Corner Column

By Larry Tucker
Posted 7/30/20

The recent announcement there would be no State Fair of Texas this year struck a chord in my memory bank. I understand why, with the COVID-19 pandemic just not going away, officials had to make the decision.

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Corner Column


The recent announcement there would be no State Fair of Texas this year struck a chord in my memory bank. I understand why, with the COVID-19 pandemic just not going away, officials had to make the decision.

Not only will it cost the city of Dallas millions in revenue, the memories made at the state fair are priceless. I grew up in Pleasant Grove in Southeast Dallas and I have memories of the big event from a very early age. 

My first memory of the fair was when I was maybe five or six and my Dad would leave his security job at the Ford Motor Assembly Plant on East Grand to work security at the fair. One evening, when my Dad was off, he decided to take me to the fair. 

Being a former Quitman Bulldog basketball player, my Pops still loved to shoot hoops. The basketball toss at the fair was really difficult because the actual hoops were smaller than regulation. They actually had parakeets as well as stuffed animals for prizes. I sure wanted a blue parakeet, and Dad was not one to walk away from a challenge.

After hitting several free throws in a row and winning me that blue parakeet, plus a couple of stuffed animals, my Dad was actually barred from the game. I got my blue parakeet and named him the exotic name of “Bluebird.” 

My favorite thing at the fair when I was a youngster was Big Tex. The big guy could talk and wave. The greatest thing about Big Tex was if I ever got separated from whoever I was with during the day, we would immediately meet up again at Big Tex. The big giant Texas cowboy was our safe place.

Every year kids in Dallas ISD had passes for a day at the fair. As I got older (sixth grade), my folks would let me join some of my friends from Hawthorne Elementary School and we would pay a dime, ride a Dallas transit bus, and go to the fair. You could actually do that in 1963 without being worried about your kids. We would catch the bus at our stop on the corner of Bruton Road and Prichard Street and it took us down Second Avenue to the front entrance of the fair.

Other than the roller-coaster, my memories of rides are of the Wild Mouse, the Hurricane (a ride that went backwards while blasting rock n’ roll), the Swing, the gigantic double Ferris wheel, the Swiss Sky Ride, the Octopus,  the Pirate Ship, the carousel and of course, the Tilt-A-Whirl. The “freak” shows were very interesting. I’ll never forget the bearded lady or the corpse of a “real” alien from outer space.

Dallas ISD had secondary day the Friday after the elementary day. One of my biggest thrills was being able to play a football game during the fair at the Cotton Bowl. It wasn’t exactly Texas-OU or Grambling vs. Prairie View, but my mighty Florence Gladiators faced off against the Marsh Matadors.

We were in the visitor locker room. After getting over not being in the Dallas Cowboy and SMU locker room, I realized I was sitting on a bench where maybe Roger Staubach of Navy had been, or the incredible Ernie Davis from Syracuse. Or maybe, I sat where legendary quarterback Bobby Layne, who played at Highland Park High School, and eventually with the Pittsburg Steelers when I got to see him play at the Cotton Bowl against the expansion Cowboys in 1960.  

Playing that day against Marsh we ended the day in a 6-6 tie. The memory I have though, was when I intercepted a pass on the run out in the left flat and had nothing but green field ahead of me. But alas, I turned around at midfield to see who was chasing me and somehow I lost the ball and fumbled it out of bounds. If I had scored we would have won, but we had to settle for a tie game as the clock ran out. 

There was also great entertainment and concerts to go along with the unique buildings and events at the fair. My favorite building was the one which had the new cars for the coming year in one massive place.

The midway was the main attraction along with the food booths. There is still nothing better than the memory of a Fletcher’s corn dog with a greasy cup of Jack’s french fries, and not to forget the fancy waffles with all kinds of sweet toppings and whipped cream on top. One must remember the vanilla ice cream bars dipped in chocolate and nuts to make the day.

The memories are fading now, but many stay alive as I begin to realize my next birthday will be number 70 and I want to hold on to those reminders of my youth. I hope I never lose the function of my good memories of a bygone era which I refuse to forget. 

If I could go back just one more time in those 1960s, I would go to the midway, meet up with friends and go to a building called the Sugar Shack. It was named after a song of the same name by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs in the early 1960s. It was a place you could meet old friends, make new ones and dance all day. After that, I would go sit down with another corn dog and dream about what my life might become.