'Bout the biggest thing in the northeastern part of Arkansas is the Labor Day Picnic! It's not just big, it's HUGE! When you say you've been to the Labor Day Picnic, you can say you've done something!
Kids of all ages would save for an entire year to have a little to spend at the picnic.
The Picnic was always preceeded by a parade which started up by Irby's funeral home and ran down Main Street. At the highway they turned East and proceeded until the entrance of the park. There, the festivities would begin. Contests of all kinds, baby contests, singing contests, a beauty pagent, the festivities would go all day and into the night.
There are many booths out there that have existed ever since I can remember. And the carnival. Think big. No, think BIG. I remember the Scrambler, and the Hammer, and the spinning cups just to name a few.
I remember the little trailers into which you could go after you've paid your nickle. One I remember was a talking corpse. Just the word corpse was enough to intrigue me to the point of giving up a nickle to see it. After all, it was a dead person! Who talked!
Another was a tent with nothing in it except a little bench what looked like one mom used to sit on in front of the dresser and comb her hair. On it was a talking head! Strangest lookin thing. And it wasn't one of those fake dead corpse thing that had a little piece of cloth over the mouth that moved with a scratchy recording playing . . .
Nope! This was a real, live, moving, talking, listening, question answering female head. I was dumfounded as to how the thing lived if it had no body. I mean, where did the food go? And does a talking head ever have to go to the restroom? How does it get around? Since it obviously depends on someone to move it, how do they get a hold of it? Do they just grab it by the hair of the 'head? and swing it like a lantern when they are walking away with it?' (grin)
Who brushes her pearly whites? If it's just a head, does she have bad morning breath? How does she comb her hair? All these and a myriad of other questions were screaming through my head as I listened to her talk and converse with those standing in that tent staring at her.. When no one was asking questions, she'd quote poems, songs, or even scripture from the Bible. Heck of a site!
I had it all figured out! There were mirrors hiding the body of the person sitting there, and the mirrors were angled down so as to catch a reflection of the shoes of the patrons. I studied for a long time, but never did figure out how they were able to let you see through the bench to the backside of the tent. Oh well, I got people to see, rides to ride, hamburgers and the best ice cream sandwiches that there ever was to fill up on!
In 1984 my whole family, (my wife and kids), was able to attend two years in a row, then, in 1996 we all flew back to attend another. We all ate so many ice cream sandwiches we were almost sick. Nothing like them ANYWHERE! But only recently, I learned through a post on the Rector High School that the ice cream sandwiches were a thing of the past.
Garry Don Dooley, my cousin and I, would always go down the following day and look for coins dropped around the booths and ticket counters. Heck, we didn't have one of them newfangled metal detectors they have nowadays. No, we found coins by searching meticulously around the walkways of every stand, ticket booth, AND ride out there.
I've seen the day when we'd both take home fifty or seventy five cents from an all day's looking! Purty cotton pickin' good money for a nine and ten year old! Had we been able to refrain from giving into the temptation of those expensive Dr. Peppers, ($.05, yep, you read it right! Five cents, one nickle . . .!), we'd have a head start on next years wonderful sights, sounds, smells and tastes.
Ah, (long and drawn out . . .), the memories of childhood, and an era that is but so much refuse on the super-freeway to old age . . . How I'd like to experience some of those times again, but then, one more time would never be enough. So, all I can do is just go back and make new memories.
We were sure we'd get to spend Labor Day picnic in Rector this year, (2010). We'd planned on leaving about the second week in August but canceled when we found out the news of a close loved one's terminal illness. Not enough Labor Day Picnics in ten lifetimes to make us forfeit what little time we had left with that loved one.
But next year is a different matter! And we plan to be there in full force! Just let me at one of them Labor Day Picnic hamburgers and funnel cake!