“In 1936 we celebrated Texas’ 100th birthday by singing in the Cotton Bowl”

by Mary Kate Durham, Local Historian

Hood County News – October 7, 2000

At this time period each year my mind returns to one memory dating back to 1936. That was the year Texas celebrated her Centennial – she was 100 years old!

True, this is October and Texas celebrated on June 13th; however, in 1936 today’s Cotton Bowl was newly constructed. There were numerous new buildings also being completed to enlarge the Dallas Fair Grounds. This year I have noticed these are now being referred to as the “old” Art Deco buildings. The newly-refurbished one that is housing the Women’s Museum is one of this group. I feel certain I have seen several others in the news; however, I am too far removed to know the details.

In 1936 I was in the fifth grade. I have mentioned earlier that was the year Granbury school built the “little building” for first through fifth grades. We were the “Big kids” in the building with Miss Bobbie Williams as our teacher. We were very important; or so we thought. We were also the ‘chosen ones’ to be trained for the Centennial School Chorus. The state superintendent of schools referred to us as a massed chorus of 50,000 boys and girls selected from 1,558,000 Texas children. (Yes, I still have my I.D. card that I wore along with my purple ribbon with Granbury stamped in gold.)

We began early in the school year practicing our Texas songs. We learned all the familiar ones with plenty of practice. The big surprise to most of us was that the “official” state song was “Texas Our Texas.” We had not heard of it; however that soon changed. We not only learned it; we learned every word of every verse. We also learned to NOT like it at all. We did have fun practicing it often when we were invited to entertain for various groups.

From the numbers given, I think every school in Texas was included. We traveled by train as we made our way to Dallas. My dad had made it known early on that he would be one of the sponsors of our group. We boarded the train at the depot very early in the morning. Tolar and many other schools were already on board. This was my first train ride. I was so excited; I failed to remember many details. With my dad along, I left the thinking to him. He gathered three or four of my best friends for his group to chaperone; so we depended on him to take care of us.

In Dallas we were guided to the new Cotton Bowl and herded into our proper section. This is a proper term to us. I believe perhaps that all 50,000 children came along plus the adults, too. My dad resembled a ‘mother hen’ as he tried to keep our brood together. As soon as we were seated and ready to sing, an unexpected problem came along. This was a very sunny, hot day in June. The term, bowl, began to have more meaning. With the thousands of people crowded into every row, there soon seemed to be a shortage of air to breathe. Children began to faint in very large numbers. My dad immediately bought a “Dallas Morning News” from a vendor. He gave each one of us several pages to hold above our heads for some shade.

I also recall we were warned if any one of us dared to faint, he might just finish us off and also leave us in Dallas when the train left. I think he also used the remaining portion of the paper to fan us. We survived.

Somewhere in all this madness those of us who were not in the expanded First Aid stations did join in with “Texas Our Texas,” “The Eyes of Texas,” “Beautiful Texas,” and others we had learned. I know I was more than excited because I cannot remember what we had for lunch. I do recall a great amount of liquid being made available to us. Soon, my dad purchased a very big Japanese umbrella for me. It would shade us all, but was very large when walking in such a crowd. I kept it for many years, but it was made of paper and finally fell apart.

We were all given time to buy a few souvenirs. I still have a colorful pin with ribbons as well as a very nice man’s handkerchief with “Texas Centennial and a long horned steer” embroidered in one corner. It is only 64 years old now.

My family was able to return several times before the celebration ended, but there was nothing like the “School Children’s Day!” I thought I was pretty lucky to have been picked that year to be a fifth-grade student.

One of my friends who lived in Tolar in June, 1936 remembers being of the students being carried to First Aid. She recalls the fear of becoming unconscious because she had brought her spending money tied into the corner of her handkerchief. She willed herself to stay awake so that no one would steal her money. It worked. I knew I was very lucky to have had my own “caretaker.” We returned home on the train without casualties and much wiser.

I really was not aware of it at the time, but it was during 1936 that the very first historical markers were erected. There is one I know of on the south side of Hwy. 377 East near the intersection with Fall Creek Highway. It was erected by the Texas Highway Department in 1936 and is an upright marker made of granite.

On the top it advises that three miles to the South is the grave of Elizabeth Crockett, wife of David Crockett. I know of no others in Hood County, but I have seen others throughout the state. (ed. note: Add-Ran also has a 1936 marker)

Watch for them.

Transcribed by Mary Maxwell