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~ Kathy M.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Memories of The Lane County Fairgrounds:

This week's Sepia Saturday theme suggests rides, a carnival, or going to the fair.  I grew up behind the fairgrounds in Eugene, Oregon and so I thought that this week I would share my memories of the fairgrounds and the surrounding neighborhood.

Early View of Eugene, Oregon and the Lane County Fairgrounds:

The small hill in the background is Skinner's Butte.  The Coburg Hills are in the way back.  The oval horse-racing track is the fairgrounds area, and the waterway to the right is the Amazon Canal.  On the lower right-hand side, under the writing that says Air View of Eugene Oregon there is a white house.  The neighborhood where I grew up had not yet been developed when this picture was taken, but that house seems to be the cornerstone.  When I lived there, we knew that home as The Rankin house, and it sits on the corner of 18th and Friendly Street. 

The information on the photo above says that it was taken in 1909, but I'm just not so sure about that.  The city looks very well developed; the streets look like they are in very good shape; and the property for the fairgrounds wasn't even obtained until 1909.  Also, the Wright Bros. didn't figure out how to fly until 1903, so I'm not sure how many small planes were around yet.  I didn't spend a lot of time trying to figure out the signature of  "Stevenson Photo" though, which is probably the main clue to the photo's date.  UPDATE:  Rob from Robswebstek  just looked it up and found out that the picture was taken in 1927.  He commented: "Although aerial photos were made using balloons long before the Wright Brothers were even born, this particular picture was made circa 1927 (according to the Lane County historical society)."

A more recent view of the fairgrounds:

Source Link:  Mud City Press

The surrounding neighborhood:

See that little orange dot?  That is where I lived from the time that I was ten until I got married.  (It is no longer in our family.)  The neighborhood behind the fairgrounds was developed in the early 1950's, and our home was built in 1953. The street where I grew up was lined with old oak trees and in the 70's became part of the bike trail system in Eugene.

Our family went to the county fair every year.  It was a lot of fun, of course.  It was also very expensive, so I appreciate my parents for taking us.  When I was ten, we were living in Springfield and I remember wishing that we could live by the fairgrounds.  A few short months later, we were, and I was thrilled.  That was my first lesson in creative visualization. 

After we moved there, us kids learned how to sneak in to avoid paying admission price.  Later, the fairgrounds gave the folks on our street free tickets for the hassle that the parking caused us during that week.  We had a large driveway, so many of our friends and relatives would use it to park in as they went to the fair.  You only had to leave your keys in the mailbox, just in case we needed to move your car.

It was a great neighborhood to grow up in. We had Jefferson Pool right down the street, and walked there everyday in the summer to hang out with our friends.  There were no houses across the street from us.  For all but one week of the year, when the fair was actually going, it was pretty quiet around there.  There was a large field between the fairgrounds and our street, with Amazon Creek handy for exploration.  Amazon Creek is a city drainage canal that runs from South Eugene all the way to Fern Ridge Reservoir.  It wasn't anything that you could swim in, but it held tadpoles, snakes, frogs, nutria and an occasional shopping cart.

The picture above is of my sisters, Julie and Angie with my BFF and partner-in-crime, Carly.  It was taken after we had lived there for about three years.  See those blackberry bushes?  There were forts carved into some them, including the one right in front of our house.  A hole in the wire was cut out of the old fence, and it was a main shortcut to the field behind.

Carly and I spent a lot of time hanging out at the fairgrounds when the fair wasn't going on.  There were some horse barns where horses were boarded.  We had two favorite horses that we used to visit:  Mary Rankin's pinto and a beautiful horse named Neikko.  When Carly and I made up our secret code, we used a horse head for the letter "N".  Nobody could have broken that code; it was solid.

We also found a way to sneak into the cow barn through an unlocked window to the spot where they milked the cows during fair time.  We were into journaling, and used go inside there to write.  We were such criminals.

We called this "The Meditating Tree".  Carly and I used to climb up it's branches and read or write.  It wasn't the most comfortable spot in the world, but we thought it was neat.

Back when I was young, the fairgrounds was home to the rodeo once a summer.  There were big bleachers all the way around the huge arena (most likely where the horse-racing track is on the top picture).  Mom and Dad used to take us each year, and sometimes we would get new little cowboy hats for the event.  The announcer always had the same jokes to look forward to.  The clown would point to someplace in the stands, and the announcer would say, "What!  You see a topless woman in the bleachers?  Where?"  And then he would say, "No, that isn't a topless woman, that is two bald men sitting next to each other!"  The funny thing is, we could hear that booming out from the loudspeakers as we sat in our front yard.

When we were older, Carly and I would go back after the rodeo was over and search around under the bleachers to find treasure and loose coins.  We never struck it rich, but there was always the chance that could happen.

Every Friday evening, unless there was another huge event taking up the space, pro-wrestling was held in the "Cow Palace" at the fairgrounds.  My next-door-neighbor and other neighborhood best friend was Judy.  Judy's grandpa, Mr. Porter, worked at the door for the weekly wrestling matches.  That didn't necessarily help us get in for free, but I do remember that he truly believed that there were no fake moves in pro-wrestling. 

I had a big crush on Jimmy Snuka.  I just looked him up, and found his photo and bio.  The bio says that he began his career in 1969, just about the time I started watching wrestling.  Huh.

 Source:  Wrestling

Another thing that you could do at the fairgrounds was to go to concerts.  Concert prices were actually reasonable in those days, so I saw a lot of them.  Fleetwood Mac, Jimmy Buffett, Jerry Jeff Walker, Al Stewart, Leon Redbone, and probably several more.  There were also the free shows during the fair itself.  I am still a huge Jimmy Buffett fan (aka: Parrothead).  I have already requested that "A Pirate Looks at Forty" be played at my funeral, just because.

Overtime, things have changed, as they always do.  The rodeo hasn't been held there for years and the old bleachers and race track are long gone.  There is an ice skating rink where the horse stables used to be.  Jefferson Pool was demolished and filled in long ago; now covered with grass and a picnic table or two. 

Okay, I guess I'll sign off for now.  Hope that you enjoyed my trip down memory lane.  Oh, wait!  I can't believe that I forgot to put this in.  Another thing to do at the fairgrounds is to visit the Lane County Historical Museum.  It only cost us a couple of dollars to get in, and Carly and I went there a lot.  I loved all the old toys, the dentist display, the covered wagons and pioneer information.  Some things never change!

~ Kathy M.

Saturday Update:  I just now remembered about the picture below.  The woman in the white hat is Cary's Grandma Nellie (Nannie).  The first little boy is his father, Troy, and the other little boy his Troy's twin, Roy.  They were at "The Pike", in Long Beach, California.  Please check out the link below for the website regarding "The Pike" if you have a quick moment.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

At "The Pike" in Long Beach

I looked up "The Pike" and oh, my gosh ... talk about the perfect Sepia Saturday find!  Please click on the following link to read all about it's history and see lots of great pictures from 1902 - 1979:  History of The Pike.

So, there you are, my friends.  If you enjoyed this story, please visit my Sepia Saturday friends by "CLICKING HERE" to find other neat photos and stories.  To read more about my family and other stories featuring old photos, memories and more, please look for this picture of me and my dad on the left-hand sidebar and read whatever else catches your fancy.  Thanks so much for visiting!

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

At Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy, if you miss a day, you miss a lot!  All material on this post is copyrighted and not for use without my permission ...Please click here to go to my home page and see what is happening in Mayberry today.
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Little Nell said...

Another delightful post Kathy. I did enjoy all your memories of the fairground and what you and your friends got up to. I am so jealous that you got see Fleetwood Mac live too.

Wendy said...

Such a wonderful SS post full of funny stories. I loved every bit of it. The carkeys in the mailbox - now you know those were different times! The topless woman joke - hearing it year after year makes it even funnier. Forts and secret codes -- this post has everything!

Bob Scotney said...

It seems strange to read that you had to pay to get into the fairs. The fairs I've been used to in England were in the streets of the towns - free to everyone. They just took money off you if you went on a ride or had a go at one of the stalls. If you were mean, or broke, you could spend a night at the fair for nothing - not that that cut much ice with the girls!

Postcardy said...

Your old neighborhood sounds like it was a lot of fun for children.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Thank you, Nell and Wendy!

Bob, we have those kind of free ones all over, mainly called festivals. The festivals usually have free admission. But, if there is an actual fairgrounds, they usually charge us money to get in.

Postcardy, it really was a fun neighborhood to live in. Lots of kids to play with, generally quiet and safe, and many things to do nearby.

(Queenmothermamaw) Peggy said...

We lived near our county fairgrounds too and would sneak in the back way. Had to cross several fields and one time met head on by a bull and boy did we run the other way. We would pick blackberries along the way. thanks for the memory.

Jana Last said...

Great stories from your childhood. Blackberry bush forts, secret codes, journaling in the cow barn and a meditating tree. How fun is that!

Queen Bee said...

Kathy, what a fun and entertaining post. Your neighborhood sounds like the perfect place for children - a pool just down the street, yearly fair within walking distance, a special tree to sit in and places to roam and explore. I'm sure you had lots of great times with your friends and siblings. Checked out the link for "The Pike" - the rollercoaster built out over the water was something else and certainly not for me!

Titania said...

Kathy so many childhood memories. Yes fairs were the in thing, we all wanted to be there. It was also a time when we kids could roam around with other children and had not to be ferried around by car to sports, dance and piano lessons, we went on foot or with a bike. In Switzerland the entry to the fair was always free, but not here in Australia. One had to buy a ticket to enter the fairground.

Rob From Amersfoort said...

Although aerial photos were made using balloons long before the Wright Brothers were even born, this particular picture was made circa 1927 (according to the Lane County historical society).

No Copying!


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