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Fort Worth Star TelegramOriginal Article »
February 18, 2011
When Six Flags Over Texas opened in 1961, the park was meant to pay for infrastructure needed for the Great Southwest Industrial District.
Fifty years later, the brainchild of then-Mayor Tom Vandergriff and Great Southwest President Angus G. Wynne Jr. anchors the entertainment district it spawned, one that has come to include some pretty noteworthy neighbors. A new exhibit at the University of Texas at Arlington takes a look at the amusement park's first 25 years, when it grew from having mostly animal-powered rides to adding iconic roller coasters like the Shock Wave.
"What You Wish the World Could Be: The Early Years of Six Flags Over Texas" began Monday and runs through May 14 in the UT-Arlington Library's Special Collections. The exhibit's name comes from a 1970s ad campaign for the park.
The exhibit, partly sponsored by the park, includes an original Spee-Lunker character dressed as Abraham Lincoln, a carousel horse from the Silver Star, personal memorabilia from former employees, photos from the Star-Telegram and Arlington Citizen-Journal collections, and memory walls on which visitors can leave their recollections.
Park President Steve Martindale, who visited Six Flags as a child and took his first job there 38 years ago as a ride operator, said the exhibit brought back powerful memories.
"I'm looking at the pictures and I'm trying to remember where each thing was in the park and what year it was," he said. "Some things I remember as a child and other things as an employee."
Six Flags was different from most amusement parks when it opened in 1961. The rides were developed around themes in Texas history, and a single ticket allowed visitors access to all attractions. The park became a popular destination, drawing more than a half-million visitors its first season.
Special Collections co-curator Lea Worcester said she has observed that former employees often have strong feelings.
"For most of them, it was their first job," she said. "Most of them were high schoolers and for them, this was the peer group they associated with. So their memories of high school are memories of Six Flags."
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