Tag Archives: memories

It’s fair season Part II

 State fair

After the county fairs, there are the regional fairs followed by state fairs.  I truly loved the Arkansas/Oklahoma fair which did run for a full week.  There were of course the exhibits I loved, a wonderful midway with games, rides and fair food and music.  Each night featured a different musical event.  One year a friend and I bought full pass tickets for every night.  It nearly killed us.  Not only did we work all day, but went to the full fair every night.  Each night we did a different exhibit hall, hit the midway for a different fair food experience, then headed to our third row seats for the music.  Country, rock, pop, gospel, it was all there.   By Saturday night, I was so tired of fairs!

That brings us to the STATE FAIR.  The smack daddy of Arkansas fairs is held in Little Rock, the state capital.  For a small town girl, this was the big time!  When I was a teenager, my best friend (who lived in another itty bitty town) and I would meet in Little Rock for a long weekend at the fair.  I would board a bus at Daddy’s drug store, she would hop on a bus in her town and family friends would pick us up and more or less keep an eye on us.  Their house was our home base even though all we did was sleep there.  In the morning we were dropped of at the gates when they opened and at night picked up there when they closed.  Now, you must remember this was a loooonnnnngggggg time ago.  A much simpler more trusting time.   I think that now our parents would be thrown under the jail for allowing two teenage girls to ride a bus that far alone, not to mention allowing us to spend an entire day alone, unchaperoned, unsupervised and among heaven knows what kind of weirdos.

In 1964 Elvis Presley had a movie, Roustabout, where he play a “carnie”.  This made carnies intriguing and romantic, or at least they were to a couple of teenage girls. I remember them all as young, well built and cute.  When I close my eyes I still see blue eyes in a tanned face, hair just long enough to be rebellious and killer smiles.  Not a toothless, creepy old man among them.  We batted our eyes, giggled and practiced our flirting skills.  Sure enough, we were almost always rewarded with a smile, wink and an extra long ride.  Now, we did have enough sense to not try this at any games, these guys were out for our money.  No, we left the games to the boys.  Where did we get boys?  The livestock barns of course.

Imagine all these small town, 4-H country boys in the big city for the fair.  There was only so much grooming and showing of livestock they could do in a day.  Usually there was a father or big brother along because they were small town, 4-H country boys in the big city.  While we did go to look at the beautiful cows and huge pigs, fluffy sheep and goofy goats, we also went to look at the cute boys.  And practice our flirting skills.  It was a rare trip through a barn that did not result in at least one father telling his flirting back son, “Here, take the girls for a ride or win them a teddy bear.”  Off we went and being young and healthy country boys, we usually got a stuffed animal or two.

One year, my friend (oh, let’s call her Jana) and I figured out that if we were so successful at the fair with just our natural beauty and wit, how much more so if we were foreign!  Bear in mind, this was in the 60s and the height of the British invasion.  We knew all the British slang and had perfected the ultimately cool Cockney accent.  Now I don’t really remember who thought up this great idea or whether it just happened, but for an entire day we were no longer from Mulberry or Aubrey, Arkansas, we were worldly British citizens.  Who knew, maybe we were actually friends with the Beatles or Dave Clark Five.  People stared with amazement at the two young women from London who had come to the fair; how brave they were to come all this way for the fair!  We got even more long rides, extra cotton candy, bigger corn dogs.  4-H boys fought for the privilege of escorting such rare birds (Cockney slag for girls you know) to the midway.  Well, that is how it appeared to us anyway.  Hind sight does tell me otherwise and I’m pretty sure my hillbilly accent diluted the Cockney.  But let me tell you, it was FUN and even today makes me laugh.

The State Fair also had the best sideshows.  We saw fire eaters, sword swollowers, elastic men, and bearded women.  Somehow we even got in to see Little Jessie Jane And Her Chest Full Of 44s (they didn’t check ages back then).  There was Pop-Eye who you guessed it, could pop his EYEBALLS OUT! So cool! But the very, very, very best was the gorilla girl.  Yes, a girl who was also a gorilla!  How could anyone resist?  One year we had a third fair goer, let’s call her Arbutus, just to protect me.  She was as eager to see the gorilla girl as we were.  For those of you who have never seen this amazing show, let me tell you how it went.

You went into a good sized tent which had a stage with a big iron cage.  In the cage was a beautiful young woman wearing a leopard bathing suit.  Her hair was wild and she looked deranged and dangerous.  Her handler (a man in safari garb) told us how he had found her in the deep dark jungle where she had been held captive by an insane witch doctor.  He could put her into a trance and she would turn into a gorilla RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES!  Yes!  We want to see that!  A few words of mumbo jumbo then the girl closed her eyes started murmuring,  Gorilla, Gorilla,Gorilla, Gorilla,Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla. And suddenly, SHE WAS A GORILLA!  She rattled the cage, it sprang open, she jumped into the crowd, and we ran!  Oh the excitement, oh the thrill.  Worth every penny.

End of the story?  Hardly.  Sooner or later, all good things must come to an end and it was back home and back to school.  Now Arbutus had a very good imagination and she had been really impressed with gorilla girl.  One day she was in a class which was very, very boring and since she sat at one of the back tables, she decided to see if she could turn into a gorilla.  I’m not sure if she did the mumbo jumbo (I never asked), but she did close her eyes and mummer, Gorilla, Gorilla,Gorilla, Gorilla,Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla.  Maybe she didn’t mummer as softly as she should have, because her teacher heard her and went back to see what was going on.  Gorilla, Gorilla,Gorilla, Gorilla,Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla. ” Arbutus!” he said, “Arbutus!”  No response. Gorilla, Gorilla,Gorilla, Gorilla,Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla.  “ARBUTUS!” he finally shouted, fear in his voice.  “Oh, my God!” screamed Arbutus, “I’ve turned into a gorilla!”

I don’t know if the other students ran screaming from the class room, but parents were called.


Happy Fathers Day!

Hope every father, whether you are a father to a child of your own or a father figure to someone who needs one, had a great Fathers Day.  So much has been written about how important a father is to children that it would be redundant to try to say more in this little blog.  I do know how important Daddy was to our family and I can’t imagine how I would have turned out without him.  There are so many things I know now and can do that he taught, either by example or doing it just the opposite.  Take handy-man work.  Daddy thought, emphasis on thought, he was a handy-man.  After all, his daddy was a bridge builder, his brothers were bridge builders and he started out as a bridge builder.  Manly men who could do all sorts of manly men stuff.  He had tools, Lord did he have tools.  I can remember watching him replace light switches.  He would get out enough tools to build an airplane from scratch and then lay them out like a surgeon.  Approximately an hour later, there would be a new light switch.  Granted you flipped it down to turn the light on and flipped it up to turn it off, but a new switch had been installed.  Job done.  Nort and I were looking for some screw anchors or possibly a toggle bolt to hang some heavy shelves.  I found some I thought would do.  Good grief he said, where in the world did you get these?  They were toggles that could hold up a shelf full of elephants.  Well, they were Daddy’s of course.  Neatly labeled and in an Osco pill bottle.  What in the world he thought he would need something like this for I’ll never know.  But if he did need them, he had them.

Daddy loved to play, I don’t think he ever really stopped being a little boy.  We played games; board games, card games, horse shoes, ping pong, shuffle board, car games and more.  He loved poker with the guys and flipping his lucky silver dollar for double or nothing.  Men would come in to the drugstore to shop since the store carried jewelry, perfume and all sorts of goodies.  Especially at Christmas when the  store was sure to have what anyone could want in the line of a gift (Mother made sure each year there was special gift wrap.  I bet I’ve made over a million big fluffy bows).  I can remember a certain one of his buddies really loading up on gifts.  We wrapped them up (Laura and I were the gift wrap section each year) and he was ready to pay.  Of course, knowing Daddy, he was also ready to play a game also.  Double or nothing, call it.  Up went the well worn Standing Liberty Dollar and slap.  And the friend walked out with a load of FREE Christmas gifts.  And Daddy was just as tickled as if the toss had gone his way.  It was a game and he loved to play.

Daddy did teach me some useful things too.  One of the things he taught us was to always know how much gas was left in a car once it hit empty.  This was way before cars would talk to you and tell you they were hungry.  He would always drive a car around on empty so he would know that he had X many miles he could go after the needle took the plunge to E.  That being said, we NEVER went on a family trip with out running out of gas at least once.  There was the famous trip we took in one of the new fancy double cab trucks that had two, yes two gas tanks so we would never run out of gas.  Yep, he could.  Boys, take the gas can (there was always a gas can) and get some gas.  I’ll stay here with the women and protect them.   When Daddy died, he had a little silver Suzuki he loved (Daddy loved cool colors in vehicles) that had a defective gas gauge.  It stopped running when the gauge said there was still a quarter of a tank left.  Mother sent my brother, Larry (he was never Larry Junior, he was always Little Larry no matter how big he got.  He is still referred to as Little Larry) to Fort Smith to run some errands and pick up Daddy’s ashes.  Here is the set up:  it was hot, hot and humid.  Little Larry lives in Colorado so he was melting.  He had ran all the errands and was on his way back to Mulberry with Daddy in the seat beside him.  The Suzuki got great gas millage so he knew he had plenty to get back because the gauge still showed a quarter of a tank. Soooooo, half way between two exits on the interstate, about a mile from each one, guess who ran out of gas.  Sputter, sputter, stop.  All Larry could do was look at the passenger seat, sigh and say “Gee Boss,  just had to do it to me one last time.”   I bet Daddy nearly fell off his cloud laughing.

Of all the gifts Daddy gave us girls, I think the most important is showing us how much a man should love his wife.  Daddy adored Mother.  He thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world and he totally supported her in any cockamamie thing she came up with.  He might grumble and whine, but if she wanted to do it, he was behind her all the way.  They were a team, a united, solid team, Gwen and Larry.  They grew up together, they raised us together, and when all of us had taken wing and flown off, they cherished their new found freedom together.  Daddy loved his grands as much as he loved us.  I have been so fortunate that I found my real Larry when I didn’t think I ever would.  There are times I look at Nort and he is Daddy.  Physically, in so many ways he is as far from Daddy as a man can get.  But I’ll catch him peering at something over the top of his glasses, bald head shinning and silver beard glowing and I lose my breath.  And no matter how angry Nort gets with me (and boy, can I push his buttons), I see the same look in his eyes when he looks at me that I saw when my daddy looked at my mother.  So thank you Daddy, thank you for loving me and showing me what true love is.  I miss you.