Six Flags Over Texas celebrates its 50th season this year. It opened on August 5, 1961. The central library at the University of Texas at Arlington has set up a free exhibit on the 6th floor (the "Special Collections" area) called "What You Wish the World Could Be: The Early Years of Six Flags Over Texas." It covers about the first 25 years of the park.
I thought I knew a lot about Six Flags already (I worked there for two years in the late 1980s), but this exhibit provided a great many details I was previously unaware of. One of the reasons Six Flags was built was to help finance the infrastructure for the Great Southwest Industrial District. There are plenty of large photographs and captions on display... even a map from the first season. There is an original mannequin from the Spelunker's Cave, and an actual wooden horse from the Carousel. (There's a photograph of a young clerk selling tickets to Six Flags' opening day in Leonard's Department Store!)
An adult ticket during that first year cost $2.75. Employees of Convair, Ling-Temco, and Texas Instruments got to visit the park a few days before the official opening to help employees figure out what needed to be adjusted to make the experience better. [To this day, there are some people in Southern California who have never forgiven Walt Disney for not having "Tomorrowland" ready in time for Opening Day of Disneyland!]
There are a couple of "memory walls" where visitors can write down and submit their memories of Six Flags, and these are quite interesting to read, too. Everybody has fond memories of rides, childhood trips, things that went wrong, etc. You may be surprised to see pictures of rides and exhibits that have long since come and gone: goat-cart rides, helicopter rides, the "Sky Hook," the slide on the Oil Derrick, the "Big Bend" roller coaster, etc. (Do you remember the "Six Flags is What You Wish the World Could Be" jingle from the 1970s? It had an animated character named Cyrus Cosmo.)
There is a picture of Betty Buckley trying out for a singing/performing job at the park. There are also lots of engraved employee name tags from past years. Six Flags had a recreation area behind the scenes that was provided strictly for employees, which included a swimming pool and a softball field (there's an old team jersey on display). A couple of employee yearbooks (similar to high school yearbooks) are also shown. (The park stopped producing those yearbooks long ago, and the swimming pool is long gone.)
You may remember that the park used to slap a bumper sticker onto your car as you departed the parking lot. The color scheme for this sticker was changed each year. My family had a big old station wagon that sported nearly half a dozen of these stickers during the 1970s. At least one of these stickers is on display at the UTA library, with the adhesive backing still attached!
"Seven Seas" gets a mention, too. There are a couple of photographs of that water park, as well as a souvenir collectible teacup with the "Seven Seas" logo on it. There's a big picture of the pirate ship from "Seven Seas"... it was called the _Bona Venture_ and was incorporated into the Sheraton Hotel's swimming area in 1985, where it remained until it burned due to an electrical short in 1992. (One thing I learned about "Seven Seas" here was that the reason it did not have much in the way of rides was because of a non-compete agreement with Six Flags.)
The only complaint I have about this exhibit is, it's not large enough! The attendant in charge said that while the brochure says this will run until the middle of May, it may actually be running even longer due to demand. There will likely be some employee reunions in the near future. I would like to see a small TV showing old TV commercials and other videos, such as the time-exposure film of the construction of the "Shock Wave" roller coaster.
You can find out more about the UTA Library's Special Collections exhibits here:
Hours: Open Mondays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Sundays. (The exhibit is free, but you may have to pay for parking.)
No, they don't stamp your hand as you leave.
Six Flags Over Texas -- History Exhibit at UTA
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