August 21, 2014

Labor Day—Children’s Stories, Poems, & More






For children (of all ages), and to make it easier for parents and caregivers on holidays, I surfed the Internet and found the following sites with stories, poems, and fingerplays that provide Labor Day entertainment.

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Dad: Most people don’t have to work today because it’s Labor Day.

Son: If they’re not working, shouldn’t it be ‘No-Labor Day?”

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Q: Why did the policeman go to the baseball game?
A: He heard someone had stolen a base!


Q: Why did the lazy man want a job in a bakery?
A: So he could loaf around!

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Q: What did the football coach say to the broken vending machine?

A: “Give me my quarterback!”

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Q: Why won’t a cannibal eat people that work at gas stations?

A:They give him gas.

Q: Why were the teacher’s eyes crossed?

A: She couldn’t control her pupils.

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The secret of joy in work is contained in one word –

excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it. — Pearl S. Buck

There is no substitute for hard work. — Thomas Edison

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. — Thomas Edison

Work is not a curse, it is the prerogative of intelligence, the only means to manhood, and the measure of civilization. –Calvin Coolidge

Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will. —Frederick Douglass

Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom. — Albert Einstein

A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned — this is the sum of good government. — Thomas Jefferson

If any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar. If any man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool.  — Abraham Lincoln

The strongest bond of human sympathy outside the family relation should be one uniting working people of all nations and tongues and kindreds.  — Abraham Lincoln

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  — Matthew 11:28 (KJV)

It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.  — Theodore Roosevelt

It was not by gold or by silver, but by labor, that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased.  — Adam Smith

Without labor nothing prospers.  — Sophocles

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Let us, then, be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night   — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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If a task is once begun,
Never leave it till it’s done.
Be the labor great or small,
Do it well or not at all.


(Margaret Widdemer)

I have shut my little sister in from life and light
(For a rose, for a ribbon, for a wreath across my hair),
I have made her restless feet still until the night,
Locked from sweets of summer and from wild spring air;

I who ranged the meadow lands, free from sun to sun,
Free to sing and pull the buds and watch the far wings fly,
I have bound my sister till her playing-time is done —
Oh, my little sister, was it I? — was it I?

I have robbed my sister of her  (continue reading at


(By Walter V. Holloway)

When the trembling East is beginning to blush
With the rosy red of morn,
And the World holds her breath in a solemn hush
As another day is born.
I am startled from sleep’s illusive dreams
By the factory whistle’s imperious screams,
Which seem but an echo of yesterday —
So soon has the short night passed away.
A child was I in my beautiful dream,
In my old home  (continue reading at )


You may find him in the East and in the South,
This small child slave. His little eyes
Look out aweary on the world. His little mouth

Is hard and old, in babyhood; his shoulders droop.
But skinny hands fly at the broken threads,
Tie up the knot, undo the tangled loop

Unerringly, with quick, machine-like skill.
Quick-witted hands. Only they may live. The baby promise
Of all other human faculties the great machines soon kill.

(continue reading at )

(Edgar A. Guest)

I knew Ket and Knudsen, Zeller, Zeder and Breer.
I knew Henry Ford back yonder as a lightplant engineer.
I’m a knew-’em-when companion who frequently recalls
That none of the those big brothers were too proud for overalls.

All the Fishers, all the leaders, all the motion pioneers
Worked at molds or lathes or benches at the start of their careers.
Chrysler, Keller, Nash and others whom I could but now won’t name
Had no high-falutin’ notion ease and softness led to fame.

They had work to do and did it. Did it bravely, did it

(continue reading at )

(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his (continue reading at

The Song of the Working Children
(George W. Priest)

Grant us but rest, to hide our haggard faces;
The brute evicts our souls for daily bread —
We children of the drear and noisome places,
Of joy and beauty disinherited.
This cruel Nation has worn out, defaced us
Ere childhood’s happy playtime should have sped;
As well had fate, with careless blindness, placed us
With (continue reading at




Tune: Frere Jacques

When I’m grown up, when I’m grown up,

Big and tall, big and tall.

I will be a teacher,

I will be a teacher,

When I’m big, when I’m tall.

Have children substitute the kind of worker, to replace teacher, that s/he wants to be—Elizabeth Scofield

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Tune: “Midnight Special”; Words by Mimi Yahn, © 1990, 1991

Let the Union’s spirit
Take ahold this land,
Let the Union’s power
Fill every woman and man.

Yonder comes my steward,
Got a grievance in her hand,
She come to see the boss man;
You shoulda seen the way he (cont. reading at


Words and music by Mimi Yahn, © 1989, 1991

(Probably the most famous labor songwriter in America was Joe Hill, who came to the U. S. from Sweden in the early nineteen hundreds. He worked as an unskilled laborer and joined the Industrial Workers of the World, known as the Wobblies. The music they used music in their campaigns, urged members to “sing and fight.”

More at )

Oh, I’ll tell you a story of our government,
A story of red tape and bureaucracy,
A story that’ll make your hair stand up;
It’s the story of the Unknown Wobbly.

Oh, look alive, boys, you FBI boys.
If you’re quick enough you just might find
Those fingerprints, boys, those fingerprints;
Yes, the prints of the Unknown Wobbly!

Well, they murdered Joe Hill in 1915;
They framed him on charges of (continue reading at


(Original by the Almanac Singers, 1941;
new verses by Mimi Yahn, ©1990, 2000)
The boss comes up to me with a five-dollar bill,
Says, “Get you some whiskey, gal, and drink your fill.”
Get thee behind me, Satan,
Travel on down the line.
I am a union woman,
Gonna leave you behind.

The big corporations say their profits are down,
Say they gotta cut our wages or  (continue reading at



I met a teacher and the teacher said, “Why aren’t you home in bed?”

I met a baker and the baker said, “Why aren’t you home in bed?”
I met a carpenter and the carpenter said, “Why aren’t you home in bed?”
I met a soldier and the soldier said, “Why aren’t you home in bed?
Continue with other occupations – then end with:
I met a doctor and the doctor said, “Go right home and go to bed”.
I went right home and jumped in bed.
My body was covered with spots all red.  —Jean Warren


Tune:  “The Wheels On The Bus”

Oh, the workers go to work and work all day,

Work all day, work all day.
Oh, the workers go to work and work all day,
All through the town.

Oh, the bakers go to work and bake all day,
Bake all day, bake all day,
Oh, the bakers to work and bake all day,
All through the town.

Continue with other workers.  —Jean Warren

More at )


Tune: When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again

The workers are marching into town, hooray, hooray!

The workers are taking a rest from work, today, today,

Here come chefs, in clean white coats

Here come doctors with (continue singing at )



The Little Gray Pony

by Maud Lindsay

The humblest workman has his place,
Which no one else can fill.

There was once a man who owned a little gray pony.

Every morning when the dewdrops were still hanging on the pink clover in the meadows, and the birds were singing their morning song, the man would jump on his pony and ride away, clippety, clippety, clap!

The pony’s four small hoofs played the jolliest tune on the smooth pike road, the pony’s head was always high in the air, and the pony’s two little ears were always pricked up; for he was a merry gray pony, and loved to go clippety, clippety, clap!

The man rode to town and to country, to church and to market, up hill and down hill; and one day he heard something fall with a clang on a stone in the road. Looking back, he saw a horseshoe lying there. And when he saw it, he cried out:

“What shall I do? What shall I do?
If my little gray pony has lost a shoe?”

Then down he jumped, in a great hurry, and looked at one of the pony’s forefeet; but nothing was wrong. He lifted the other forefoot, but the shoe was still there. He examined one of the hindfeet, and began to think that he was mistaken; but when he looked at the last foot, he cried again:

“What shall I do? What shall I do?
My little gray pony has lost a shoe!”

Then he made haste to go (continue reading at )


by Hugh Miller

David Fraser was a famous Scotch hewer. On hearing that it had been remarked among a party of Edinburgh masons that, though regarded as the first of Glasgow stonecutters, he would find in the eastern capital at least his equals, he attired himself most uncouthly in a long-tailed coat of tartan, and, looking to the life the untamed, untaught, conceited little Celt, he presented himself on Monday morning, armed with a letter of introduction from a Glasgow builder, before the foreman of an Edinburgh squad of masons engaged upon one of the finer buildings at that time in the course of erection.

The letter specified neither his qualifications nor his name. It had been written merely to secure for him the necessary employment, and the necessary employment it did secure.

The better workmen of the party were engaged, on his arrival, in hewing columns, each of which was deemed sufficient work for a week – and David was asked somewhat incredulously, by the foreman, if he could hew.

“Oh, yes, HE THOUGHT he could hew.”

“Could he hew columns such as these?”

“Oh, yes, HE THOUGHT he could hew columns such as these.”

A mass of stone, in which a possible column lay hid, was accordingly placed before (continue reading at


by Cleveland Moffett, Careers of Danger and Daring

All firemen have courage, but it cannot be known until the test how many have this particular kind – Bill Brown’s kind.

What happened was this: Engine 29, pumping and pounding her prettiest, stood at the northwest corner of Greenwich and Warren streets, so close to the blazing drug-house that Driver Marks thought it wasn’t safe there for the three horses, and led them away. That was fortunate, but it left Brown alone, right against the cheek of the fire, watching his boiler, stoking in coal, keeping his steam-gauge at 75. As the fire gained, chunks of red-hot sandstone began to smash down on the engine. Brown ran his pressure up to 80, and watched the door anxiously where the boys had gone in.

Then the explosion came, and a (continue reading at )


by P. V. Ramaswami Raju, Indian Fables

Once words ran high in a Blacksmith shop.

The furnace said, “If I cease to burn, the smithy must close.”

The bellows said, “If I cease to blow, no fire, no smithy.”

The hammer and anvil, also, each claimed the sole credit for keeping up the smithy.

The ploughshare that had been shaped by the furnace, the bellows, the hammer and the anvil, cried, “It is not each of you alone, that keeps up the smithy, but ALL TOGETHER.”

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A German Folk -Tale

Once long ago there was a high mountain whose rocks were veined with gold and silver and seamed with iron. At times, from a huge rent in the mountain-side, there shot out roaring, red flames, and clouds of black smoke. And when the village folk in the valley below saw this, they would say: “Look! the Metal King is at his forge.” For they knew that in the gloomy heart of the mountain, the Metal King and his Spirits of the Mines wrought in gold and iron.

When the storm raged over the valley, the Metal King left his cavern and riding on the wings of the wind, with thundering shouts, hurled his red-hot bolts into the valley, now killing the peasants and their cattle, now burning houses and barns.

But when the weather was soft and mild, and the breezes blew gently about the mouth of his cavern, the Metal King returned to his forge in the depths of the mountain, and there shaped ploughshares and many other implements of iron. These he placed outside his cavern door, as gifts to the poor peasants.

It happened, on a time, there lived in that valley a lazy lad, who would neither till his fields nor ply a trade. He was avaricious, but he longed to win gold without mining, and wealth and fame without labor. So it came to pass that he set out one day to find (continue reading at











  1. We got married on September 5th, a Labor Day weekend. So every so often our anniversary is on Labor Day !

    Comment by Grace (&Fred) — August 21, 2014 @ 10:33 am | Reply

    • We got wedded on Sept. 3, so it happens to us occasionally too…48 years this year…an early Happy Anniversary!

      Comment by carolyncholland — August 22, 2014 @ 3:07 am | Reply

  2. Happy anniversary to Grace & Fred and Carolyn & Monte! 🙂 May you enjoy many more Labor Day anniversaries. 🙂

    Comment by merry101 — August 22, 2014 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

  3. […] 3. Learn about Labor Day. If you are hoping to wind summer down more quietly, use the time wisely to educate yourself and your kids about Labor Day with a few activities and worksheets. (Pinned from Carolyn’s Compositions) […]

    Pingback by 5 Labor Day Activities - mom tattles — August 31, 2015 @ 9:18 am | Reply

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