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Schrader: A memory of the Sandwich Fair

Jeff Strack
Jeff Strack

I want to share a poem written by Jeff Strack of DeKalb about a family trip to the Sandwich Fair with his father back in the early 1940s. It also will be on display in the Fair Museum:

An unwritten rule when the barn’s full of livestock,

The work must be done. Farmers don’t punch a time clock.

My dad toed that line, his resolve never wavered.

Though something might tempt him, those critters were favored.

But one thing he planned for, each early September,

Adventure with family. I’ll always remember.

Dad took some time off for an annual pleasure.

A brief autumn outing that I learned to treasure.

A one day vacation, and no question where.

We’d climb in the car and be off to the fair.

With pleasant fall weather, a respite from labors,

So much to be seen, and perchance we’d meet neighbors.

With morning chores finished, the tribe would set forth,

And travel on south from our farm to the north.

The trip was accomplished by Model A Ford,

A black touring car, the Strack family aboard.

Quite soon we’d be headed down Somonauk Road.

By then the whole crew was in holiday mode.

And after what seemed like a very long drive,

A turn to the left and we all came alive.

A lineup of cars to buy tickets and enter,

The entrance in those day, a gate near the center.

Then after we’d parked, many neat sights and sounds

Would welcome our gang as we strolled through the grounds.

We wandered about, many things there to see,

The best part about it, the looking was free.

We paused at the site of a medicine show.

Amusing and also quite shady, we know.

So Dad stood apart and he scoffed at their foil,

And yet at our house, we all used Cherry’s Oil. 

Exhibitors showed off their latest inventions.

Some newfangled stuff that defied all conventions.

Come noon we sat down at a church stand for lunch.

Can’t think what they served us, roast beef is my hunch.

Now one of Dad’s traits was he really loved horses.

Farm life then revolved around those power sources.

Fair horses were different, they mostly were racers,

And not with a saddle, just trotters and pacers.

Which meant after lunch we would find a spot facing

The partial mile oval, for sulky horse racing.

We watched all the races with no care who won.

Observing each contest provided our fun.

All Methodists knew not to wager on winners.

The preacher had warned us that gambling’s for sinners.

While equines competed, no matter the end,

My dad’s bet was clear, that the horse was his friend.

The sun settled lower and home turf soon beckoned.

Must get back by chore time. That’s how my dad reckoned.

We wended our weary way back to the car.

And all could agree, “What a fine time so far!”

That annual day trip to Sandwich repeated,

Meant Dad had his yearly recharging completed.

– Jeff Strack, 2019

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