Labor Day in America for more than a century has come to be one of those holidays with many meanings. It marks the end of summer.

Labor Day in America for more than a century has come to be one of those holidays with many meanings. It marks the end of summer.

For many years, school in Ohio began on the day after Labor Day. Vacations are over, the crops are being harvested and people are looking to the activities of autumn.

For all of that, Labor Day is still primarily a holiday recognizing the working people of America. Born in protest in the years after the Civil War, Labor Day had become a recognized holiday in Ohio in 1890, four years before it became a national holiday in 1894. In both cases, the recognition by government of the day came long after it had been celebrated for many years.

It makes a certain amount of sense that Labor Day would be officially celebrated a little earlier in Ohio than in other parts of the country. The rail network developed by the Civil War placed Ohio squarely in the center of a new industrial heartland that would eventually stretch across much of the Midwest. Attracted by immense reserves of coal, oil and timber, entrepreneurs backed by European as well as American capital built huge new enterprises using the labor of recent immigrants and longtime residents.

It is no accident that some of the largest business organizations in history got their start and made their homes in Ohio.

Some of the byproducts of this remarkable growth and success were long hours, low pay and often-dangerous working conditions for some of the workers in the new industries. What followed were efforts to correct these problems by unionization. In some cases, the rise of unions came without much struggle. In other cases, long and bitter strikes ended in violent confrontation.

But by the turn of the 20th century, significant gains had been made - especially by the craft unions, which had formed the American Federation of Labor in Columbus in 1886.

It should be noted that the AFL was not founded in Columbus because the city was a hotbed of radical unionism. It was not. Rather, the federation had been founded here, as the United Mine Workers of America would be in 1890, because Columbus was a railroad hub, easily accessible to many of the members of the new groups.

All of this notwithstanding, organized labor in Columbus in 1911 felt it had reason to celebrate. And it did so in the way it had done from time to time - with a parade.

Labor Day parades had been a tradition in Columbus for a number of years. But by the turn of the century in 1900, interest in the parade had fallen off and Labor Day was celebrated with a large picnic in a public park and with little else.

The celebration changed in 1910. A long, violent and quite destructive streetcar strike had recently ended, and organized labor wished to demonstrate its continued strength with a parade. More than 10,000 people marched through downtown Columbus to a public meeting - and a picnic - in a city park.

In 1911, the question arose as to whether another parade should be held. Labor confrontations in the new year had been minimal and some wondered whether a parade was necessary. Others thought it was not only necessary and fun but also offered a platform to express one's views.

The problem arose when parade organizers saw some of the views about to be expressed; 1911 was an election year for a number of local government offices and a mayoral primary would be held on the day after Labor Day. Many local union members wanted to march wearing buttons and carrying banners bearing the names of their favored candidates.

Ardently opposing identification with partisan politics, the parade planners banned the buttons and banners. For that reason, many locals chose not to march at all.

The result was that only 2,000 people marched in the 1911 parade. But it was still quite a sight. Lining up in ranks and led by a local band, the parade began at the local AFL office on East Town Street and marched north on Third Street to Broad Street. Turning west on Broad Street, the parade, with different trades in different outfits, marched to High Street, where it turned south and marched for several blocks past hundreds of curbside observers before heading back up High Street to Goodale Park.

There the parade disbanded and people departed - not for a picnic in the park, but rather for an afternoon and evening of fun at Olentangy Park.

Olentangy Park had been open in one form or another for almost two decades. In that time, it had become the largest and most successful amusement park in central Ohio. And while people could certainly enjoy a picnic supper and listen to labor leaders give speeches, there were a number of other things to do as well.

In addition to the final summer stock performances of a Broadway play called "Cousin Kate," one could also be entertained by "swimming exhibitions, diving horses, the Wild West, the 'girl in red' and the slide for life."

The slide for life was explained in some detail: "Professor Ereig will slide on the wire to the watery depths below in the evenings, being enveloped in flames to further astonish and thrill the beholders." I am sure the good professor did just that.

Not to be outdone, most of the theaters, restaurants and other attractions in town offered special entertainment. Nearby Indianola Park offered "Les Leggaris, Wonderful French Acrobats" and "Splendid Meats served in the restaurant at The Place To Have a Good Time" while the B.F. Keith Theater offered a full vaudeville bill, including "the Temple Quartet - the boys with the melodic goods" and "the world's greatest animal novelty - Richardson's Pantomime Dogs."

It was a day of many memorable moments.