The So-So 3rd : A Peculiar Mix of Work and Play Marks Semi-Holiday Celebration

Times Staff Writer

The workaday world was presented with a dilemma Monday, the third of July. It was what some people were calling a “semi-holiday,” an inconvenient lull between a weekend and the Fourth of July holiday, and it created a peculiar sort of day, part vacation, part work.

Most businesses and government offices were open, but few seemed to function as they do most Mondays. From the commute to the volume of work, even to the way people were dressed, there was a different feel to the day. The freeways ran more smoothly, the workload was lighter, the pace more pacific, relaxed.

“A lot of people are working, true, but a lot of people took off,” said David Venable, a peace officer for the city of Los Angeles. “It’s not as hot, not as busy. It makes it a lot nicer to work. I love it.”

Like Christmas and Thanksgiving, the Fourth is one of a few nationally recognized holidays that cannot be rescheduled to create a three-day weekend. The third of July would just not seem right.


Like the Friday that follows Thanksgiving, Monday was one of those days that, for many, spoils a long weekend. Others simply ignore the fact that it isn’t really a legitimate holiday and enjoy.

One of the earliest signs that something was different came at rush hour Monday morning. Freeway traffic was holiday-light, said those who monitor the jams and congestion.

Rick Ruiz, a deputy to City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, said he was able to whiz into work, from his home in Santa Monica, up the Santa Monica Freeway to a downtown Los Angeles City Hall parking lot in just 20 minutes.

“It was the way you always dreamed it would be and never is, except during the Olympics and on holidays,” Ruiz said. “There was absolutely no traffic.”


By mid-afternoon, heavier congestion was reported at some spots, especially along beach-bound thoroughfares. The beach, along with the malls and libraries, is where many of those who were able to duck work ended up.

“Today is pretty much like a Sunday,” said Lt. Warren Rigby of the county Lifeguard Service.

He estimated that the crowd Monday on the county’s central section beaches, from north of Marina del Rey to Topanga Canyon, at 200,000 people but predicted that number could more than double today.

“A lot of people are making a four-day weekend of it,” Rigby said.


Many private companies and manufacturing firms chose to give their employees Monday off, perhaps more out of pragmatism than generosity.

“We have floating holidays, and so they figured this would be a good time to give us one,” said Kevin Brosnihan, 27, an engineer with the El Segundo office of Rockwell International. “Probably no one would show up anyway.”

Brosnihan and a co-worker, Madelyn Netkovick, used the extra holiday to cruise on their racing bikes from Hermosa Beach to Marina del Rey, a trip they made in about an hour. The bike path was more crowded than on a normal weekday, they said, but nothing compared to a Sunday or a full-fledged holiday.

Because of the day’s semi-holiday status, some office workers who did have to report were ambivalent about what to wear.


Casual Clothes

At the Auto Dealer Center of First Los Angeles Bank, people were working normally but had been given the option to report in casual clothes. Many were dressed in T-shirts or sun dresses, and the boss, Assistant Vice President Gerald Hammen, fed them with pizzas as reward for having to work on a day that many others had free.

“The pressure on us is greater today because we don’t have tomorrow,” said Hammen, dressed in an open-collar, cotton shirt with short sleeves that showed off 30-year-old Navy tattoos from his days in the service.

Post office branches were open. Workers reported in the morning that patronage at window service was lighter than usual, but it picked up as the day wore on. Many restaurants and bars that cater to the corporate crowd were closed or stayed open only long enough to serve lunch.


The county courts were open and running normally, according to a spokeswoman, as was the Pacific Stock Exchange--though the trading volume was reported to be one of the smallest this year.

Fewer Calls

At city halls in Los Angeles and in the suburbs, receptionists, secretaries and others were grateful for the reduced walk-in traffic and fewer phone calls--though many calls were queries about whether offices were open.

“It’s nice and quiet, and we’re getting a lot done,” said one secretary at Santa Monica City Hall.


In West Hollywood, City Hall receptionist Brad Confer said offices were staffed at about half-force.

“We’ve got a skeleton crew today,” he said. “Everyone’s home sleeping in or out sunning themselves.”

In downtown Los Angeles, crowds had thinned out in City Hall’s construction services office, where on normal days lines of people submitting plans or seeking permits usually wind past counters, down a long hall and out a door.

“Usually, you have to spend the whole day just to submit plans,” Art Yanez, designer for a Tarzana architectural firm, said as he rolled up blueprints for a residential project. “Today, I’ve been here just an hour, and I’m almost ready.”


For one visiting Briton, the unofficial holiday Monday was a source of confusion. Terry Croft, a flight attendant for British Airways on a layover in Los Angeles, said he found some stores open, others closed, and he wondered just how many days it takes Americans to celebrate this holiday.

Matter Debated

“We were just debating whether we’d be busy (on the flight home) tomorrow, it being the Fourth,” Croft said as he strolled down Santa Monica Pier. “I dare say we will.”

Since the first Fourth of July anniversary in 1777, roughly 30 have fallen on a Tuesday. Observance of some holidays, such as Veterans Day and Washington’s Birthday, were switched to a predetermined Monday in legislation signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. The law, designed to give Americans three-day weekends, went into effect in 1971.


In the case of Veterans Day, the change met with considerable opposition from veterans groups, which noted that the original date, Nov. 11, coincided with the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. After protests, the holiday was restored to Nov. 11.