The needler in the haystack.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day memories

Gateway to a once-a-year world of excitement.

As a kid in the early 1950s, Labor Day meant two things: Summer vacation was over and we'd be back at the grind of school -- and the Chautauqua County Fair would fill the end of summer with farmer pride and midway razzle-dazzle.

fairgrounds was jammed with a carnival midway with rides and games offering kewpie dolls and cheap glassware as prizes.

The barns were full of the horses, cattle and pigs raised by 4-H members during the past year. Exhibit halls were filled with the canned fruits and vegetables, cakes, pies and jams and jellies of farm wives vying for prize ribbons.

The front corner of the fairgrounds near Central Avenue was filled with the latest display of John Deere, Allis-Chalmers and Ford tractors and farm equipment, each in their distinctive colors. This was designed to entice passersby, who could glimpse the display but would have to pay to enter and inspect the 'toys' more closely.

There would be competitive tractor pulls. The men would have a try at tugs of war with enormous hemp ropes. A perennial favorite was the egg toss, where couples would lightly toss an egg underhand to each other, backing up a step at a time before each toss -- often enough the girl would end up throwing the egg overhand with great force to her beau, much to everyone's amusement.

But the most exciting part to me always was the Joie Chitwood Hell Drivers stunt show.

Here's a YouTube vid of a 1952 show, same as I would have witnessed. By the way, Chitwood, a famed race car driver of the 1930s and 40s was the first to wear a safety belt.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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