Woodrow and Fair Park: Thanks for the memories

Looking through the impressive bay windows of Woodrow’s third-floor library, you can see both Downtown and Fair Park.

Fair Park and Woodrow enjoy a long history. Although the Park is much older, most of the buildings remain the same as they were during the 1936 Centennial Exposition, held eight years after Woodrow’s construction.

Long before the Centennial, President Woodrow Wilson gave a speech in the old Fair Park auditorium (which predates the Music Hall), located just to the left of the park’s front gate. Perhaps this visit inspired Dallas’ seventh high school to be named for the “Great Crusader” Wilson.

An Art Deco façade was applied to the building in 1936, featuring a statue of a woman on a cactus pedestal presiding over a reflecting pond and fish fountain (which has not operated in years).

The model for the visage was Georgia Carroll ’39. She later married band leader Kay Kyser. Roscoe DeWitt and Mark Lemmon, who designed the Jacobean-Gothic Woodrow building, collaborated with other designers to build the Hall of State.

The Hall of State exceeded Woodrow’s $750,000 price tag, making it Dallas’ most expensive public building. DeWitt also designed a 1963 addition to the Museum of Art (now the Science Place).

Among the other park facilities in need of repair is the Cotton Bowl. Both Woodrow Heisman Trophy winners, Davey O’Brien ’35 and Tim Brown ’84, played in the Cotton Bowl Classic. Other Wildcats who have played in the New Year’s Day football game include O’Brien’s teammate I.B. Hale, Red Maley, Malcolm Kutner, Herschel and Bill Forester, Jerry Griffin, Sherwood Blount, Joe Shearin and Eddie Garcia.

Entertainer Steve Miller, who attended St. Mark’s and Woodrow, has performed twice at the Cotton Bowl. My sister, Jana Rains Stillwagon ’78, attended Miller’s first concert there.

On the Midway, Carol Longchart Simpson ’80 (husband Robert ’83) managed rides and concessions she inherited from her grandmother during her years at Woodrow. Remember the Cuddle Up?

Blue Ribbon winner Donna Wyse Hill ’75 must hold records for winning more ribbons than anyone else, dominating State Fair food entries for the past decade.

Two years ago, Carroll Shelby’s Viper was the star of the Automobile Building. Shelby ’40 also rode in the pace car for Dallas’ 1984 Grand Prix, held at Fair Park.

Speaking of the Automobile Building, Bob Townsend ’66 staged the successful Ramses exhibit, which introduced air conditioning to the landmark building – thanks, Bob.

Ruth Collins Altshuler ’40 is among several Woodrow grads who have served on the State Fair of Texas board. Former Mayor R.L. Thornton was the father of the Centennial, and his granddaughter, Mary Brinegar ’64, is head of development for the Dallas Opera, which performs at the Music Hall.

‘50s grad Gary Surratt (daughter Gina ’79) has been second-in-command for decades at the Dallas Summer Musicals and has employed countless Woodrow students as ushers. Of course, the Music Hall was the site of Woodrow’s graduation ceremonies for nearly 60 years.

Woodrow parent Wayne Gallagher managed the State Fair for more than two decades before retiring in the late ‘80s.


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