Labor Day, 1947
by Paula Bosse
by Paula Bosse
What, you may ask, was happening in Dallas on Labor Day in 1947? I’m so glad you asked! The main labor union-related festivities in Dallas that day were a parade downtown and a day-long picnic at Vickery Park where union members and their families could participate in games such as “The Taft-Hartley Relay Race” (contestants tried to “pass a union contract” between one another while shackled), “Bean the Bums” (ten cents got you three tries to throw baseballs at effigies of Texas congressmen who had voted for the aforementioned Taft-Hartley bill), “Pop the Politicians” (similar to “Bean the Bums,” but this one involved darts, balloons, and Dallas County state representatives who had voted down pro-labor legislation), and the whimsically named “Kick Pappy in the Pants” (in which, as Paul Crume described it, “contestants will try out their toes on a life-size dummy of Sen. W. Lee [‘Pappy’] O’Daniel, [and] the person who punts Pappy farthest down the field gets a prize”).
At Fair Park’s brand new Picnic Pavilion (an area I’d never heard of which was located near the grandstand and lasted only about a decade), there was a more laid-back, not-straining-for-social-relevance Old Fiddlers Contest, followed by a square dance.
Despite sweltering in the 103-degree heat that Labor Day, it sounds like everyone (except, perhaps, “Pappy”) had a good time and enjoyed a well-deserved day of R&R and a final summer fling.
Labor Day that year was on Sept. 1, and plans were well underway by the beginning of August:
“Hillbillies” are, apparently, cheap dates — they require only a fiddle and some corn meal strewn on the ground:
(DMN, Aug. 17, 1947)
DMN columnist Paul Crume wrote an entertaining preview of the union members’ upcoming party games (which appear to have been created by someone possessed of what might generously be described as “a sledgehammer wit”):
Labor Day Eve — “militant labor frolic” ahead!
(DMN, Aug. 31, 1947)
Despite the record heat, 1,000 people showed up at the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) picnic at Vickery Park, and more than 4,000 fiddle-enthusiasts showed up at Fair Park:
Future chili-maven Frank X. Tolbert covered the Old Fiddlers Contest:
And a fun and sweaty day off work was had by all:
Top photo from LaborDallas.org, here.
Clippings from The Dallas Morning News.
For a bit more of a comprehensive wrap-up of the day’s activities, the DMN article “Speakers Flay Taft-Hartley Act” by Dorothea Lyle, can be read in a PDF, here.
If, like me, you may not be as up on Taft-Hartley as you might like to be, something like this might come in handy.
Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.