On Thursday, Aug. 29, Dr. Bill Freeman hosted a luncheon at Premier Events for a group of Shippensburg friends to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Shippensburg Junior Fair.
The Junior Fair was held in the yard of Dr. and Mrs. Albert Freeman on West King Street for three to four days each summer from 1950-1955. The purpose of the fair was to raise money for Shippensburg Memorial Park. Memorial Park was in its early stages of being built as a memorial to the Veterans of Shippensburg at the time.
Bill and Bob Freeman, and through the years, 65 junior high and high school friends, planned, built and ran the fair. There were games of chance, pony rides, boat rides in Branch Creek, bingo, carnival games, a fun house, raffles and food.
The whole community became involved with the event. Local businesses donated the prizes. Adults, as well as children, would attend the fair and enjoyed the activities.
Many locals came to the event each summer.
Everything was 5 cents, except for 15-cent hotdogs, 20-cent hamburgers, and 25-cent sloppy joes. Attendees could have a fun-filled night for $1.
During the six years of the fair, the group of friends raised $1,434 for Memorial Park. In today’s money, it is equivalent to $13,723.38. In particular, the group of friends was interested in raising funds for the building of the Memorial Park Pool and Veterans Stadium.
The luncheon started with at time of fellowship, followed by lunch which consisted of hot dogs, hamburgers, sloppy joes, and glass bottle soda.
Following lunch, Gerilee Davis, chairperson of SCPRA, and Tyler Fairchild, SCPRA director, spoke to the group about the structure of SCPRA and current projects. The luncheon ended with a look back in time of the friends setting up for the fair. Freeman found an old movie reel in his house which was shown.
“It was a wonderful time to meet and hear all the great things this group of friends did,” Fairchild said. “My favorite part of the luncheon was listening to them talk about their time as teenagers and how important the park was to them. Many of them learned to swim at Memorial Park Pool. Several of them were part of the first baseball and football teams to ever play under the lights at Veterans Stadium.”
Former mayor Bruce Hockersmith said he was about 12 years old when the Junior Fair started in the ‘50s.
“It was a little bit of our effort to support the development of Memorial Park,” he said. “I think we patterned the fair idea after the Cumberland Valley Hose Co. Ambulance Fair. We had a ball pitch, a bingo stand, a penny pitch. There was a saucer in a bucket of water, and if your penny landed on the saucer, you won a prize. We had an outdoor fireplace to cook the food in. There was also an old barn at the end of the lot. We used to have to show films, and I believe they were silent films. We had boat rides in the Branch. It was just a good thing,” Hockersmith recalled.
Hockersmith said he helped with the electrical wiring.
“I thought I knew a little bit about it. At one point, we had things plugged in in the basement, and something went wrong. When we turned the lights on, we blew the fuse to Dr. Freeman’s office. We left him in the dark!” he laughed. “He had patients, and he came out and told us we needed to get those lights back on!”
Hockersmith said the Junior Fair was quite an effort.
“It was something for me to do to show my support for the Veterans Memorial Park,” he added. Hockersmith recalls his graduation in 1956 was held in Memorial Park.
“It was quite a development for Shippensburg. We had no park to speak of other than the North Earl Street playground along the railroad tracks where the current railcar is, where we call ‘The Triangle.’ To have a football stadium was really great. I remember we used to play at the State Teachers College (Shippensburg University), and some junior high games were played on Eckels Field. We had to go around to find a place to play football. Memorial Park gave us a home field with a stadium, press box, the whole nine yards. And even lights!”
Managing Editor Denise Bonura contributed to this article.