by Paula Bosse
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been to Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington. Depending on your age, you may pine for those glorious days of yesteryear when Six Flags was a truly unique theme park. Today it is not. Back then, there was only one Six Flags, and it was a great, weird place. A theme park based on Texas history! Who would come up with such a far-fetched idea? Angus Wynne, Jr. did. Some of it must have sunk in, because, to this day, the way I can remember the “six flags” that have flown over Texas is by remembering rides and attractions at Six Flags Over Texas.
I wasn’t going regularly to Six Flags until the ’70s, when it was still definitely all about Texas, but looking at old postcards that were issued to celebrate the opening of the park in 1961, I was shocked by some of the great stuff that was retired before my annual visits. Like … helicopter rides! Actual helicopter rides that took off from an area near (in?) the parking lot: five minutes for five dollars (this was back when admission was $2.25 for kids and $2.75 for adults — those days are long-gone…).
And … a stagecoach ride! I would have LOVED that! Looks kind of dangerous, though — which might be why it didn’t last. The description on the back of the postcard:
“Bridge Out — Confederate Section: Butterfield Overland Stagecoach pulled by a team of four matched white horses cuts past washed out bridge on its way to deliver passengers and the U.S. mail back to the safety of the depot — always plenty of exciting action taking place at the multi-million dollar Six Flags Over Texas entertainment park.”
And, yes, the problematic “Confederate” section. The description on the back of this postcard reads:
“Call To Arms — Confederate Section: Confederate Drill Team at Six Flags Over Texas. To these men in gray, the South is still ‘a-fightin’ them Yankees.’ Frequent enlistment rallies are held where youngsters join up and receive papers proving their military status in Terry’s Texas Rangers, 8th Texas Cavalry.”
Don’t remember seeing that. It probably started to lose its luster somewhere back around the Vietnam War.
Jack Maguire, in his great Alcalde article (link below) describes this … um … “ride” thusly:
“The Spanish section is next. Here guests board pack mules to venture forth with Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, greatest of the conquistadores, as he descends into Palo Duro Canyon searching for the Seven Cities of Cibola.”
With the mules and the stagecoach team, Six Flags must have had a busy corral somewhere in the park.
And, well, this is my favorite: a hanging. …At an amusement park. Maybe they’re just a-funnin’. This took place in the “Texas Section,” where the bank was robbed every hour on the hour and there was the show-stopping gunfight in the middle of the street. I remember that. I don’t remember some guy getting strung up, though. I like the fact that this photo was used to promote an amusement park.
And here’s the whole of it, in 1961. I guess there must have been other things in Arlington back then. But it looks pretty empty once you’ve ventured past Skull Island and left the park.
(Click for much larger image!)
Thank you, Angus Wynne, Jr. — I had so much fun in your park — I wish I had seen it when it opened!
Top two postcards from the jumble of stuff I own.
All other postcards from the INCREDIBLE Six Flags Over Texas postcard collection of Ken Collier, which you can see — page after page after page — here.
I’m not sure where I found the map, but it gets pretty big when clicked.
Photo of Angus Wynne, Jr. from the Fall, 2002 issue of Legacies.
Memories of the helicopter ride by a former park employee (who says it lasted only until 1962 when it was discontinued due to a “hard landing” incident) can be read here.
And for a truly enjoyable look at the then-new theme park, I HIGHLY recommend Jack Maguire’s “The Wynne Who Waves Six Flags” in the November, 1961 issue of The Alcalde, the University of Texas alumni magazine — read it and look at the photos of a Six Flags *I* certainly never knew (but wish I had), here.
For my follow-up post on The Six Flags Over Texas Cookbook (1966) — with a link to the entire booklet and all the Six Flags-inspired recipes — see here.
Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.