Submitted by Don Doman
I remember the first time I went to a carnival or fair. It was in Lincoln Heights (where Costco is now in Tacoma near the Tacoma Mall). I was mesmerized by the colors and all the different action. I overstayed my body control and didn’t get back to my aunt’s house quickly enough.
The scariest part of the fair when I was six or seven years old was not the rides, which I always loved (the hammer was my favorite), but the displays of iron lungs, which helped people suffering from polio breathe. In the early fifties polio was still a threat here in America. I can still see them in my mind. I remember them as mint green, but I think they came in tan and white, also. This may be one of the reasons I am a Rotarian, not because of the colors, but the need for the machine. I could never get over the fear of being trapped in one of those machines. Nowhere to go, no mobility, and dependence on everyone. Rotary International has vowed to eradicate polio around the world. We are almost there and Bill Gates is a heavy supporter.
Times are changing and medical advancements are giving us healthier and longer lives. Another change over the years was the big organ displays. From the first grade for five years I was taking piano lessons and I always had to try out the multiple keyboards and foot controls for chords on the Lowery and Hammond organs. I think the last time I saw one of these it had a “Free” sign on it as it sat by the roadside. My friend Randy has one he inherited from his mother. It takes up a goodly portion of his living room. I think it’s time for an organ transplant.
Another embarrassing time at a fair was on Clover Park Day at the Puyallup Fair. Two buddies of mine from the Mann Junior High School band joined me in looking for and at girls. When we saw three together we thought we should go talk to them and see if they would like to go on a ride with us. I was elected to speak for the three of us. I approached the girls and introduced myself turned around to introduce my friends and . . . no friends. No girls either, they just laughed and walked away. Ah, yes . . . the price of being brave.
I still have a soft spot in my heart for the food. I liked eating a bag of Fisher Scones when I was a kid and I still do today. The nice little sweet biscuit fits easily in my hand. The butter and jam no longer runs all the way down my arm (I have longer arms today), but I still like the taste. A few years ago the Russian Piroshki was a hit (I had a few) . . . and I still like ice cream on a stick with nuts and chocolate on the outside.
Most of the time at “the Fair,” meaning the Puyallup Fair or the Washington State Fair as it’s now called, was spent by myself, even when I went with neighbors, or my cousins, I was just by myself. I admit it, I’m competitive. Each time a nickle or a dime passed from my hands to a carny, I would reel in the fishing pole, toss a ring, or throw a ball and win some stupid plaster geegaw. I was happy. What in the world are you supposed to do with a badly painted plaster elephant, anyway. I haven’t changed much in all my years. Most mornings I work on the crossword puzzle in the The News Tribune and feel a little proud of myself when Peggy and I correctly finish a puzzle! We usually draw three stars on the page for our achievement.
Fairs are the same everywhere . . . well, perhaps a little different. I was at a fair in Texas and bought a couple chances for a local raffle. I innocently asked, “What’s the prize?” Oh, the woman smiled and said, “A hunting rifle.” I don’t know how I would have gotten it home, but the thrill was still there.
When the kids were young, we would seek out the One Reel Vaudeville show and laugh ourselves silly at the stupid jokes . . . and that was just from us in the stands. Peg used to volunteer with Tacoma Calligraphy Guild people to give demonstrations and show off their work. I always liked seeing the model cars and planes. All of mine met fiery deaths or were torn apart by powerful BBs from my Daisy BB Gun by the time I was fourteen. I enjoyed seeing the new cars and even used to enjoy seeing the horses. I would have taken my kids on rides, but they didn’t seem interested . . . or at least not with me anyway.
For a number of years Peg would visit the fair with her sister Pat. They would visit the pottery exhibit and Pat would buy Peg a bowl for her birthday. We still have some beautiful bowls. Peg could probably tell you which year she received each one.
As life got busier for me, I would just drop off Peg near one of the gates and then pick her up later when she was too tired to walk any more. Picking her up usually meant going to dinner somewhere in town as well. We still love doing the Puyallup, even if we don’t actually make it to the fair.