Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day

Since it's Labor Day in the United States, and I believe in Canada too, as opposed to all the other countries that still observe it on its original May day, I've been thinking about the work my ancestors did.

In the early 1900s they were tailors, launderers, undertakers, salesmen. The next generation had several lawyers and doctors. Most people see that as a jump, because we focus on the money, and the years of required education. But every one of my ancestors in the first list were self-employed businessmen, dealing with clients in much the same fashion.

I've found an online interview of a distant relative who left the city and started a medical practice in a small rural town in the 1930s because they had no other doctor. For years he charged his patients $1, and never sent out bills, because he knew they would pay if they could. Something which he, and his children, and his children's children should rightly be proud of.

In the interview he states one of his reasons for becoming a doctor was because his mother didn't want him to become a tailor like everyone else in the family. I cringe at the joke, even though it receives the expected laughter from the interviewer. Mostly because I know the interviewee's father, and his father's father were tailors, and I know his mother's father was a bootmaker.

It's not exactly what he said that bothers me, but how he said it. The parents of all his cousins probably had similar (mostly fulfilled) desires for their children. I like to think, though, that instead of looking down on the profession, they saw the hard work that went into it, and the years of poverty, and wanted an easier life for their children. That's probably how he looked at it too, and I'm just reading too much into a one-liner in an interview.

I was certainly thrilled to find a recording of his voice. The interview is about 30 minutes long.

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