The early tradition of Illawarra businesses taking a "half holiday" on Wednesday dates back to 1876, when a letter writer to the Mercury defended the worker's right to a break from the grind.
The writer, who signed his name "Recreation", said half-holidays already operated in Sydney and other parts of the colony, "but here in Wollongong and throughout this district, no such time for relaxation ever occurs".
He said Wednesday would be ideal, it being recognised as "one of the slack days" in town.
A follow-up letter signed by "Health", said men and women would "labour with a better will, and actually do more work in the course of the rest of the week if Wednesday afternoons were devoted to recreation and the enjoyment of fresh air throughout the district".
Within three weeks, a packed gathering attended a public meeting with a view to advancing the "Half-Holiday Movement". The meeting provided precious insight into the working conditions of businesses, many of whom traded well into the evening each night, including Saturdays.
Solicitor Francis Woodward moved the first resolution that Wednesdays be set aside for a half-holiday.
"He said that, as regarded the health of those cooped up indoors throughout the week, the matter of a half-holiday was of serious moment indeed," the Mercury reported.
"There were many persons in the town of Wollongong who could not leave business at any other time than after night. In many instances, those who were so closely confined indoors throughout the week had to encroach upon the Sabbath for a little outdoor recreation."
The motion was carried unanimously and a committee established to bring the half-holiday to fruition.
The committee then waited on the business people of the town, receiving "very great encouragement towards success", with only one or two point blank refusals given.
The half-holiday was launched on November 22, 1876, with great ceremony.
As the clock struck noon, "one of Mr Pallier's three-horse Royal Mail Coaches came dashing up Crown St", with a banner attached reading "Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! For the Wednesday half-holiday!" A second banner read, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!"
At the top of Crown Street, a German band played as the business people shut up shop and made their way to the Wollongong racecourse for a community picnic.
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