Remember in the good old days when we Shreveporters had FOUR distinct seasons? I’ve asked my friends and they remember wearing new sweaters and skirts to the first football game. That’s enough proof for me. So, I checked my calendar and to my wonderful dismay there it was — Sept. 23, the first day of fall or autumn or whatever anyone wants to call it. I realize I’m a little late, but I was otherwise "occupied." So allow me to reminisce about "fall" in Shreveport as I was growing up.
Of all the beautiful trees that were planted in our yard, they insisted on dropping their leaves in the fall. The three pear trees in the frontyard dropped the most colorful leaves; variations of yellow, gold and orange. The two pin oak trees held on until they couldn’t — brown!
Daddy took great pride in his yard’s appearance — thus raking leaves took place almost every Saturday afternoon. Since the most convenient labor pool lived in his house, I was always chosen to find one of those metal-fingered rakes and get busy. Plans were always the same — bargaining! After conferring with Susan ,Nee and the others , we agreed that we would rake — only if we could pile the leaves up, run and jump, rake them into another pile, set it on fire, and toast marshmallows. This definitely was an affair, which was enjoyed by the entire neighborhood — provided they bring their own coat hangers already straightened! Are you picturing this in your mind’s eye? Hope so! This experience was definitely my initiation to fall.
After September we experienced our first school holiday — Children’s Day at the Louisiana State Fair, always beginning about the third weekend of October. I had heard about the fair all of my life from my daddy, but until I personally attended, my life would not be complete. (As I look back — what else did we have for entertainment?)
Daddy always took us to see the animals get off the train at the Murphy Street crossing and walk down Texas Avenue to the fair grounds. My baby sister rode his shoulders so she could see everything.! The neighborhood in which I grew up was bordered by Kings Highway, the Shrine Hospital, Samford Avenue and Woodrow Street. One of our most prominent neighbors was the Joe Monsour family of Jennings Place. Mr. Monsour was the general manager of the fair for probably 40 years. His two daughters, Mary Joe and Margaret Rose, would invite all the neighborhood children to climb into their truck and spend not one, but many afternoons after school at the fair. We would be on every ride, free, until we could hardly walk straight. The Monsour’s generosity during those growing-up years will never be forgotten.
Bands from all Caddo Parish schools would march in beautifully colored uniforms "down Texas and up Milam" with the streets lined with students and proud parents. Then on to the fair for an all-day-free admission to school children, who would have fun riding, eating, playing games, looking at exhibits, checking out the animal barns and storing away wonderful memories.
The grandstand was a huge structure from which my daddys’ 1960s fair days would include attending the horse and automobile races. In later years, Mr. Monsour brought in popular performers, singers, bands and nighttime entertainment. There’s nothing like having a show under the stars on a cool October night.
Located under the grandstand was a restaurant sponsored by a local church whose name I do not remember. They served the best food at the fair and my older sister made us promise not to eat anywhere else. Of course I did, but only after stuffing myself with cotton candy and Wonderbars. I probably gained 5 pounds with each state fair.
Most of my memories of the fair took place in the ’50s. But, the first time we took our daughters to the fair I could really enjoy the amazement in their eyes of seeing all those lights, rides, people and, of course, cotton candy.
The fair, for 108 years, has been a part of Shreveport’s history ... as well as my life over the years. I attended during every kind of weather you could imagine — in short sleeves, coats or with a raincoat. I’ve probably only missed 10 fairs in my life. And I’ll miss this one.
From our neighborhood across from the Shrine Hospital going west, there was nothing but woods, cotton fields and a huge truck farm on the corner of Kings Highway and dirt-topped Linwood Avenue. Therefore, from my William Street home there was nothing to block the view. Every night after the grandstand show Mr. Monsour would have a huge fireworks display that would light up the sky for seemingly miles around. Feeling like a princess, I could be in my bed for 10 nights and have my own private fireworks show. What a life!
The fair won’t be the same as my memories, but they are mine and remain deep within my heart. It is still, "The Fair." Make your own memories — it closes Sunday.
Thanx : Emily Landrieu Hargrove
The Roving Reporter