Each week leading up to our 50th Anniversary, we’re bringing you stories from the community about the history of Hemisfair. This week, we’d like to share a few memories from a visitor we had recently to the Hemisfair offices.
Barry Lacey came to our office proudly wearing his Hemisfair cufflinks, given to him in 1968. In 1967, he was a college kid looking for work, and landed a stint with Hemisfair before it even opened. Travelling across the city, he knocked on the doors of businesses and tried to sell them advanced tickets to a Fair that wasn’t even built yet!
His third day on the job, he contracted appendicitis which saw him posted up at home in bed. His boss (then-president of Lone Star Beer Mr. Harry Jersig) “took a shine to a clean-cut all-American boy,” and delivered his paychecks to him every day. Best of all, he let him keep the job. When Mr. Lacey returned to work, he continued to try and sell tickets (unsuccessfully by his own admission), but also put up banners and posters in storefront windows announcing the arrival of the World’s Fair.
Everywhere he travelled in his 1965 Impala Super Sport, “There was an enthusiasm about the Fair that was palpable.” As the people of San Antonio watched the Tower raise up piece by piece, there was a growing sense of anticipation. To his recollection, not a single person Mr. Lacey spoke to in his travels had anything bad to say about the Fair. The whole city was united in their optimism, it seemed to him.
The theme of the Fair – the Confluence of Civilizations – may have seemed high-concept and far-off, but as Mr. Lacey says, “It was real. We felt it. You were proud to be from San Antonio, you were proud that we could pull something like this off despite the assassination of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, and the financial troubles leading up to the Fair.” Over the course of Hemisfair 1968, he worked at the Texas Pavilion (now the Institute of Texan Cultures) and met Audrey Meadows, Lyndon Johnson and a slew of other celebrities on their visits to the Fair.
For many of the people we’ve spoken to in this series, there is a single phrase that comes up again and again. “Hemisfair put San Antonio on the map.” In a recent interview with the San Antonio Library Foundation, banker and philanthropist Tom Frost said that he believed that the most important year in San Antonio’s history was 1968. For everyone from the organizers of the Fair to a clean-cut kid hanging up posters in the South Texas heat, Hemisfair touched the lives of everyone in San Antonio and changed the landscape of the city forever.
We hope you’ll join us on April 6-8 to celebrate our 50th Anniversary at ¡Viva Hemisfair! If you’ve got a memory from the last 50 years of Hemisfair, we’d love to hear about at hemisfair.org/memories.