never again be the screams from the roller coaster, the smell of the wonderful flowers and popcorn.  You would never celebrate Labor Day at the Columbia Gardens again. There would be no family picnics, organization activities and miners competitions. No one would hear the laughter of children. There would no longer be the wonderful beauty of the trees and the flowers. Nor would there be the animals, or the beauty of what had been not only a wonderful park, but a lifetime of family gatherings and memories. What had once been like a beautiful “fantasy land” had now become a nightmare for my hometown. There would be no more proms in the beautiful pavilions, which was such an important part of our high school years. Now what had been a one of a kind park was gone forever.

Oh, this would have been my favorite place to take my children had it still been there for them. Unfortunately they would never get to experience this tradition and build these memories that I have. It was stolen from them and many generations yet to come. The beautiful trees were gone forever, and what had once been a happy memory, now became such a sad part of our heritage, which we had lost for nothing. After that “The Mining Company,” used the land”, where they dug a big hole for a couple of years. Then they stopped because the cost of producing was insufficient for their profit margin. It would now be just like every other mining site, nothing but dirt and mud were left now.

With Labor Day now over, school would be starting with all activities centering on school, and the preparation for winter. It was now time to prepare for the changing season and the weather that it would bring. This included raking up the leaves that were falling from the trees. My father always raked them with the help of my mother and then of course while they took a break, it was traditional for the kids to jump in the piles. My mother never appreciated that but my father liked it. We would throw them at each other, stick leaves down each other’s shirts, and have a good old-time. When we were finished it was our turn to help rake up the leaves and help put them in the burning bin. The garden would be cleaned out before winter, and put to sleep so that the bulbs would come back in the spring. Now it was time to be ready to bundle up for those cold days that would come as we walked to and from school.

Father’s would be putting storm windows on and mothers would be taking the winter clothes out of the mothballs. This is where they kept wool clothes safe from moths and anything else that might get into them. Cars would be checked for anti-freeze and winter maintenance was done for everything. So as the summer faded a new routine would begin of school, studying, staying home on weeknights, going to bed early and preparing for the holidays that would come.

We would return to the routine of Saturday Night baths, Church on Sunday, and school Monday through Friday. Friday nights would be kept open for visiting Grandma and Saturday would be household chores and grocery shopping. Monday and Friday were always mom’s laundry days. Tuesday was finishing the ironing and cleaning house. Wednesday and Thursday rotated between walking to town to pay bills and do errands and one day for baking.   There would be dance lessons, and piano lessons after school. There would be Bluebird and Brownies during elementary school years. New memories would begin as you shared them with cousins, family, classmates, old and new friends. 🙂

Now that we are finalizing the summer and beginning fall, schools have started and routines are getting back into full swing. Parents are organizing their schedules to meet the needs of their families. It won’t be long before harvest is in full swing and then we go right into holidays. Boy how time does fly.

I am not ready to even think of holidays or winter yet. I am ready for the smoke to clear from the air and for a few nice days without forest fires, high heats, and winds.

Hopefully we will still have some Indian Summer left ahead for us to enjoy as we begin to watch the changing of colors like the changing of the color guards.

Oh how I love to watch a beautiful mountain side as it fills with all the different colors of fall. I hope that this year we will have forests left to paint the hillsides.

Let us not forgot those who are suffering from Isaac at this time and take a moment to pray for those going through national catastrophes, as well as personal ones.

Now as we get ready to move into fall let us also prepare to be good citizens and get ready to vote for the next presidential candidate. I hope and pray that the next four years of office will help to turn around the economy of our country and lead the USA back to be the strong nation that it is so that everyone can stand tall with their heads held high. I pray that job opportunities will open up and that job ethics will once again become important.

I pray that education becomes a priority during this election time. Our children have suffered enough and need to see hope.

Our senior citizens need to no longer be in fear of medicare and social security being cut. Our middle class people need to not worry about taxes increases and healthcare issues.

It is time for everyone to be able to breath a sigh of relief that our country will be a better place to live and that things are going to improve. Therefore I ask everyone when it is time make sure you do your civic duty and vote.

With that said I’m going to move on to the National Days.

National Days:

31 National Trail Mix Day

August 31: National Trail Mix Day The origin of trail mix is a hot debate. While certain Americans claim that it was invented in 1968 by two Californian surfers who ate raisins and peanuts together for energy, similar recipes existed before then. Poland, Germany and Lithuania all had “student mixes” that contained nuts, fruits and grains. Salty Sweet: Texas Cowpoke Trail Mix Go Bananas: Rainforest Trail Mix

Read more at:

Trail Mix makes for a good school or after school snack. Filling it with nutritional snacks that help provide nutrition for the brain while having that enjoyable mixture of sweet and salty yet within balance so that you aren’t getting too much of either.
There are many brands of Trail Mix that can be purchased or you can make your own from the  mixes that you like. They store well can be used on hiking and camping trips and are just a great all around snack.
All of us find times when we need to snack on something crunchy and trail mix can provide that for you.
They also make a wonderful party snack at a BBQ or any other type of party. Now today is the day to celebrate this versatile snack so enjoy and eat up.


August 31, 2012 is

Eat Outside Day

It’s Eat Outside Day! Today is the last day of August, which makes this a very timely celebration. It’s the perfect opportunity to take your breakfast, lunch, or dinner into the great outdoors and enjoy the last few days of warm summer weather.

Al-fresco dining first became popular in the 18th century. Patrons who enjoyed eating their meals in the open air could visit tea gardens, seashore resorts, or rooftop restaurants. Eating outside was considered a tourist activity up until the early 1900s. Around that time, the first sidewalk cafés appeared on the streets of Manhattan.

There are many ways that you can participate in Eat Outside Day. Eat at your favorite outdoor restaurant, enjoy a Popsicle on your porch, organize a barbecue in your backyard, or have a picnic at a local park. Whatever you decide to do, just be sure to enjoy some time outside. Have fun!

Well that’s it from me for today so whatever you are doing for Labor Day Weekend please stay safe. So until next time 🙂


2 Responses

  1. Great trip down memory lane!! Thanks for the reminders,Micki

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