Labor Day brings to mind memories of childhood in the Chemical Capital of the South. Built by DuPont and the manufacturing facilities spun off from DuPont, the town of Hopewell had something uncommon for many Virginia municipalities: labor unions. It also had many new immigrants to the United States, including my family, who spoke their own language at home and in public while they also struggled to learn English. My family and many others sought shelter and a new life in the United States after the horrors of genocide and warfare. They came to Hopewell because DuPont jobs were available if a person followed instructions. I’ve written a little about Hopewell and these immigrants in Three Prayers You’ll Want to Pray and A World Worth Saving, and a Hopewell story shows up in my new book, In Days to Come.
Labor Day meant a parade and events at the union halls. The Hopewell Labor Day parade was not as sophisticated or as large as the Rose Parade. It consisted of high school marching bands, troops of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, convertible cars loaded with local or state dignitaries, and floats put together by the different labor unions. At parade’s end, people went to their representative union hall for a meal, talent show, and speeches by elected officials or by those who hoped for election.
That was then. No longer is there a Labor Day parade in Hopewell. Most of the residents are glad that the plants still operate, though under new names and different working conditions.
Still people go to Hopewell and many other places in these United States for the opportunity to work and to support or sustain a family, a reminder that this nation remains a land of opportunity.