Marching to Mess — 1918
by Paula Bosse
Not your typical boot camp setting… (click for larger image)
by Paula Bosse
Above, Camp Dick, an Air Service training camp which took over Fair Park during World War I. The War Department caption of this 1918 photo:
Camp Dick, Dallas, Texas: Men marching to mess after evening parade. Roof in foreground is the Officers’ house.
At the right is a roller coaster, a popular ride when the State Fair of Texas (rather than the U.S. military) is occupying the park.
Here’s a photo from 1911:
When Preston Sturges trained at Camp Dick — well before he became a legendary Hollywood writer and director — he and his fellow cadets did not let that roller coaster go to waste. He wrote this in his autobiography, Preston Sturges by Preston Sturges:
Out on the parade ground, boys fell over from [the intense heat] all the time and had to be revived with cold water and a sponge. Nights we would climb up the shaky apex of the large roller coaster in the corner of the fairgrounds to try to find a breeze.
An unexpected perk of basic training.
Sources & Notes
Top photo is from the National Archives at College Park; more info is here.
State Fair photo is a real photo postcard, taken by John R. Minor, and is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info is here.
More Flashback Dallas posts on Camp Dick can be found here.
Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.
Seeing the 1911 photo reminded me of your other post “The Chute”:
You can see the structure of the shoot the chutes ride on the right side of the 1911 photo. As it does, this led to some googling and in turn to some confusion about the other post where you referred to the roller coaster as “The Tickler.”
After said googling I believe “The Tickler” was a ride patented by the W. F. Mangels Co. that was more like a giant pinball machine than a coaster. Here is a version of “The Tickler” from around 1909 at Chester Park in Cincinnati:
In this 1913 State Fair Program from the DMN you can see that it refers to the Giant Coaster, Scenic Railway, Shoot the Chutes and Tickler as separate amusements:
So in the 1911 photo we can actually see parts of all four separate rides. On the structure to the right of the Tickler it says Scenic Railway Scene Tunnel and it is hard to see even after zooming in on the 1911 photo at the SMU digital collections but it says Mammoth Racer on the track farthest away from the viewer.
In this 1911 DMN article both the mammoth racing coaster, apparently sometimes called the giant coaster, and scenic railway are mentioned:
[…] I love this photo from 1918 showing “men marching to mess after evening parade” at Camp Dick, the Air Service training camp which took over Fair Park during World War I. Imagine training for military service in the shadow of a giant roller coaster. From the March post “Marching to Mess — 1918.” […]