Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sentimental Sunday: Six Flags Over Texas, 1966

Yesterday my husband and I were in Arlington, Texas, at the convention center there for a photography trade show. (We just bought a new digital single lens reflex camera last week).  I didn't realize the convention center was so close to Six Flags Over Texas, the amusement park.

Six Flags Over Texas opened in August, 1961.  The original park was divided into six separate themed areas for each of the six governments that have controlled Texas in its history:  Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and the United States of America.

I've only been to Six Flags once, in July or August of 1966.  We lived in Houston, a good four to five hours away.  My maternal grandmother and step-grandfather, Nani and Popo, Sara Melzina Wolfe Guokas Archibald (1907-1997) and Wallace Franklin "Archie" Archibald (1896-1970), took my sister Karen and I on a trip there.

I'm guessing we spent two nights in the area, because I imagine we spent a whole day at the park.  I only have these two pictures from the trip.  This first one was among the slides Popo took that my brother recently scanned and sent to me.  I think this was a carriage set up as a photo op prop (notice the wheels don't touch the ground) in the Confederacy section - you can see something that looks like this carriage in a 1966 map of the park near Naler's Plantation House.  I'm pretty sure that is the recreated Fort St. Louis in the France section on the right in Popo's photo.  Today, these two park sections have been combined and are called "Old South & France," and apparently Fort St. Louis is still there as a backdrop for a display on the theme park's history.

I had just gotten my first camera (a Brownie) that year, probably on my birthday, and as film and developing were expensive, I didn't take many pictures.  This is one of the better ones, shot from the old Astrolift cable cars (removed in 1980).  This photo shows some of the then-seventh section of the park, Boomtown, added in 1963. At the bottom right, you can see one of my favorite rides, the Runaway Mine Train (just called Runaway Train on the 1966 map, and just Mine Train today), which had just opened that year.  See the slightly curved hole in the lake (Caddo Lake) near the middle of the photo?  That was where the train emerged after traveling underground, a first for a roller coaster.  On the far right edge of the photo, you can see where the roller coaster goes underground after exiting the Ace Hotel and Saloon (unnamed until 1974).  This ride still exists today.

You can also see the Caddo Canoes on the lake.  They had been moved from the Confederacy section (where they had been installed in 1962) to Boomtown in 1964.  I don't remember doing this attraction, which involved guests actually paddling large "Indian war" canoes around the man-made Caddo Lake.  This ride was removed in 1983.

My other favorite rides in the park were El Aserradero, ("the sawmill" in Spanish), the first-ever log flume ride, added to the Spain section in 1963 and still exiting today, and La Salle's River Adventure, which operated from 1961 to 1982, and featured animatronics and a colorful spiel.

Some great sources for information and photos about Six Flags Over Texas and its history are The Guide to Six Flags Over Texas, ParkTimes, and Ken Collier's postcards and 1966 Six Flags Cookbook sites.  A complete view of the 1966 map is here.

© Amanda Pape - 2015 - click here to e-mail me.

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