York Town Square

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Good old days at the York Fair were at least old

Nostalgia points us to those days when life seemed sweeter or simpler, even though it wasn’t always.
So I noted in a recent post.
With all its wonderful community-building tendencies, nostalgia at times can mask memories of a sometimes gritty, less-than-perfect place and time.
Such lapses can make county life today seem worse in comparison.
Here’s just one example of our checkered past, an attraction at the York Fair that Dave Gulden described in the book, “America’s First Fair From Then Until Now.”
“Hit the Coon” was a popular throwing game in the 1930s. Drawing from another book, Gulden states that the game involved a canvas scene with a hole cut in it. A black man stuck his head through the hole and tried to dodge the ball…. .

This game was a “brutal cousin” to African Dip, Gulden wrote. “African Dip” involved a black man seated above a vat of water as fairgoers aimed at a bullseye, akin to today’s dunking machines.
“Hit the Coon” was a favorite game of York’s best-known shoe salesman, Mahlon Haines, who liked to show off his baseball-throwing skills. The black man would fall when a target was hit by “one of Col. Haines’ well-directed throws,” Gulden wrote, quoting a newspaper.
Gulden might have mixed up the two games because the original newspaper report refers to Haines unseating the black man, better fitting the dunking machine.
Still, this is a clear account of a prominent York citizen participating in a patently racist game without pause or revulsion.
And this was just 70 years ago. And this occurred at the venerable icon, the York Fair.
The good old days were good but not always that good.
Here’s a sampling of other York Fair posts:
Teddy Roosevelt at the York Fair: ‘I know York county farmers are prosperous. Their barns are bigger than their houses’.
This York Fair mural is fading from sight .
Good old days at the York Fair were at least old.
JFK received grand applause at York Fair visit.
Young curators produce York Fair exhibit: ‘A Fair of Our Own’.
All’s Fair blog gives all kinds of insight about York Fair.
Both Yanks, Rebs camped at old York Fairgrounds.
‘The lower she sank in her chair’.