Friday, September 19, 2008

It's Fair Time!

The Los Angeles County Fair and deep-fried pop tarts go away in a week. Do not miss it. Since this blog stresses history, here is the history site of the fair, at Fairplex.com.

The show stared as a merchant's expo--with a tent and a carnival--near the Southern Pacific RR Station in Pomona in 1921. For the following year, Pomona bought a 43-acre beet and barley field from Ricardo Vejar, incorporated the Los Angeles County Fair Association, and began building. They put up the racetrack and grandstand, two cattle barns, a livestock barn, two livestock buildings, and an admin building.

The first official Los Angeles County Fair ran from October 17th through the 21st, 1922, and it drew 49,461 visitors. "Harness racing, chariot races and an airplane wing walking exhibit were major highlights that year," according to the site.

The first fair cost $63,000 to present.

It was such a success that a bond issue doubling the size of the fairgrounds and then some, passed in 1923. In 1925, the event moved to September.

The Depression hit the fair, but didn't stop it. 1932 was the year the new grandstand went up, seating over 12,000 people (it was renovated in 1986). On the day of the grandstand's dedication, California Governor James Rolph Jr. raced--or at least outran--a team of six horses on the track. Maybe Gov. Arnold should consider that, should he get a budget passed by the time the fair closes.

Other feature events on that 1932 day included concerts from high school groups and a boys' harmonica band, a "milking and farmerette contest" (something tells me that Daisy Dukes were not involved)and a drill by aHighway Pratrol team.

Betting at the track was legalized in 1933, which is when the picture above (part of the Herald Examiner collection at the Los Angeles Public Library) was taken.

As you might guess, the Works Project Administration--the WPA--had a hand in raising several new exhibition buildings in the thirties. During World War II, the fairgrounds became a desert training field for the U.S. Army. Fairplex became Pomona Ordnance Motor Base.

In 1942, for a couple of summer months, over 5,400 Americans of Japanese descent were forced to live there.

The fairgrounds served as a POW camp in 1945 through March, 1946, for Italian and German soldiers. After the war, millions were pumped into new buildings and land was bought for the parking lots.

They didn't have soccer-playing dogs (above right) as the current fair does. 1952 saw the Clock Tower and present Flower and Garden Center go up, but the big news in the 1950s is that Frisbees debuted here. Yup, in 1955, and the flying discs, called Pluto Platters, were seen by a couple of guys who owned a manufacturing company called Wham-O. The name Frisbee came along in 1957, but the birthplace was Pomona in 1955.

This last picture of one of the quilts on exhibit at the fair, which are worth the price of admission all by themselves.

3 comments:

Tim said...

You're right, Vix. Pomona and Pluto Platters were the birth of Frisbee! I am the author of WHAM-O Super-Book coming out next month by Chronicle Books and I had the privilege of interviewing WHAM-O founder Rich Knerr before he died in January. He told me, "We saw [Pluto Platter inventor Fred Morrison] throwing it at the Los Angeles County Fair. He and his wife were having a catch, and that seemed to be attracting a crowd." I also interviewed Fed Morrison for the book and he confirmed it. How cool is that? 200 million Frisbee discs have been sold and the toy has spawned the sports of Ultimate, Disc Golf, Guts, Disc Dog and more. A million or more DOGS have played with it!?!?!?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!?

...and it all started at that fateful fair in 1955.

Tim said...

You're right about Pomona being the birthplace of Pluto Platters, Vix! I am the author of the WHAM-O SUPERBOOK: Celebrating 60 Years Inside the Fun Factory! coming out next month by Chronicle Books. I had the distinct privilege of interviewing WHAM-O founder Rich Knerr before he passed away in January. He told me, "We saw [Frisbee inventor Fred Morrison] throwing it at the Los Angeles County Fair. He and his wife were having a catch, and that seemed to be attracting a crowd." I also interviewed Fred Morrison for the book and he confirmed it. Frisbee has gone on to sell over 200 million copies all over the world. It has spawned the sports of Ultimate, Disc Golf, Guts, Disc Dog and more. A few million DOGS HAVE PLAYED WITH IT! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!

...and it all started at that fateful fair.

Vix said...

Woo-hoo! I'll have to look for your book! Thanks--