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Sixty-Something: Fond Memories Of Labor Day Weekends

T.J. Clemente

T.J.'s perfect memory occurred my last Labor Day living in Montauk. (Photo: T.J. Clemente)

My first memory of Labor Day weekend is of buying a light brown leather "book-bag" for first grade. There was some store my mother drove me to that was having a sale. My older brother and sister already had theirs, but since I was to start first grade I had to get my first one. You don't see kids with them anymore, I believe they all wear backpacks, but back then everyone had leather valises.

My next memory is of Riviera Country Club, on Davenport Avenue, in New Rochelle. After spending the whole summer there every day, it was Labor Day weekend. Many times during that summer my mother's friend Beatrice Milinsky's daughter Joan was my babysitter. By the way she later called herself Joan Rivers, I never remember her being funny back then in 1959. That Labor Day they kept the Clubhouse opened very late as folks played cards, danced to music and I still remember my parents saying their final goodbyes to everyone in the club parking lot. I clearly recall all the valets had gone off to college and my dad had to fetch his car.

My next big time Labor Day memory is in 1969, the year of Woodstock. During that summer I had my first real summer girlfriend. We were together every day at the pool, talking, learning, and experiencing what it was to being young teens enjoying the spark of such an amazing time of life. After Labor Day she went back to her Catholic school life at Ursaline and I went to Pelham High to start my junior year. You always remember that first "thing," fondly.

The next Labor Day memory is quite funny. I had a summer job as court maintenance guy at the NYAC and Labor Day is the busiest day. However all Labor Day Sunday night my friend Scotty Burrows was feeding me beers telling me, "... of course I had Labor Day off, everyone did. It was a paid holiday!" By 2 a.m. I was sure he was right and arrived home at 4 a.m. When the phone rang at 7 a.m. and my mom said it was Tommy Byrne, the NYAC Tennis pro wondering where I was, things started to come into focus. That was quite a morning with me hosing, brushing, rolling and then doing the lines of the then 8 "red clay" tennis courts with alcohol fumes coming out of my nose and mouth.

The perfect memory occurred my last Labor Day living in Montauk. Knowing I was moving away the next May I decided to write an article for the Montauk Pioneer about Labor Day and hung out on Ditch Plains Beach late Labor Day Sunday into Monday. There were campfires with families singing songs all over the beach, there were family dogs everywhere just being dogs, there even were some locals who came down to check out "their" ocean. I walked down DeForest Road, and every home was lit up like Christmas Eve with music and cheer spilling out into the ocean beach-hugging road. The next morning I watched car after car get loaded with bikes, surfboards, kayaks, coolers and lots of suitcases. I observed the cars depart down DeForest Road out to 27 West to go back to where they were from. You could clearly see the eyes of the passengers sadly fixated on the three Ditch Plain Beach parking lots. I remember one young kid looking at me and my beagle knowing I was staying because I lived there. However one day the next May it was me driving down that road with everything I owned.

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