From Beet Field to Fairplex

Bread and Butter Days
by Trisha Faye

FROM BEET FIELD TO FAIRPLEX

BBD_LA co fair 1937Time. It changes everything. Including county fairs.

On September 1, 1921, Pomona hosted a merchant’s exposition along the Southern Pacific Railway line in the downtown. Two men banded together and set in motion a chain of events that would forever change the Pomona area.

Clinton B. “Jack” Afflerbaugh, a Pomona druggist and city councilman joined forces with Harry LeBreque. LeBreque was a promoter for a railroad carnival, Foley & Burke Shows. The exposition featured exhibits in a tent with a side of carnival.

Success breeds bigger and better.

In 1922, organizers used a former beet field in Pomona to host the first Los Angeles County Fair. The fair ran for five days, October 17-21. It cost $63,000 to produce this inaugural fair, attended by 49,461 people.

The earliest festivities were not as grand as today’s are. The highlights were harness racing, chariot races, and an airplane wing-walking exhibition. Demonstrations included fascinating topics such as how to make toothpaste from orange by-products.

Life in the Pomona area was never the same.

Through the years the fair changed also. The former beet field grew to an area that now encompasses 543 acres. The carnival itself now spreads out over 13 acres.

The LA County Fair (formerly Los Angeles County Fair) is the fourth largest fair in the US, according to Wikipedia. Attendance now tops well over a million visitors, with the last few years hitting over 1.4 million guests.

The fairgrounds became ‘Fairplex’ in 1984. Although the ‘county fair’ still runs in September (moved to September in 1925), the grounds are open year round as a showground and exposition complex. This entity, that began its life as a beet field, now generates an economic impact of more than $250 million a year.

The fair’s growth was not all smooth. The Depression cast its ripples over all aspects of life. Including county fairs and other forms of entertainment. The 1930 attendance of 265,213 dropped to 233,350 in 1931.

To combat dropping attendance and declining funds, three counties banded together in 1932. Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside counties joined forces. It remained a tri-county fair over the next six years, through 1937.

Two events in 1933 helped the fair set a record attendance of 334,759.

BBD_LA co fair watching horseracingFirst, California legalized wagering on horseracing. The Los Angeles County Fair was the first in Southern California that allowed attendees to bet on the horse races.

Secondly, a wedding was held at the fair, in front of the racetrack grandstand. On September 22, 1933, Monty Montana married Louise Archer. Buck Jones, a famous cowboy screen star, was the best man. The bride and groom rode to the altar on horseback. Monty Montana rode his trusted pinto, Comanche Spot. Louise Archer rode Lady Spot.

Following this hugely successful year, in 1934 the fair was extended to 16 days. The next year organizers added a day. The five day event now ran for 17 days. Length fluctuated by a few days back and forth. In 2012 the fair ran for a record 24 days.

The years slid by.

The economy and the nation recovered.

County fairs came and went. The area grew and flourished. The fair grew and remained an event that the local residents looked forward to each fall.

Since its inception in 1922, there have only been two times the fair was closed.

The first was during World War II. On December 14, 1941 – a week after Pearl Harbor – three Army regiments arrived as first units arriving for war duty. From 1942-1947 the US Army occupied the fairgrounds. No fairs were held during these war time years.

As there isn’t a historical marker, attendees rarely discover a little known fact. From May 7 to August 24, 1942, the fairgrounds also functioned as a Wartime civilian control Administration assembly center. More than 5,000 Japanese Americans were held here before being sent to different internment camps in the state.

In 1948 the fair reopened. Thummer was introduced as the official Fair mascot. America was in the mood to celebrate. Attended topped the one million mark for the first time in the fair’s history.

The fair remained opened until 2001, when it closed following the Sept. 11th terrorist attack on the US.

Now, people attend the fairgrounds – or The Fairplex- year round. But come September, guests will be packing the 72+ acres of parking lots in search of fun, festivities, amusement rides – and lots of fried foods. Few will ponder this giant’s humble beginnings in a beet field in 1922.

 

Do you have any stories about ‘the good ole days’ that you’d like to share? Contact Trisha Faye at texastrishafaye@yahoo.com

 

CALICO CONNECTIONS

Bread and Butter Days
by Trisha Faye

CALICO CONNECTIONS

GAK_From Mother to DorisEighty years ago Nellie Morris, of Athelstan, Iowa, had an idea.

She wanted a special Christmas gift for her daughter, Doris. But in 1934 there wasn’t a lot of extra money for gifts. The idea of ‘disposable income’ didn’t exist. Any money the family had went towards necessities. Families made every effort to avoid joining the thousands who had lost their family homes or farms since Black Friday in 1929.

Nellie’s idea became a reality. Family, friends, and neighbors stitched a muslin square with Sunbonnet Sues and Overall Bills. They added their names – a way for Doris to remember them.

On August 9, 2014, 80 years later, the set of 30 squares are coming home to Iowa.

The squares stitched by women and children so long ago, were never pieced together into a quilt. But, they remained together as a set. Through Doris’ marriage to Clarence Shackelford in 1944. Through children. Through grandchildren. Through a move to California. The squares outlived Doris, who died in 2005.

These pieces remain, a testament to a frugal life in Iowa. Doris’ friends, Doris’ neighbors – they stitched a piece of history over the days and weeks they spent creating their addition to this special gift.

Two squares represent Betty and John Balch. Stitching and fabrics are the same on both pieces. I assume 11 year old Betty made both; one for herself and her younger brother John.

Beverly Ruth Barnett and Dorothy Barnett each made a square.

Darlene and Leona Booher each created a square using a sewing machine on theirs.

Georgia Older croppedThe Bownes family is well represented, with squares for Charles, sisters Evelyn and Maxine, and one for Minnie and Josie. Mrs. E. J. Bownes (Eliza Jane) has a square. The fabrics and stitching on hers is similar to her daughter, Georgia Older, who probably created both pieces.

Leona Mae Byrns was only a toddler that winter of 1934. Her mother made a square for her, and added her age – 18 months. Leona’s square is the only one with an age added to it.

More squares were added to the collection. Jean Marie Carroll, Lelah Clark, Kate Fidler, Katie Kemery, Norma Gean Kemery, Grace Murray and Deliliah Rusco.

Berneice Scott and Thelma Weaver each have a square. With the matching fabrics and similar stitching, it appears that the same person made each one. One of the (many) mysteries all these years later is who sat and spent the hours lovingly creating the quilt blocks.

Dean Weese, also a toddler at the time, ended up with two quilt blocks – one Sunbonnet Sue and one Overall Bill. Madelyn Weese added a square. She was creative with hers and added a flower outlined in a blanket stitch and crafted her own unique pattern for her applique work.

DSC00222Three squares were given for this gift that didn’t have any names. The colors are reminiscent of the traditional Amish solid cottons. My own personal guess, and one that will probably never be confirmed, is that they came from one of the Amish families in the area.

A square for Rex Miller, Doris’ brother added to the collection. And then, the final touch, Nellie signed her square ‘From Mother, To Doris’ and added ‘1934’ in the embellished bonnet.

These muslin and calico blocks remain from the past, reminders of a time when life was different. Athelstan was a farming town and community. Neighbors knew one another. Times were tough, but people stood together.

Time passes. Life happens. Children grow up and have their own families and lives. People move away. Progress continues. Roads are paved. Farms are sold and houses built in their place. Towns are disincorporated.

Yet sometimes, small fragments of the past continue on, outliving the people they were meant to be remembered by.

We invite anyone with an interest in the Athelstan quilt squares to join us for a program and tea. Join us at the Taylor County Historical Museum on Saturday, August 9th at 1:30 p.m.

Please RSVP to Rosalyn Cummings, 712-427-0173, which will help with planning the day’s events.

The Taylor County Historical Museum is located at 1001 Pollock Blvd, Bedford, IA. Phone (712) 523-2041. The hours are 1 pm to 4 pm, every day except Monday.

 

Do you know any of these people? Do you have any stories about ‘the good ole days’ that you’d like to share? Contact Trisha Faye at texastrishafaye@yahoo.com

 

Baking up a Storm – 1935 style

Bread and Butter Days
by Trisha Faye

BAKING UP A STORM – 1935 Style

Fifteen minutes of fame. Does it count 30 years after your death?

Bessie D. Sinkey, age 39, had her small slice of fame back in 1935. She won five 1st and 2nd place prizes at the Los Angeles County Fair. That many prizes is – and was – quite an achievement.

Multitudes of women vie for blue ribbons at county fairs across the nation. The competition is fierce. The winners are few.

In 1935, 29 women (13 of them from Pomona, CA) won prizes for their baked concoctions. A small cookbook commemorated the women, acknowledging their award winning delicacies.

BBD_Cookbook coverMrs. Gertrude Beauchamp, 261 W. 8th Street, Pomona
Helen Armstrong, 2101 Canyon Drive, Hollywood
Mrs. C. E. Gregg, 703 N. Vine, Ontario
Miss Jody F. Reynolds, Rt 1, Box 719, La Canada
Mrs. Clara Ayers, Rt 2, Box 54, Covina
Miss Katherine Bower, 506 Randolph Ave, Pomona
Mrs. Sam Teeter, La Verne
Mrs. Beth Williamson, Box 4, Pomona
Mrs. R. J. Hoover, 476 E. Center, Pomona
Mrs. Glenn Morgan, 432 W. Second St, San Dimas
Bessie D. Sinkey, 444 W. Alvarado, Pomona
Mrs. C. C. Comerford, 1239 E. Franklin, Pomona
Mrs. R. M Netzley, 2318 Bonita, Covina
Mrs. Mary Planka, 615 S. Hamilton, Pomona
Mrs. Walter E. Carey, 547 N. Friends, Whittier
Mrs. B. F. Thompson, 2431 E. 7th Street, Long Beach
Ruth Einsiedel, 2424 Beverly Avenue, Ocean Park
Mrs. S. M. Rosedale, Yorba Linda
Mrs. Ethel M. Brown, 810 Merrill St, Corona
Mrs. Anna Davis, 844 Huntington, Pomona
Mrs. O. D. Hall, 183 E. Pearl, Pomona
Kathryn Brown, 236 San Francisco, Pomona
Mrs. J. M. Linville, 247 N. Lake St, Los Angeles
Kathryn Mills, 226 S. 29th Street, San Diego
Mildred Whitehead, 1300 Dudley Street, Pomona
Mrs. C. S. Kinzie, 9214 Magnolia Avenue, Arlington
Mrs. Helen Gadegaard, 1904 W. Holt, Pomona
Kathleen Adamson, 1873 Elwood, Pomona
Mrs. W. E. Neil, San Dimas

BBD_Bessie recipeAt some point in time, Bessie and her husband Leo, a caretaker at a citrus grove (per the 1940 census) moved to Oroville, California. Leo died in 1949; Bessie in 1985. Both are buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in Oroville.

No one else is alive today to share the stories of Bessie’s achievement. No one tells of Bessie’s delicious Ginger Snaps. No one raves about her tasty Date Loaf Cake.

I don’t know who Bessie was, nor what she looked like. I don’t know what her dreams were. I don’t know what she liked. She is gone. But written proof of her baking skills still exists.

I do know that on one of the 17 fair days in 1935, Bea Bender and Pauline Washburn attended. Bea and Pauline, owners of Bender’s Fudge with shops in Duarte and Catalina Island, brought home a cookbook souvenir with the winning recipes.

The cookbook sat, amidst a lifelong collection of post cards, photographs and newspapers. The two women aged and lived the rest of their lives in Glendora, next door to a little girl named Patsy. In the mid 1970’s, following their deaths, the cookbook – along with other mementos – joined Patsy’s collection. Again, it lay unappreciated for another forty years.

Until the little girl grew up. And wanted to share stories of the people of the past.

Now, once again, Bessie’s fifteen minutes of fame is revived, along with the other 28 women who placed in the Los Angeles County Fair in 1935.

By buying and saving the cookbook, Bea and Pauline had a part in honoring the memories of these women so many years later. When they brought the cookbook home, I doubt either of them thought, “I wonder if someone will use this cookbook to write an article about these women 80 years from now?”

Carol LaChapelle wrote, in Finding Your Voice, Telling Your Stories, “… people die twice: when they physically die, and when we stop telling stories about them.” Today, we keep these memories alive for a little longer. For another fifteen minutes anyway.

 ————————————————

Do you know any of these women? Do you have any stories about ‘the good ole days’ that you’d like to share? Contact Trisha Faye at texastrishafaye@yahoo.com

Branching Out in New Ventures

bbd_old kitchenTrisha Faye’s passion is bringing forgotten stories of people and places to life through her writing.

From the Medlin’s in Texas’s early frontier days (1850’s) to following Bea and Casey Jones back and forth across the country in the 1930’s and 1940’s, to the people of the small farming community of Athelstan, Iowa in 1934 … Trisha writes of the people from the past, keeping their stories and their memories alive.

BACK STORY is Trisha’s monthly newsletter. Sign up to receive it free every month at Trisha’s web page.

BREAD AND BUTTER DAYS is a new weekly column, available for print in publications. Contact Trisha at texastrishafaye@yahoo.com for more details.

Stay tuned here … we’ll post the weekly features after they’ve been published in subscribing publications.