Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: Fall in Harrold
Fall in Harrold was a time of beginnings and endings, full of events looked forward to each year. School started, for some reason, the same week the State Fair began. As a student, I always dreaded that week. We seldom had a class because the country kids, who made up a big portion of the enrollment, belonged to 4-H and were involved in the fair, showing cattle, sheep, horses or rabbits, or being judged for sewing or other homemaking skills. The rest of us were sentenced to wishing we were doing anything but sitting in a sweltering classroom on a hot September afternoon. I didn’t like it any more when I was a teacher in Harrold. We all knew we didn’t want to be there, and teachers knew there were no meaningful assignments that could be given with the majority of the classes excused to attend the fair, and busywork soon reached it’s limit. School really began when we started planning for the school carnival.
Carnivals were one of the main fundraisers schools had in the fifties and sixties, money needed to support many of the school activities. The athletic departments and music programs depended heavily on the funds raised from the carnivals. Harrold’s carnival was held throughout the three story school building, with much of the activity being held in the study hall on the third floor. The day of the carnival classes were shortened so that we had time to move all the desks from the hall and setup the different booths. The fishing hole was curtained off in a corner, where kids could throw a line over the curtain and pull it back with a toy or trinket magically appearing on the plastic hook. The Bingo stand took up a fourth of the study hall, and teachers took turns calling numbers throughout the night. Ring toss, dart throw, basketball hoop games along with many others filled the rest of the room. The cake walk took place in a large classroom on the second floor, most families donating a cake to be won. I remember Mr. Hull being the teacher who sat by the door of the study hall selling tickets that would serve as passes to the games. By the end of the night, the school was covered with paper, popcorn and balloons, all to be cleaned up by Monday morning so we could move the desks back into the study hall. I don’t remember if we ever helped Curley or Uncle Willmer, the two janitors who took such good care of that building over the years, clean up, but we sure should have. Harrold’s carnivals ended sometime in the 1970s. I’m not sure why. I suspect it had something to do with government rules or regulations, or it may be that the excitement of winning a cake or finding a toy at the end of a fishing line disappeared. Either way it is too bad.
Fall at the Ford garage always stirred excitement at school. Students from the fifth grade through high school eagerly awaited the day the newest model Fords were unveiled in the small showroom at Tish Drury’s shop. A week or so before the big day, Tish would cover the windows to keep the unveiling a surprise for young and old. When the big day arrived, high school kids would hurry through lunch, or even skip it so they could run the three blocks downtown to see the newest models. Fins and radical design were big with all car models back then, and to see the one or two new cars Tish would have gave us a chance to judge the newest designs up close. The added bonus was we all got free pencils and balloons, and picked up brochures trumpeting the new cars. 1963 was a big year for Ford, when they introduced the Mustang. Tish had one in his showroom, shiny and red and we all imagined owning and driving it. Dave Downs, one of my classmates did just that. We couldn’t imagine being able to buy a new car, but I think Dave had the money saved up. The price tag was somewhere around $2500. One of the first things I did right out of college, of course, was buy a 1967 gold Mustang. I drove it a few years until I figured out it wasn’t a family car, so I traded it for a sedan. Sure wish I had that Mustang today!
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the July 24, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News