Youth job at the Altamont Fair #AtoZChallenge

Y is for Youth job at the Altamont Fair. Twenty-fifth of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

The World’s Fair was a special event in 1964, but my regular summer stop was the Altamont Fair in Albany County, N.Y. — the highlight of annual trips to visit my maternal grandparents Boom and Gramps.

When I was younger, I just had fun at the fair. But in 1964, when I was 14, Boom got me my first youth job at the Altamont Fair — in the Arts and Crafts Building where she exhibited and won ribbons for her Early American Tole Painting.

Altamont Fair in 1955. The Altamont Fair had been part of my life since childhood. In my early teens, thanks to my grandmother Liz (Stoutner) Laurence, I got my first payroll job there. Photo: Friends of Albany History

Fun at the fair in 1963

At 13, during my last hangout year at the Altamont Fair, I’d meet up with my childhood friend Kris — who lived near the fairgrounds.

Boom let us go to to the midway, where we basically lived on the Octopus ride — whirling, plunging and screaming our heads off, and buying so many tickets that the operator just left us on for multiple rides.

When we weren’t there — or watching the dare-devil car show from the grandstand — we were hanging out with Barry and Bob, two handsome brothers we met that year.

Aug. 16, 1963. Met two guys! Barry & Bob! They run a spin paints outside the Arts & Crafts building! I LOVE Barry, but I never saw him again after Tuesday! I’ll always love him a little in my heart! Barry was 16, Bob was 20…They may be at the Fair next year.

I had a crush on Barry, but I was self-conscious about smiling because I still had my braces. So of course, being guys, they kidded me about. How embarrassing!

My job at the fair in 1964

Arts and Crafts building at the Altamont Fair. At 14, I was thrilled to actually be working at the Altamont Fair — at least until it turned out I had a strict boss! Photo: AltamontFair.com

Yet as with so much during my teen years, life moved on and new experiences beckoned. So the following year, I was thrilled that I would actually be working at the Altamont Fair — at least until it turned out I had a strict boss!

July 3, 1964. I’m gonna work at the fair for $1.25 an hour. I can hardly WAIT!!

Aug. 16, 1964. Dull day. Worked like a horse at the fair!! Saw Kris for about 5 minutes! ‘Cause Mrs. T. [in charge of Arts and Crafts] kicked her out! Kris saw Barry and Bob at Rye Beach about 2 weeks ago! Hope they come to the fair!!

Altamont Fair, Gate 4 (2001). My sister Amy and I made a family history trip to Altamont and the fair in 2001. Here I am at Gate 4 where, at 13, I used to meet my teen friend Kris for fun at the fair in 1963. Photo by Amy L. Williamson

More long-distance friendships

Alas, Barry and Bob were no-shows — but there was a steady flow of other teen boys in and around the Arts and Crafts building. And after a hard days work, Boom let me go to the nightly dances in the tent across the fairgrounds.

There, I met DJs from WPTR radio, got to know even more teens and — of all things — ran into my old nemesis, the school bus bully!

Aug. 18, 1964. Met Dale “Bob” Lane (semi-pro D.J.) and Larry “Quack” Quackenbush. Dale (Bob) likes Martha (met her, too). She’s real nice. Craig, who used to pick on me on the bus in 1st grade, was at a dance. He’s a DOLL! Looks like Cliff Richards.

Altamont Fair Midway (2001). Here I am at the midway, where my friend Kris and I basically lived on the Octopus ride in the summer of 1963. Photo by Amy L. Williamson

Sadly, when the Altamont Fair ended, we teens had to go our separate ways — back to school and to our regular lives after our summer of fun, but promising to keep in touch.

Sept. 10, 1964. Guess who wrote me! Bob Lane. I kinda figured he would. He & Linda are goin’ steady and Sharon and Larry are nearly goin’ steady! I’m realll glad! He’s gonna write me again I HOPE (as soon as I get the [Dave Clark 5 Fan Club] cards to him!)

Bidding adieu at the Altamont Fair (2001). When the 1964 fair ended, we teens who’d met there went our separate ways — back to school and to our regular lives after our summer of fun, but promising to keep in touch and meet up the following year. Photo by Amy L. Williamson

And thus, through letter writing during the year, we teens kept the Altamont Fair magic alive — hoping to meet up again at the fair when the following summer rolled around.

Final post, Zip code scares and Zap: power outage! Please leave a comment, then join me for Endwell: My Early Teen Years Recap and Reflection on May 3!

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9 thoughts on “Youth job at the Altamont Fair #AtoZChallenge”

  1. Despite the strict boss, it sounds like you had a great first-job experience, and fun hanging out as well. I would have passed on the spinning/twirling rides.

  2. Sounds like a fun first job (other than the strict boss) and great memories of the fair. My first job was at a local amusement park and it was similar to your experience. Lots of far away friends and time spent hoping certain boys would show up.

  3. Your Altamont Fair sounds a lot like our Ekka which has craft displays, agricultural displays, and sideshow alley with rides like the octopus, and a small roller coaster that I hated but braved a few times. I think I was developmentally challenged…you’re about 18months younger than me but boys just weren’t on my radar…probably as well as there was a shortage in my neighbourhood and my family were strict. You have great memories of your teens.

    1. I feel the same and I was 4 years older! Hang out at the fair and meet guys? I don’t think. My sister and I used to go to the Michigan State Fair in Detroit with my father for many years. Rides made me sick, even the cup and saucer. I do remember longing to have an animal so I could sleep on a cot in the barn next to them. That, needless to say never happened.

    2. I wonder if your age difference many have been a factor. The older teens in the grades ahead of me seemed more staid than those my age and younger.

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