Those Were The Days “Summer’s Last Hurrah”

Back in the early 1940s when we were kids in grade school, the end of June gave us both stress and excitement. Stress receiving our final report cards to see if we passed and went on, or failed and have to repeat the year all over again, and excitement because the school doors were flung open and we could begin two whole months of outdoor fun and games. Rain or shine, shoes or bare feet, we flew kites, played baseball or field hockey, swam at the old sand pits and even earned twenty-five cents a day working on various farms. We were in awe when the army did maneuvers in the mile-long field behind our homes, parachutes floated from the sky, tanks rumbled across the back field and soldiers charged a solitary hazelnut tree, obviously their ultimate goal. After breakfast we scurried outside not returning until dinner time; and then out again with the couple dozen other kids in the neighbourhood until the sun went down, always something to do, somewhere to go.

Although the two months of freedom went fleeting by, we did have a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, Labour Day weekends Firemens Field Day. Both young and old looked forward to this yearly event when families gathered together with picnic baskets in hand, and flocked to Jackson Park to be part of the annual carnavalistic festivities.

Jackson Park is Windsor, Ontario’s largest park stretching a vast sixty four acres. The park was named after a former Mayor Cecil Jackson who fought long and hard to buy the land during the depression when money was scarce. My grandfather was hired in 1925 as an Assistant Groundskeeper at $1.25 a day to supervise the federally funded construction of the park and planting of trees, the reason the Sanders family migrated to Windsor, the city of my birth.

The park had a working floral clock, gold fish ponds, 10,000 blooming plants and monuments for every historical event, truly a tourist’s delight. Windsor firemen set up the Windsor Firefighters Benefit Fund to help injured or incapacitated firemen who were hurt on the job, and decided to hold a field day to raise money. The very first Firemans Field Day was held on September 1-2, 1930. Of course there was the midway, a band competition, Miss Western Ontario beauty contest the ever popular draw. First prize was a brand new 1930 Ford Model A sedan, second a washing machine and third prize an “iceless” refrigerator. 

Mom and Dad and all us kids piled on a bus and headed for Jackson Park. I have no idea where our parents found the money for the day, but we sure did appreciate that they did. One year Dad won a basket of groceries and a live chicken. Oh yes I remember, the culmination of our summer vacation was a day our whole family enjoyed. Although in 1957 the main grandstand burned to the ground, Firemens Field Day continued on until the 1980s offering fifty years of memories.

By: Russ Sanders   epigram@nexicom.net

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