This week we’re talking about Labor Day, what it means to us, and how we celebrate it.
Well, to be perfectly frank, it doesn’t mean anything to me at all, as I live in the UK and we don’t celebrate it. However, I’ve been told that I can write about something related to the labor movement, or about work in general. Therefore I shall write about our Labour party, and how Stevie went canvassing one night…
I was sixteen at the time of the general election of September 1974, and was still rather shy and retiring, but was slowly coming out of my shell (excuse the faded photo, it’s 42 years old, and the only one I have of that particular time). Mum and Dad had just bought me this blue dress for a cousin’s wedding (the dress has its own story in my new memoir ‘Waiting in the Wings’).
Somehow or other I got roped in to helping out Mum and her boss Ruth, who were campaigning for our local Labour MP. I had no particular political affiliations either way, but had just petitioned 2000 people on our estate for a youth club, and knocking on doors was nothing new to me. I was told by Ruth to walk along a certain street in Greenwich, knock politely on each door, and try and persuade people to vote Labour. Mum was canvassing in the next street, but Dad had stayed at home as he disliked Ruth (whom he likened to a sergeant major he once knew when doing national service), and didn’t want anything to do with it at all.
So…armed with a bag of leaflets, off I went and knocked at the first house. A rather rotund, florid middle aged man answered. I smiled and waved a leaflet in the air.
“I’m canvassing on behalf of the Labour Party, and hope you’ll be voting for (whoever it was…I can’t remember) Mr Smith on Thursday the tenth of October.”
The door was slammed in my face, but undeterred, I traipsed on to the next house. The same leaflet was taken off me by a middle aged lady who peered at it intently.
“I’ve just made some tea. Would you like a cup?”
She could have been Rosemary West for all I knew, but happily I think she was just lonely and wanted to talk at somebody. Like me at the time, I had the feeling she didn’t care who ended up as the next prime minister. I escaped after half an hour full of tea and cake and, trudging ever onwards, knocked upon the next door. A rather fit young man answered. I hated it when coming face-to-face with boys my own age, as I was terribly shy and had a tendency to blush to the roots of my hair.
“Er…I’m canvassing on behalf of the Labour Party.”
“Nah; we’re Conservative.”
What a shame! He didn’t even want a leaflet. I wasn’t having much luck at all, but the eye candy in front of me had definitely made the whole campaigning thing suddenly appear a worthwhile occupation for a late summer’s evening.
“Okay; see ya then.”
Amongst the harassed mothers, screaming children, disinterested teens, talkative elderly and hungry workers returning home, I eventually managed to persuade only a few, as I hadn’t learned the difficult art of subtle persuasion (even now I ‘could do better’!). However, when Mr Wilson won the general election of 1974 and the crowd cheered him outside number 10, I was proud to realise that in my own small way I had played a little part in getting him there.
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