Jack’s Mid-Missouri Memories: Fair Again
Some people wonder where I get ideas for my “Mid-Missouri memories.” One of those sources is in town right now, and like most people in Sedalia, there are a lot of memories through those gates of the Missouri State Fairgrounds. As someone who grew up in Sedalia, it would be strange if I didn’t have a lot of merry-go-round and roller coaster memories from that yearly event. The main memories I have however, have nothing to do with fair rides.
The memories I cherish the most are those I have of friends, who roamed the fairgrounds before, during and after the fair with me. As I have written before, the McCoy boys lived next door to me for most of my growing up years, and we got in and out of trouble together during those formative years. We were not destructive as boys, but we were adventurous and curious. When the banners announcing the Missouri State Fair went up all over town, we always made our way to the fairgrounds and could be found there nearly every day, and even some nights.
I should explain that my mother, who worked at Lamy’s Overall Factory, usually took vacation days during the fair to make extra money. Mom and the McCoy boys’ mother worked in the kitchen of one of the fairground restaurants during the fair, which meant we had a place to check in once in awhile for something to eat or get whatever money we could beg from them. Our mothers were used to us going our own way back then, and anyone who grew up in the ’40s and ’50s knows it was a different time where kids felt safer than the should today. Even when the fair was not in town we spent our days in pursuit of our own style of entertainment, which could mean fishing in Flat Creek, Shaver Creek or some other hole of water. Sometime we would just walk out into the country, which was a lot closer to where we lived then than it is now.
The fair, however, had all the entertainment we could ask for while it was here, and we made the most of it by spending as much time there as we could. We made money here and there by collecting pop bottles and beer bottles to sell back to the venders, or bagging roasted peanuts in their shells for the peanut man, whose stand sat on the corner directly across from the grandstand. We made enough to take a ride on the carnival grounds now and then, and when we got hungry, our mothers would hand us a sandwich out the back door of the restaurant, plus a quarter now and then if we were lucky. At night, we slept in the horse or cattle barns on the hay piles we found there, and the next morning we would start all over. As we got older, the carnival people would pay us to help tear the rides down, but we learned very quickly to make sure we knew where the boss was when it was time to collect our meager wages.
It was always a great time for us kids and was the kind of freedom a parent could not allow these days. As I said, it was a different time. There are only two of us left now who enjoyed the fairs back then in that manner. Beryl McCoy and I are all that are left, since his brothers Veryl and Junior McCoy passed away. I need to compare notes with Beryl someday soon on those memories we share, because I know there are a lot of them I have not written down yet. I still enjoy the fair, but I think I really enjoy hunting out those places on the fairgrounds where Beryl, Veryl, Junior, and I made those memories all those years ago.