As the end of the school year drew tantalizingly near, and the warm sun poured through the old brick walls of Wallace Elementary School, hope sprang eternal in the hearts and minds of grade school children. Baseball, picnics, fishing, hiking, camping, The Fourth of July, and maybe a trip to a far away place, loomed as an enticement to get that darn school year over with and dance out of the musty halls with unbridled glee when that final bell tolled the glad announcement that you were free.
But wait, I forgot to mention one more enticement. Yes, there was one more upcoming event on the calendar that added fuel to the glowing fire of excitement. This was an event like none other in the world. It was the infamous "Gyro Lead Creek Derby Days". For you see, each grade school student was handed a book of tickets for the carnival that rolled into Wallace to add color and excitement the event. I eagerly awaited those free tickets each year, and I had political privilege because my best friend's father just happened to be the Chief of Police in Wallace, and we were given extra tickets every summer. (Yes, good old political corruption at it's best.)
So, the first night of the carnival, which was always on a Thursday night, and my friend and I would head for the streets of downtown, which was not much of a chore for me because I lived on Cedar Street, and the carnival was set up three blocks from my home. Someday I will tell you how I used to have to walk two whole blocks to school through three feet of snow. It was horrible, but that is for another day.
The first thing on our agenda at the carnival was the ride known as the "Octopus".This ride always set up in front of Morrow's Retail, and it was by far our favorite ride. Now, once is enough for many people, but my friend and I had only one thing in mind, and that was to ride as many times in a row as we could before we got sick. OK, was that really that different than the adults who would drink as many beers or shots as they could before they also knelt before the Porcelain Goddess? I think not!
This ritual went on for three fulls nights, sometimes being augmented by rides on the Ferris Wheel and munching on Cotton Candy and snow cones. Then, on Saturday night the excitement reached a fevered pitch as the drum and bugle corp made their annual pilgrimage through the street of Wallace, visiting each bar, and that was no small task in those days. As they went from bar to bar the playing got worse and worse. Then, the climax of the evening came. We always tried to be on the Ferris wheel as the fireworks lit up the festive, night sky.
Then came the super bowel moment of Wallace, the actual floating down Lead Creek of the derby ball from Mullan to Wallace. What a moment, a Kodak moment, if you will. Thousands of screaming, drunk people cheering madly as the big ball came down the murky river. That night we would always take one more ride on the Octopus, and as we weaved our way off the ride for the last time for that year we bid a sad farewell, and said we would see it all again next year.
Fast forward in time to June 13, 2008, and I made my journey back to the Derby. I wanted my wife to witness the event like I had seen it so many years ago. She was born and raised and lived most of her life in Baltimore, Maryland, and I am sure that she had never seen anything like our "Lead Creek Derby" event. I had talked so much about it that she was really excited to go. I told her that we might have to walk quite a ways because there would be no parking. I have to warn her about such things because I play out easily with my condition, and she has to help me walk sometimes.
So, off we went to the big event. Well, right away I knew things had changed for the worse. We parked within a few feet of the carnival, something that would have been impossible in my childhood. Next came another shock, for as we rounded the corner of what used to be the North Idaho Press office, I saw with dismay that the carnival was only a miniature version of the carnival of my childhood. Even more shocking was that there were only scattered handfuls of people on the streets, Most of the three or four rides were empty. My wife gave me a questioning look that said " OK, where is this massive event you have been bragging about?"
Well, one thing had not changed, because about the time we were up one-half block, I heard the drums of the drum and bugle corp coming from one if the bars. At least they still did that!
We walked around for about thirty minutes trying to capture some of my past, but all I could do was look sorrowfully at another ghost of Wallace past. My wife lovingly took my hand and said, "Baby, the Wallace you knew is gone, and sometimes you just have to accept that things change."
Well, OK, I can do that, but that does not mean that I don't yearn for those wonderful things that made my childhood a happy place and time.
Lead Creek Derby? Better change the name, for even the river changed and now the event should be forever known as the "Unleaded Creek Derby" Gosh!
And so we went up this year, 2009 again, and I repeat the post I made in 2008-for Pete's Sake!