Somewhere in the dozens of photo albums archived downstairs, which inherited me as their keeper when my mother sold the house, there is photographic evidence of the Labor Day horse show and chicken dinner at the Optimist Club in Georgetown.
Earlier today my old pal Barry Sears devoted a social media post to the topic, and it inspired memories.
Growing up in Georgetown, next to Christmas, Labor Day was the biggest day of the year. The Georgetown Optimist Club held its annual Horse Show and Chicken Dinner that always drew large crowds. It always meant days of preparation to set up booths and the large tents used for dining. Watching those men raise the huge tents was always amazing to me.
It also meant that my best friend, Roger A. Baylor and I got to run a Coca Cola booth and pour soft drinks all day. That was major stuff! Great fried chicken and homemade desserts we’re a treat. Our mothers worked serving food, my dad was a cashier in the food tent and Roger’s dad ran the bingo tables.
There was a lot of stuff to buy, but the best was snow cones and the cotton candy from Fuzzy.
I sure do miss those days and it’s sad that event is now history.
And with this recollection, a massive and disorderly jumble of sights, sounds and smells washed over me, like a glimpse into a lost world. Like most worlds, it probably already had passed when I first experienced it. Beginning in the mid-1970s, Georgetown commenced the process of becoming something completely different.
Accordingly, I spent time over coffee this morning trying to imagine what the (then) 58-year-olds at the Labor Day celebration during the Bicentennial year of 1976 were reminiscing about over their fried chicken, pie and iced tea. Back then, I probably was wondering if there was any way to score a beer or two.
Memory is bizarre and selective in the best of times — then you get old and have no choice in the matter. Barry’s is better than mine. He reminded me of the time when the aforementioned Fuzzy told us about the ballyhooed appearance of country music great Hank Snow at the Washington County Fair.
Apparently the musician Snow was a bad gig for snow cones.
“He couldn’t draw flies,” snorted Fuzzy, and we though this was both hilarious and original.*
I’ve no clear idea how long the horse show and chicken dinner persisted into the modern age. The last time I can recall attending was 1979 or 1980. By this time the founding generation was in its 50s, and both the Labor Day event and the Optimist Club itself gradually transitioned in the decades to follow.
Those big tents were made redundant by a steel-beamed shelter house, which later was transformed into the all-weather building there today. The grand old house was torn down. The horse show grounds at the top of the hill became a baseball diamond.
Meanwhile, college had freed my inner urbanite, and I became whatever I am today — primarily, a serial self-exile and a European trapped in New Albania, one who’ll probably never come to grips with my past. They were the best of times … and you know the rest.
But Barry’s words made me smile, and this morning, that’s something I needed.
* No sooner than I finished writing this, Barry revised it; seems he was at the Washington County Fair with another friend, saw Fuzzy there, and heard the story. Nonetheless, it still seems that I heard it from Fuzzy at Labor Day. At this point, I’m not sure it matters.