Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Fair Park

Buried Alive at the Fair Park Midway — 1946

sfot_scotty-scott_buried-alive_coffin_cook-colln_degolyer-library_SMU_1946Welcome to my casket!

by Paula Bosse

In May, 1946 a new Fair Park midway opened with new rides and new attractions to entice entertainment-seekers to Fair Park at a time of the year when the State Fair of Texas wasn’t in session. On opening day a beauty queen was chosen, a new 17-inch telescope was introduced, and a man was buried alive.

That man was C. S. “Scotty” Scott, seen above lounging in a comfy-looking casket in pajamas and robe, looking happy, propping up the lid. On May 11, 1946, Scotty Scott was buried six feet below the midway where he vowed to remain until the last day of the fair — Oct. 20th. That’s five and a half months.

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Countless ads appeared over the weeks offering $500 (the equivalent of about $6,500 in today’s money) to anyone who might stop by his Fair Park lair and find him not there.

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The exact set-up is not fully clear, but, basically, he was buried in a coffin in a very small space, with a ventilation pipe. One report said that visitors were able to see him through a glass partition — another said that people were peeking at him and talking to him via an eight-inch vent pipe. However they were observing him, they weren’t doing it for free — if you wanted to get a look at Scotty doing whatever it was he was doing down there, you had to fork over 25 or 30 cents. All this being-watched and chit-chatting probably helped distract Scotty from the fact that he was buried alive! (I’m getting claustrophobic just typing this.)

Scotty’s tomb was equipped with air conditioning, a radio, a telephone, and an electric razor (which seems unnecessary, but, again, it probably helped pass the time…). (He might have kept up with his shaving, but he let his hair grow, a fact which apparently had the hoi polloi debating about whether Scotty was a man or a woman.) He was able to indulge in the occasional sponge bath and “exercise himself with a vibrator machine.” There was mention somewhere of a feeding tube.

If the thought of being buried alive gives you the willies, Scotty was not completely immune himself. One report mentioned this was probably the last time he would perform this stunt because he was reaching his “breaking point” and “He has to fight himself continuously to keep from being irritable and cross” (Dallas Morning News, Oct. 13, 1946). Luckily, claustrophobia did not seem to be too much of a problem for him as he had been doing this kind of endurance stunt for several years and kept coming back for more — he had, somehow, managed to remain buried in San Francisco for eight months!

Though he considered his main vocation to be a daredevil race driver, he had stumbled into this weird, but lucrative, line of work in 1935 when he had seen a similar stunt being performed in California, and a friend bet him $1,000 he couldn’t do it for 30 days. He won the bet. By the time of this 1946 Dallas stunt, he had been buried alive a LOT — he estimated that he had spent a total of more than four and a half years (!) buried alive.

According to Scotty, the worst part of the buried-alive-thing was the un-burying:

“From past experience the most painful part of the ordeal will come when they dig me up. My circulation will be so bad that my body will turn purple and I will be unable to sit or stand for any length of time. My whole body will feel like a leg or arm that has gone to sleep.” (DMN, Oct. 13, 1946)

Scotty Scott spent 162 days buried alive in Dallas — he even celebrated his 28th birthday underneath Fair Park. He was buried on May 11 and was disinterred on the final day of the fair, Oct. 20. Crowds gathered as men with jack-hammers cracked open the cement-covered tomb. As the coffin was lifted up a woman fainted. He was transported by ambulance to a hospital, and the next day he was interviewed on a national radio program.

Why on earth would anyone do this? More than 75,000 people had paid to take a look at Scotty Scott lying underground. The total amount of money people paid for this creepy privilege works out to almost $300,000 in today’s money. That’s why.

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Sources & Notes

Photo is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more info can be found here.

Try not to think about being buried alive. TRY!

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Dallas Day” at the State Fair of Texas

state-fair_dallas-day_100956
Hey, Big D — don’t forget “Dallas Day”!

by Paula Bosse

“Dallas Day” used to be an important day at the State Fair of Texas. Like really important. Like national-holiday-important. Below is a typical mayoral proclamation announcing the sweeping closures of public and private businesses and institutions on “Dallas Day,” from 1899 (click to see a larger image; transcription follows):

1899_dallas-day_sfot_dmn_101099Dallas Morning News, Oct. 10, 1899

THE GREAT TEXAS STATE FAIR

PROCLAMATION

Wednesday, Oct. 11, is hereby declared to be, and is to be, a full, free and public holiday within the corporate limits of our good city of Dallas, on account of Dallas Day at the Great Texas State Fair.

All business, public and private, the postoffice, the courts, the banks, and public schools, will close from Tuesday evening, Oct. 10, until Thursday morning, Oct. 12, to the end that all may turn out and have one full day’s benefit of this great educational institution.

Every employer in Dallas is charged to be loyal to this, our proclamation, for his own good, for the good of those he employs, for the good of their wives and families and of their sweethearts.

No loyal concern in Dallas will fail to observe this, our annual holiday, or fail to render to their employes every facility for observing it.

Every citizen of Dallas having in his possession a complimentary ticket to the Fair is hereby requested to keep his ticket in his pocket and to pay his way at the gate. Children in arms will be admitted to the Fair free. School children, accompanied by their teachers, at half price.

Done at Dallas this 9th day of October, 1899.

Signed:
John H. Traylor, Mayor

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For decades, it was expected that most Dallas businesses and government offices would close on “Dallas Day.” The central business district must have been a ghost town. Woe be to anyone needing a new frock, a replacement gasket, a bank draft, or even a postage stamp on “Dallas Day.” The city had bigger fish they wanted its citizens to fry.

1906_dallas-day_sfot_dmn_101806Oct. 18, 1906

Here’s an early “Dallas Day” ad from 1889 with pointing fingers:

1889_dallas-day_sfot_dmn_101489Oct. 14, 1889

The State Fair of Texas was (and continues to be) so filled with other ubiquitous “days” (such as old favorites “Hard Money Day” and “Chrysanthemum Day,” as seen in the ad below from 1895) that if Dallas weren’t Dallas, “Dallas Day” might run the risk of getting lost in the jam-packed fair schedule.

1895_dallas-day_sfot_dmn_102495Oct. 24, 1895

There were, of course, “Dallas Day” parades:

parade_state-fair_dallas-day_come-to-dallas_degolyer_SMU_ca1905ca. 1905, via DeGolyer Library, SMU

“Dallas Day” may still be a thing, for all I know (I guess I think of “Dallas Day” as the day Dallas’ elementary school kids get off to go to the fair, a tradition I hope never dies), but it had lost a lot of steam after those early days. Some businesses continued to close or shorten their hours to let employees enjoy the fair, but the era of a city shutting down so that everyone could flock to the State Fair began to fade after those early decades of the 20th century. But imagine how exciting that must have been, with all of Dallas descending on Fair Park en masse.

state-fair_dallas-day_101056Oct. 10, 1956

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

State Fair of Texas, Miscellaneous Tidbits from Its History

state-fair-of-texas_pennant_ebay_crop

by Paula Bosse

The State Fair of Texas is, once again, in full swing. Here are a few random SFOT images and ads from the past.

First up, an ad for the very first state fair in Dallas, in 1886. Almost unbelievably, this “Dallas State Fair” (held on 80 acres of land now known as Fair Park) was one of two competing state fairs held in the city that year — the other one was the “Texas State Fair,” which was held about three miles northeast of the courthouse on a 100-acre site roughly about where Cole Park is near present-day North Dallas High School. The two state fairs ran concurrently, and both were smash hits. The “Dallas State Fair and Exposition” eventually became the State Fair of Texas in 1904. Below are the ads for those competing two fairs. (Click to see a larger image.)

state-fair_first_dallas-herald_100986
The East Dallas fair, Dallas Herald, Oct. 9, 1886

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The North Dallas fair, Dallas Herald, Oct. 20, 1886

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One of the original buildings built for the 1886 Dallas State Fair was the massive Exposition Building, designed by architect James Flanders. On a site devoted to the career of Flanders, the architect recalled this project many years later: “The progress of the work on the structure was watched by most people with a degree of curiosity far more intense than is excited by the loftiest skyscraper in these days when people have no time to wonder. Such an apparition on the bald prairie attracted crowds of the curious from far and near on Sundays.”

state-fair_exposition-bldg_ca-1890s

Above, the huge Exposition Hall, enlarged from its initial design, which, in 1886 was reported to contain 92,000 square feet of unrivaled exhibition space. Unfortunately, the wooden buildings seen above burned to the ground in the early hours of July 20, 1902. The blaze was so intense that “the whole of the city was lit up with the brilliancy of the sunrise” and that “flames rose to such great height that they were seen as far west as Fort Worth, where it was thought the whole city of Dallas was burning” (Dallas Morning News, July 21, 1902). More on this building can be found on the Watermelon Kid site, here.

Below, the Exposition Building can be seen from the fairgrounds racetrack in a photo published in 1900 in an issue of The Bohemian magazine (via the Fort Worth Public Library).

fairgrounds_racetrack_bohemian_1900_fwpl

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A moment from the opening day parade festivities of the 1903 fair is captured in the photo below, with the following caption from the 1941-42 edition of the Texas Almanac: “Gov. S. W. T. Lanham (in rear seat of pioneer horseless carriage) in opening day parade for 1903 State Fair of Texas formed on Main Street. Fair President C. A. Keating was seated beside him, and Secretary John G. Hunter of Board of Trade is seen standing beside the gasoline buggy.”

state-fair_opening-day_1903_tx-almanac_1941-42_portal
Main Street, looking west, via Portal to Texas History

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Here is a 1911 view of the state fair midway taken by John R. Minor, Jr. in a real-photo postcard. (More on Mr. Minor is here; more images of the Shoot the Chutes water ride can be found here.)

state-fair_street-scene_john-minor_1911_cook-colln_degolyer
via George W. Cook Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

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From the 1920s, an ad for Clayco Red Ball gasoline (“It’s RED in color”). I’m always a sucker for ads containing photos or drawings of Dallas landmarks, and here we see the entrance to Fair Park. (Why was the gas red? Why not? It was the brainchild of Dallas advertising man Wilson W. Crook, Sr. who needed a way to make this Oklahoma gas different. He remembered that during his WWI days in France that higher quality airplane fuel was colored red to distinguish it from regular gasoline. When the gas was introduced to Dallas in August, 1924, he devised a promotion that gave away 5 gallons of this gas to every red-headed person who showed up at participating service stations.)

ad-red-ball-gas_state-fair_dmn_101224-det

ad-red-ball-gas_state-fair_dmn_101224Clayco Red Ball ad, Oct. 1924

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If we’re talking about the State Fair of Texas and we’ve come to the 1930s, there’s a pretty good chance there’s going to be a photo from the Texas Centennial. And, looky here: a nice shot of concessionaires waiting for thirsty patrons at the Centennial Exposition in 1936. A couple of nickels could get you a Coke and a phone call.

sfot_concessionaires_coke_unt_portal_1936via Portal to Texas History

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During World War II the State Fair was on hiatus. Here’s an ad from the 1941-42 Texas Almanac pre-closure, with a nice pencil sketch of the Esplanade and Hall of State:

state-fair_tx-almanac_1941-42

state-fair_tx-almanac_1941-42_det

And a 1946 magazine cover story on the imminent reopening of the fair:

state-fair_texas-week-mag_100446_portal_cover
via Portal to Texas History

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In 1956 Big Tex warned/assured you that the Esplanade lights would “knock your eyes out.”

state-fair_big-tex-ad_092456

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Speaking of Big Tex and lights knocking your eyes out, in the 1960s Big Tex was memorialized on the side of a downtown building, like a giant bow-legged Lite-Brite.

sfot_big-tex_illuminated_1960s

Back at Fair Park, Huey P. Nash was supplying fair throngs with barbecue from his Little Bob’s Bar-B-Q stand. In 1964, Nash was the first African-American vendor to be granted a food concession at the State Fair. Little Bob’s (which I believe is still in business) was, at the time of this 1967 ad, located in South Dallas at 4203 S. Oakland (now Malcom X), at the corner of Pine. (Ad is from the 1967 Souvenir Program of the 74th Annual Session of the Missionary Baptist General Convention of Texas; more photos from this publication can be seen here.)

sfot_little-bobs-bbq_baptist-convention-program_1967_photo

sfot_little-bobs-bbq_baptist-convention-program_oct-1967

The 1960s also gave us the Swiss Skyride, which replaced the Monorail (which, when it was introduced in 1956, was the first commercially operated monorail in the United States). The Swiss Skyride was erected in Fair Park in August, 1964, and the 6-minute ride debuted a few months later at the 1964 State Fair of Texas.

state-fair_swiss-sky-ride_tinkle-key-to-dallas_1965_replaced-monorail_
via Lon Tinkle’s children’s book Key to Dallas (1965)

sfot_swiss-skyride_FWST_101864

sfot_swiss-skyride_FWST_100964

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

A Texas Centennial Scrapbook — 1936

tx-centennial_scrapbook_starring-tx_portal
“Starring Texas”

by Paula Bosse

Here is an aerial view of Fair Park I’ve never seen. It shows Centennial buildings under construction, along with labels marking the locations of those not yet started. It’s always hard to place where some of these no-longer-standing buildings once stood, so this is very helpful. Click the picture to see a larger image, but to really zoom in on the photo, see it at the Portal to Texas History, here.

tx-centennial_scrapbook_fair-park_aerial_construction_portal

Below is another view — an illustrated map from a Centennial visitor’s pamphlet (the zoom-in-able image is also at the Portal to Texas History, here). It was an early illustration, as it shows the original design for the Hall of State with wings never built.

tx-centennial_scrapbook_fair-park_aerial_portal

tx-centennial_scrapbook_fair-park_aerial_portal_key
(all images larger when clicked)

These pictures came from a Texas Centennial scrapbook made by 10-year-old Doris Rae Levy for a contest in her class at Lily B. Clayton Elementary School in Fort Worth. The scrapbook is impressively packed with Texas History-related newspaper and magazine articles, pamphlets, and postcards. A couple of the things she included that I enjoyed seeing were photos of a giant Centennial “sombrero” and a photo of honorary Centennial Rangerette, Shirley Temple:

tx-centennial_scrapbook_hat_FWST_portal

This photo shows four Fort Worth businessmen holding up a “200 gallon sombrero” which would soon be making an appearance at the Fat Stock Show. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram photo, Feb. 25, 1936)

And here’s Shirley Temple — who might have been the most famous star in Hollywood at the time — dressed in a snazzy cowboy outfit and an eye-catching pair of boots. She had been appointed honorary Chief of the Texas Centennial Exposition Rangerettes (a bevy of attractive Texas women who acted as goodwill ambassadors and made personal appearances all over the country promoting the Dallas Centennial). Miss Temple’s honorary commission apparently came with a tie-in merchandising deal — see the official Shirley Temple with her official Shirley Temple doll below (the latter photo was not from Doris’ scrapbook).

tx-centennial_scrapbook_shirley-temple_portal

tx-centennial_shirley-temple_doll_pinterest

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I thought I would look up Doris Rae Levy, the little girl who compiled the impressive packed-to-the-gills scrapbook, to see what I could find out about her. This sad news appeared less than two weeks before the Texas Centennial Exposition opened in Fair Park:

tx-centennial_scrapbook_doris-rae-levy_FWST_052636
FWST, May 26, 1936

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Sources & Notes

Doris Rae Levy’s “Texas Centennial Scrap Book” was provided by the Fort Worth Jewish Archives to UNT’s Portal to Texas History; it has been scanned and may be viewed in its entirety here.

The photo of Shirley Temple with the Centennial Rangerette doll was found on Pinterest, with the original image here. Color images of the doll can be seen here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Christmas Along the Esplanade

xmas_esplanade_dusk_pegasus_121918_paula-bosseA festive Pegasus…

by Paula Bosse

The holiday lights and “dancing waters” of the Esplanade in Fair Park are always worth a visit. I took these photos the other day after doing some volunteer research at the Dallas Historical Society, based in the beautiful Hall of State. I’m particularly fond of dusk, but nighttime is the really the time to see the lights and fountains at their best.

Above, the Pegasus pylon, by French artist Pierre Bourdelle, one of the many artists who worked on the Centennial Exposition in 1936, the year the Esplanade and many of the buildings in Fair Park were built. (All photos are larger when clicked.)

Below, a look toward the Hall of State from the end of the Esplanade.

xmas_esplanade_121918_dusk_toward-hos

One of the six sculptures along the Esplanade, this one represents Texas, by artist Lawrence Tenney Stevens:

xmas_explanade_dusk_texas-statue_121918_paula-bosse

The Automobile Building with the statue representing France, by French sculptor Raoul Josset:

xmas_esplanade_dusk_france_121918_paula-bosse

A closer look, after the sun has gone down, showing the impressive lighting design:

xmas_esplanade_121918_statue-2

Impressive even from the side:

xmas-esplanade_121918_france_night_side_paula-bosse

“Texas” again, lit up and in silhouette:

xmas_explanade_121918_statue-1

The illuminated “dancing waters”:

xmas_esplanade_121918_fountains-night

Another view toward the Hall of State:

xmas_esplanade_121918_toward-hos_night

The jewel of Fair Park, the Hall of State:

hall-of-state_night_121918_paula-bosse

Below are two images of the Esplanade from 1936, when all of this was brand new:

tx-centennial_esplanade_hall-of-state_ebay

fair-park_esplanade_postcard_tx-centennial_1936_ebay

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Sources & Notes

All photos by Paula Bosse.

More information on the statues along the Esplanade can be found at the French Sculpture Census page highlighting “Fair Park, 1936” here, and “The Six Ladies of Fair Park” page from the Texas Escapes site, here.

A very large aerial photo of Fair Park from 1936 can be seen here. Zoom in on the Esplanade.

More Flashback Dallas posts about Christmas can be found here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas History on the BBC

big-tex_bbc_radio-4_julia-barton_photo
“Howdy, chaps!”

by Paula Bosse

A few years ago, when writing about one of the many attempts in the never-ending saga of trying to make the Trinity River a navigable waterway, I stumbled across the 99% Invisible podcast website where I discovered Julia Barton and her long audio piece on the very same topic. I was surprised — and excited — to find someone with a similar background to mine tackling Dallas’ history and looking at it from a thoroughly 21st-century perspective. I felt she and I had been separated at birth, and I enthusiastically contacted her via Twitter. Since then we’ve met a couple of times, chatted back and forth online, and, this year, she asked if I would help with research for a radio piece about Dallas she was preparing for BBC Radio. Of course I would!

Julia Barton is a radio and podcast editor and has worked extensively in public radio; she is currently working on Malcolm Gladwell’s hugely successful Revisionist History podcast. She also presents stories, some of which are about Dallas, a city she seems to have a lingering fascination with, even though she hasn’t lived here in decades. Though born in Minnesota, Julia spent most of her childhood in Dallas, growing up in the Little Forest Hills area, attending Alex Sanger Elementary, Gaston Middle School, and Skyline High School (Class of ’87) where she appears to have been an overachieving student journalist. She lives in New York City now, where she puts those journalism tools to good use.

julia-barton_skyline_1987-yearbook_photo

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Julia Barton, 1987 Skyline High School yearbook

The first tidbit I heard about Julia’s story for the BBC involved another former Dallas resident, Dennis Rodman (of basketball and North Korea diplomacy fame), who grew up in both South Dallas and South Oak Cliff and attended Sunset High School for a couple of years before transferring to South Oak Cliff High School, where he graduated in 1979.

rodman-dennis_south-oak-cliff-high-school_senior-photo_1979

Senior photo, South Oak Cliff High School, 1979

I’m not sure about the chronology of the piecing-together of the various aspects of Dallas history which comprise the finished half-hour BBC program, but an important kernel was Rodman’s childhood memory of hiking for miles with friends through underground sewage tunnels to Fair Park in order to get into the State Fair of Texas without the burden of paying — they just popped up a manhole cover when they’d reached their destination and … voilà! — they were inside Fair Park. He wrote about this in his autobiography Bad As I Wanna Be, and you can read this passage here (if bad language offends you, buckle up). I really love Rodman’s story about these tunnels — so much so that after Julia shared it with me, it got to the point where I was asking everyone I ran into if they’d ever heard about what I assumed was an apocryphal story. But the tunnel-to-Fair-Park-legend was true. And that weird kernel snowballed into a half-hour personal narrative about Dallas, race, inequality, education, school desegregation, and, yes, Big Tex. History isn’t always pretty, but let’s hope we can learn from past mistakes.

Listen to Julia Barton’s “Big Tex,” here.

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Sources & Notes

“Big Tex” was presented by Julia Barton for the UK’s BBC Radio 4. It features Julia’s classmates Sam Franklin (Class of ’86) and Nikki Benson (Class of ’87), her former teacher at Skyline Leonard Davis (an all-around great guy and fellow Dallas Historical Society volunteer — hi, Leonard!), as well as former teenage tunneller Melvin Qualls, local historian Donald Payton, and sixth graders from Julia’s alma mater, Alex Sanger Elementary School. It is a Falling Tree production, produced by Hannah Dean and Alan Hall. The link to the audio — and background on the production — is here. (Top photo is from the BBC page.)

Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer wrote a great piece on this radio program (“Before Desegregation, Black Kids Had a Secret Tunnel Into the State Fair. Truth!”) — read it here (it includes a few production photos taken as Julia researched the story in Dallas).

Julia Barton’s website is here; a collection of her stories for Public Radio International (PRI) is here.

Two of Julia’s Dallas narratives:

  • “Port of Dallas” — history of the attempt to navigate (and monetize) the Trinity River: as an audio-only podcast, and as a video presentation done as a TEDx Talk at SMU
  • “The Failed Socialist Utopian Dream That Helped Dallas Become a Major City” — a look at the La Réunion community of the 1850s, from the PRI “World in Words” podcast (starts at about the 5:30 mark)

Thanks for asking me to help with research, Julia — I particularly enjoyed fact-checking the question “was-Mussolini-*really*-invited-to-the-Texas-Centennial?” (He was!)

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The State Fair of Texas Over the Decades

state-fair-of-tx_midway_kodachrome_1961_ebaySFOT midway, 1961… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The history of the State Fair of Texas is also the history of Dallas — if you live in Dallas, you know a lot about the fair, if only by osmosis. Here are a few images from the decades since the fair began in 1886.

Below, from 1889, a sedate advertisement for the Texas State Fair and Dallas Exposition (from The Immigrant’s Guide to Texas, 1889). (All images are larger when clicked.)

state-fair_imm-gd_1889

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A great-looking poster from 1890, colorful and exciting:

sfot_poster_1890

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A midway in its infancy, in the aughts. (I wrote about the “The Chute” water ride, here.)

shoot-the-chute_postcard_ca-1906

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Here’s a group photo showing the food vendors at the 1910 fair. No corny dogs in 1910, but plenty of candy, peanuts, popcorn, ice cream, and, sure, why not, cigars and tobacco.

state-fair-concessionaires_1910_cook-colln_degolyervia George W. Cook Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

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In the 1920s, Fair Park looked a lot smaller:

fair-park_mcafee_degolyer_SMU_ca-1920s
via George A. McAfee Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

Here’s a handy 1922 map of the grounds, from the fine folks at Caterpillar (don’t miss those tractors!) — you can see where the people in the photo above are walking.

state-fair-map_caterpillar_ad_1922

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If it’s 1936, it’s gotta be the Texas Centennial — and here’s an exhibit I’d never heard of: Jerusalem, The Holy City. This was one of many exhibits at the Texas Centennial previously seen at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, where it apparently had attracted more than one million visitors. In the weeks leading up to the Centennial’s opening, it was described thusly: “The Holy City will contain a collection of religious artworks and other material. The entrance will represent the Damascus gate of Jerusalem. No admission will be charged but donations will be asked visitors” (Dallas Morning News, May 17, 1936).

tx-centennial_jerusalem-the-holy-city_postcard

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The State Fair of Texas was not held during much of World War II, but it was back in 1946, with Tommy Dorsey, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Jackie Gleason.

state-fair_sept-1946_ad-cow
Sept., 1946

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Neiman-Marcus was at-the-ready in 1950 with suggestions on stylish footwear for ladies wanting to trudge around the Fair Park midway in heels.

For the Million-Dollar Midway — For taking in this famous “main drag” of the State Fair — get into our famous-maker midway heel shoes. Most everybody — after walking a block or two in them — says they’re worth a million! Have all the comfort of low heels, plus the high-heel’s way of making your ankles look prettier.

sfot-neiman-marcus_ad_101650October, 1950

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The 1960s were certainly colorful, and this is a great color photo from 1961 (currently available on eBay as a 35mm Kodachrome slide) — it’s the photo at the top of this post, but in order to cut down on unnecessary scrolling, I’ll slide it in again right here:

state-fair-of-tx_midway_kodachrome_1961_ebay

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The 1970s was a weird decade, and what better way to start off a weird decade than with 80-something-year-old oil tycoon (and eccentric Dallas resident) H. L. Hunt handing out cosmetics at a booth at the State Fair? Hunt — whom Frank X. Tolbert described as “probably the world’s only billionaire health freak” — manufactured a line of cosmetics and other products containing aloe vera, the wonder elixir. Imagine seeing the world’s richest man handing out plastic goodie-bags to awe-struck passersby. Like I said, weird.

h-l-hunt_state-fair_1971

hunt_state-fair_pomona-progress-bulletin_CA_111471Pomona (CA) Progress-Bulletin, Nov. 14, 1971 (click to read)

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And, finally, the 1980s. A century after the State Fair of Texas began, the X-Men came to Big D to do whatever it is they do — and The Dallas Times Herald got a cool little advertising supplement out of it. (If this appeals to you, check out when Captain Marvel came to Dallas in 1944, here, and when Spider-Man came to Dallas in 1983, here.)

sfot_xmen_comic-book_1983

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Sources & Notes

Sources (if known) are noted.

All images are larger when clicked.

I wrote a similar State-Fair-of-Texas-through-the-ages post a few years ago: “So Sorry, Bill, But Albert Is Taking Me to the State Fair of Texas,” here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

A Rainy Opening Day of the State Fair of Texas — 1967

sfot_rain_1967_wbap_unt_fair-park_texas-carthageA damp day at the fair… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

It’s  been raining pretty heavily today. And the State Fair of Texas is underway. I always feel bad for the people visiting and working at the fair when it rains like this. What a disappointment!

It rained so much on Opening Day of the State Fair in 1967 that the downtown parade ended up being canceled, as did the ceremonial ribbon-cutting which was to have been performed by Governor John Connally. That day — Oct. 7, 1967 — was also Rural Youth Day, and newspaper reports estimated that more than 100,000 “farm boys and girls” from more than 200 Texas counties had traveled to Dallas for what turned out to be a soggy day at the fair. (But kids never seem to mind being out in the rain as much as adults do.)

Watch rainy footage of the parade preparations downtown and wet-haired teenagers at the fair in an atmospheric clip shot by WBAP Channel 5 News cameramen, collected and digitized by UNT (see bottom of this post for more info). The 1:47 film footage can be viewed here (be sure to watch it in full-screen mode).

Below are a few screenshots.

sfot_rain_1967_wbap_unt

At the top, a girl from Carthage, wearing a Future Farmers of America jacket (it was Rural Youth Day, and the FFA was well represented) as well as a couple of ladies in coif-preserving plastic rain bonnets.

Below, a rain-drenched downtown.

sfot_rain_1967_wbap_unt_street

El Chico float getting soaked.

sfot_rain_1967_wbap_unt_el-chico-float

Marching band guys taking shelter.

sfot_rain_1967_wbap_unt_band_mkt

Grandma as human umbrella.

sfot_rain_1967_wbap_unt_boy_grandmother

Quadrupedestrians. (Pretty sure horses shouldn’t be trotting along sidewalks….)

sfot_rain_1967_wbap_unt_horses_sidewalk

A break in the precip — rides are revved up.

sfot_rain_1967_wbap_unt_fair-park_ride

Menacing clouds as seen from the top of the Comet.

sfot_rain_1967_wbap_unt_fair-park_top-of-roller-coaster


sfot_rain_san-antonio-express-news_100867
San Antonio Express-News, Oct. 8, 1967

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Sources & Notes

Screenshots are from the video titled “News Clip: 1967 Texas State Fair Begins, Parade Rained Out.” It is part of the KXAS-NBC 5 News Collection and was provided by UNT Libraries Special Collections to The Portal to Texas History, a digital repository hosted by the UNT Libraries. More info — including the video itself — can be accessed here.

More rainy-day SFOT weather can be seen in this clip from 1970, courtesy of SMU.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Hola, Folks!” — Big Tex at the State Fair’s “Exposition of the Americas” — 1965

sfot_big-tex_serape_1965_dallas-heritage-village_portal

by Paula Bosse

This “Howdy from Big D” postcard features Big Tex wearing a colorful Mexican serape at the 1965 State Fair of Texas. The theme that year was a salute to the Americas, with events celebrating Canadian and Latin American culture held during the fair’s run. In honor of Mexico Day (and the arrival of the Danzas y Cantos de Mexico troupe of performers), Big Tex donned a snazzy 60-foot-long serape which was provided by the Dallas Beer Distributors Association as a “goodwill gesture.”

Looking good, Big Tex. El Guapo Grande!

big-tex_serape_sfot-1965_plano-star-courier_090165Plano Star-Courier, Sept. 1, 1965 (click to read)

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Sources & Notes

Postcard is from the collection of Dallas Heritage Village, via UNT’s Portal to Texas History; more info is here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Prepping for the 1932 State Fair of Texas Midway

state-fair-of-texas_1932_gimarcBackstage” at the SFOT… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

We usually see photos of the State Fair of Texas as the fair is underway, with everything already built, assembled, painted, and manned. But what happens before the gates open each year? Here’s a great photo (from pack rat George Gimarc, of Dallas dj fame) showing what things looked like in 1932 as workers prepped midway attractions for the fair’s opening. Let’s zoom in and look at a few details (all images are larger when clicked).

sfot_1932_gimarc_det-3Axle problem?

sfot_1932_jungle-killers-det_gimarc“ALIVE. Jungle Killers from the Wilds of Sumatra.” And someone — or some creature — named “Big Ben.”

sfot_1932_beckman-gerety-det_gimarcAbove, in the background at the right you can see a partial sign for Beckman & Gerety, providers of midway entertainment for fairs and carnivals around the country. (I don’t  know who these two men are, but they do not appear to be Fred Beckman and Barney Gerety, who can be seen here.)

When George Gimarc sent me this photo, he also sent me images of the State Fair of Texas envelope he found it in (see the envelope here). Below are details from the front and back.

sfot_1932_envelope_logo_gimarc

sfot_1932_envelope_back_det_gimarc

“Alice Joy in ‘Dream Girl Follies’ with Henry Santrey’s Band in the Auditorium.” Alice Joy was fresh from two years as NBC’s “radio dream girl” and was the namesake-headliner of this spectacular three-and-a-half-hour revue at the Music Hall which featured a bevy of chorus girls, acts-a-plenty, and “hot jazz novelties.” 4,000 people witnessed the show’s opening night. Probably gave those jungle killers from the wilds of the Sumatra a run for their money.

There was a lot going on at the 1932 State Fair of Texas. Check out this (comprehensive) ad from the opening weekend (click it!). Cars! Football! Alligator wrestling! Hoot Gibson’s Rodeo (“famous outlaw broncs”)! An aviation show! Everything!

sfot-1932_oct-9-1932_adOct. 9, 1932 (click to see large image)

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Sources  & Notes

Photo and color images from the collection of George Gimarc, used with permission (thank you, George!).

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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