Rather than waiting for Thanksgiving to enjoy their first holiday during that first semester in 1915, overjoyed students were treated to a day off on Tuesday, October 19 that year, courtesy of President Robert. S. Hyer. This first official holiday at Southern Methodist University was on “Dallas Day” at the State Fair of Texas. Classes were cancelled at SMU. Extra street cars took students and faculty to the fairgrounds to enjoy the festivities. Many students attended the TCU vs. Austin College football game, located on the grounds, seeing TCU win 28 to 0. The Dallas Morning News reported that the SMU students were totally impartial in their cheering, but they did gave some SMU yells. Only eight days later near the end of the State Fair, Austin College beat SMU 21-0 at the Fairgrounds.
“Dallas Day” was heavily promoted. Many businesses in downtown Dallas were closed. Highlights that day included a Confederate Veterans parade and the newest technology—an air show by pilot Art Smith who swooped right near the grandstand. SMU students were just a few of the 93,700 visitors to the Fair that day.
For the next three years, SMU celebrated at the Texas State Fair as a holiday. The football team practiced in the morning, so that players could go to the Fair with classmates. So successful was the holiday that The Dallas Morning News reported in 1918 the campus was practically deserted when the day rolled around.
Today students enjoy a fall break, among other days off, and Dallas Day is a memory. Each year interested fairgoers can still attend the same fair their predecessors frequented more than a century ago, and this year they have the opportunity to wander no further than across campus for a flavor of the fair.
The DeGolyer Library is celebrating the 130th anniversary of the State Fair of Texas with an exhibition in the Hillcrest Foundation Exhibit Hall. Highlights include State Fair photographs by Dallas photographer Lynn Lennon, as well as several cases of related ephemera, like fair tokens, badges, pamphlets, brochures, postcards, handkerchiefs and more dating from the 19th into the 20th century, all from various DeGolyer collections.
DeGolyer Library Exhibit, September 8 to December 16, 2016
Hillcrest Foundation Exhibit Hall, Fondren Library Center, SMU
Hours: 8:30 to 5:00, Monday to Friday