WE WERE POLLYANNA
Some of you may know me from my days playing Betsy Ross. You remember—the theme was The Bicentennial. The year, 1976. There I sat, in a wagon, being jerked in circles around the grassy field of Syracuse Elementary as I pulled my make believe needle in and out...in and out, of the beautiful flag that lay across my very important lap. And okay, sure, I was one of about 300 children with wagons and bikes decorated in red, white and blue crepe paper, but my mother had made me a mop cap, so I’m pretty sure you saw this star being born. And if not, well...I’m sad for you.
Such were the original Syracuse Heritage Days parades. But back then, we called it SYRACUSE STAKE FUN DAY! The LDS Stake was the host, but the entire city was welcome and came. You couldn’t help but know about it either, because just as dawn broke on the beautiful June Saturday, the entire town was jolted awake by Duffy Palmer and friends—Chet Ashby, Kay Darrington, Buck Holbrook and others—driving through every single neighborhood with a crackling bull horn, alerting us to the day’s activities. If the parent’s slept through the announcements, the kids’ screams of excitement would take it from there.
After the pancake breakfast and parade, ladies sold freshly baked bread, apple pies, taffy and fudge in the tented booths. Far as I knew, nothing was “Made in China”. It was made in our kitchens. Under the bowery, (where I kissed boys) men in aprons cooked scones, hamburgers and tacos and poured ice cold, foaming root beer. Everything cost a ticket, and you had to stand in line to buy them, which was AGONIZING for a child hearing the siren song of the fishing pond, because we just KNEW all of the good toys would be gone!
Assorted attractions covered the lawn—a mini train with wooden seats for the toddlers. Pooping horses all saddled up for a guided trot. The whirling wheel powered by burly men and teenaged boys where you’d climb in, strap yourself down and they’d spin you until their muscle power ran out.
But the ride we anticipated more than aaaaaaaall the rest, was the “Bumpity Bump” ride. That’s right. The Bumpity Bump—an old gated flatbed truck with no shocks, lopsided wheels and car seats that lined the perimeter. Basically, the ride consisted of driving around the grassy field and bouncing. And by bouncing, I mean ALL HECK BROKE LOOSE, BODY PARTS FLEW THROUGH THE AIR, LITTLE KIDS RICOCHETED OFF EACH OTHER, BUMS LANDED ON HEADS, ELBOWS INTO EYE SOCKETS AND WE LAUGHED SO HARD WE ALMOST THREW UP! When it rolled to a stop and they opened the gate, we tumbled out in a sobbing, laughing, hysterical pile, covered in unidentified bodily fluids. Then we quickly searched around in each other’s skulls, found our two front teeth, plucked them out, and handed them to our mothers, as we ran back in line to do it all over again.
As the day wore on, they held the Old Timers’ Baseball Game. At bat were Thurgoods and Thaynes and Hamblins and Cooks. Fielders were Hansens, Barbers, Stokers and Briggs. Hand sewn quilts for auction lined the chain linked fence, and the rope pull with teenagers vs. men ended with the fathers dragging their kids across the length of the field until the rope snapped.
We eventually returned home, out of tickets, worn to a frazzle and covered in sunburnt flesh and snow cone syrup. Our mothers would bathe us, drain the water, and bathe us once again. Then, dressed in summertime pajamas and slicked back hair, we pulled our bean bags onto the front lawn, climbed under a blanket, and watched as twilight turned to pitch, which signaled the fireworks display. We’d oooo and ahhh and hope with each passing BOOM that this was not the finale.
They stopped with the bull horn when somebody on grave shift complained to the city. The homemade fudge likely ended when another became sick and pointed a finger of blame. The auctions and bumpity bumps and rope pulls and ball games ceased over the course of the years, as the Stake handed the reigns to the City, and the carnival came riding into town.
Boom. Silence. We didn’t realize until too late—the finale.
But for those of us who remember the way it used to be...Oh, how we bless your heart, our old time Syracuse. Because every year, for one glorious day in June, Syracuse was Harrington Town. And we were Pollyanna.
“Oh what did you do in the summertime, when all the world was green? Did you sit by the stream (irrigation canal) and lazily dream on the banks as the clouds went by? Is that what you did? So did I....”