Labor Day Family Reunion

Years ago Otto's maternal kinfolks celebrated the Labor Day weekend with a family reunion that was held at the Kinchafoonee Sportsman Club in neighboring Webster County; several relatives were active members and reserved the date months in advance to ensure that we had our get-together solidly booked. There was a giant calendar posted on the back wall of the lodge that displayed the names and reservations of various families in the area; birthday parties, anniversaries, family and class reunions were held there, that is, when the club was not reserved for hunting and camping gatherings. The site was perfect for groups because it included indoor and outdoor spaces and could accommodate masses of people without feeling overcrowded. The children of Lorene Johnson Woody; Earl, Irene, Joe, Myrtle, Nadine and Mackey, provided pork barbecue and Brunswick stew for the masses, and everyone contributed a favorite dessert; cakes, pies, cookies and brownies, we always had tons of the previously mentioned sweet treats. The date was selected years before because it was near the birthday of Mother Woody, and the tradition of gathering together as a family continued for years after she passed away. The brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins provided fried chicken, various salads, homemade pimento cheese sandwiches and their favorite Southern recipes which filled the countless tables to overflowing. Each family was expected to bring assorted dishes such as casseroles, potato salad, deviled eggs, and pans of fresh vegetables and enough ice and sweet tea to share with the multitude of relatives and invited friends that always joined the festivities. Otto's mother, Myrtle Woody Brown Murray adored the family reunion and looked forward every year to attending; she chopped barbecue and assisted with the complicated recipe for the stew, set the tables and helped clean up the chaos when the banquet was completed, it made her happy to spend quality time with the people she loved. 

I had a specific and very significant assignment; I documented each person who attended, men, women and children, designated them as family or friends, and composed the lengthy newspaper article that was published each year in the Stewart Webster Journal. At one time there was a scrapbook filled with priceless pictures and articles from years past. Horseshoes was the outdoor game of choice but there were other events such as hay rides, relay races, and hide and seek. At noon there was recognition of the oldest and youngest in attendance, and of course family pictures galore. And, during the family prayer time and the traditional blessing of the food, acknowledgment and remembrance of those who passed away. 

We never minded the gnats and the heat and humidity of southwest Georgia because during the summer months, it was an ever present annoyance; we sat on the porch or gathered in the shade of a tree and shared the news of the past year. As the older population passed away and many of us moved from the area, the family reunion became a distant memory of how we celebrated Labor Day when we lived in Richland.


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