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For some, it's another day of labor

September 02, 1997

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - For Margaret Hoogland, Labor Day was just that: another day of labor.

"In this business we always say, `What's a holiday? What's a weekend?'" said Hoogland, an evening shift supervisor with Berkeley County Central Dispatch.

She's been taking 911 calls and dispatching police, fire and ambulance units for nine years, so she's used to missing a few holidays.

She confessed she'd like to go to the Fourth of July and Labor Day picnics like other people who normally get holidays off. But she has some consolation.

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"We get extra pay. That's a little bit of a silver lining," she said.

"You put yourself in the mode that this is a Saturday or a Saturday night," Hoogland said of the three-day weekends.

She's also in a position to see the downside of Labor Day, as more traffic brings more accidents.

Accidents are usually up because "the highways are more crowded with people coming home and they're grouchy," said Hoogland, who is also an emergency medical technician with the Hedgesville Volunteer Fire Company. She said Monday was relatively quiet as of late afternoon.

"It's been hectic," Lt. George Swartwood said of his working holiday. The Martinsburg City Police detective had just returned to the station following one of several minor disturbance calls police had Monday.

"Seems like on a holiday, especially when it's warm, there's a lot more alcohol consumed," he said.

"It's tough, not only on police officers, but the hospital and medical staff, firefighters, taxi cab drivers, you name it," Swartwood said of holiday workers.

"I guess my wife gets tired of saying, `He's working,'" the detective said of his missed holidays.

"Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year. The only time we close is if the weather gets real bad," said Kenny Twigg, a dispatcher at City Taxi on West Burke Street.

"I'm not crazy about it," he said of working a holiday, but he did go to a cookout at his sister's before doing a short shift Monday evening. He said City Taxi tries to switch the schedule around so employees get some holidays off.

Twigg, whose phone rang almost constantly during a brief interview, said his Labor Day was busy. The cab company doesn't just move people from point A to point B. Twigg said cabbies also deliver prescriptions, takeout orders, even deliver blood from one hospital to another.

Around the corner at Olde Berkeley News on Queen Street, Felix Salem and Saab Baraba were having a slow day. The news agency, though, remains open year-round.

"Even at Christmas we are open," said Baraba, who manages the store with Salem.

Salem, who came to this country from Brazil, said he wonders why the United States celebrates Labor Day on Sept. 1 while other countries observe it on May 1.

"Even the outlet malls are open today. If you want to buy cheap jeans you can go now," Salem said, adding that it's a good idea because many people don't otherwise have the time to shop.

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