MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Every Labor Day for the last 35 years, Harold Catrow has arrived at War Memorial Park at 6 a.m. and hauled in the big gas grills to fire up the park's big annual fundraiser.
Catrow, 74, a retired Martinsburg firefighter, recruits the 40 to 50 volunteers who work the annual steak-and-egg breakfast.
The Monday event brings in $7,000 to $8,000 to the park's coffers, said Steve Catlett, executive director of the Berkeley County Parks and Recreation Board, which runs the park.
"This is the park's biggest one-day fundraiser," he said.
Volunteers are given tickets to sell around the county, Catlett said. They cost $25 in advance and $30 at the gate.
Breakfast had been served to 560 ticket-holders by 9:50 a.m. Monday. The tally at that point was 230 steaks and 33 ham steaks. Breakfast is served every year from 7 to 10 a.m., Catrow said.
"The rush hour begins around 9 o'clock," he said.
For the next hour or so, nearly every table in the park's big pavilion was filled with diners.
"Some people eat eggs, toast and coffee here, and take their raw steak or ham home," Catrow said. "As long as we get their $25, we don't care what they do."
Catrow stood outside the pavilion and looked over at his hard-working volunteers.
He pointed to the Martinsburg Kiwanis Club.
"They got eight guys doing the eggs," he said.
Next to them, "the fairground ladies" — local women who run the annual Berkeley County Youth Fair concession stand — were scrambling eggs for the Kiwanis guys working their two grills, Catrow said.
Ruth Linton, in charge of the scrambling, said the women went through more than 100 dozen eggs.
Virginia Sine, the clerk of the county Circuit Court, was sitting at a nearby table serving or "dipping" scrambled eggs to patrons.
"The guys from the Masonic Hall are doing the steaks," Catrow said, a traditional Labor Day task for members of Martinsburg Masonic Lodge Equality No. 44 AM&FM.
Other volunteers were chipping in with preparations, waiting on tables and cleaning up.
The park, known first as Rosemont Park, opened in the 1920s as a private, segregated facility, Catlett said.
It became public, open to all, in 1947 when it was renamed War Memorial Park in honor of all local veterans who served in World War II, he said. At that time, the War Memorial Park Association was organized to assume control of the facility.
It was taken over from the association by the parks and recreation board in 1987. The association still functions, but in an unofficial capacity as friends of the park, Catlett said.
The Labor Day breakfast tradition began in the late 1940s, he said.