When the Fourth of July was this boomer’s every day!

As baby boomers, we are so lucky to have good memories from some time in the past… even if, as the years roll by, it becomes the distant past. But Sherrill Pool Elizondo of Cypress, Texas, remembers a job in 1968, the middle of college, almost as if it was yesterday. Why? Because every day felt to her like the Fourth of July.

HemisFair ’68 in San Antonio, Texas occurred during a turbulent time in our nation’s history. An election year, social change, and the Vietnam War.

For most of us who worked at HemisFair it was a time between jobs or a hiatus from college. In 1968 I was a 19-year-old junior in college who pleaded with the dean of girls and with my parents to allow me to withdraw. A newspaper ad about the completion and opening date of HemisFair ’68 appeared shortly after my return home with a call for qualified guides. I made an appointment for an interview to be a U. S. Pavilion guide and met most of the requirements, but I wasn’t in the age range required.

Sherrill “Sherry” Pool Elizondo at Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, Texas: April, 2018- building where the ceremony for the 50th anniversary of Hemisfair’68 was held.

Nevertheless I was hired! The adventure began with a training period in March before HemisFair opened April 6.

The U.S. Pavilion consisted of the Exhibits Building, the Migration Courtyard, and The Confluence Theater, all operated by the Expositions Staff of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The theatre screen was a 37 x 140-foot curvilinear and was the only one of its kind in the world. A controversial film entitled “US” was 23 minutes long and shown every day for six months, except when there were technical problems or occasional bomb threats.

Author Sherry Pool (lower left) and some co workers in U.S. Pavilion dressing room. Hemisfair’68.

Visitors were first directed to three separate lobbies to await completion of the previous viewing. After a bilingual speech, they were led into three separate theaters. After opening scenes with actual footage of immigrants arriving in America, passing the Statue of Liberty and arriving on Ellis Island, there was footage of the Wright Brothers, and then the audience heard a jet plane. The screen enlarged in each theater and curtains dividing the three theaters would rise. The screen then became full-size in a panoramic view for the 1,200 seat audience.

The Pavilion staff in 1968.

That theatre where I greeted thousands of visitors was eventually converted to a federal courthouse. Pavilion staff received a letter of appreciation from the Department of Commerce. These mementos along with newspaper clippings, a Life Magazine article, pictures of guides and dignitaries, and invitations for events, are my treasured keepsakes. A job interacting with the general public is a great teacher of human nature, one where I learned to be diplomatic and friendly under stress. I saw what real class is and what it isn’t. I learned that the way people are treated has a direct relationship on how they treat others, and that while people could be haughty and rude, a calm approach can diffuse bad situations.

It was all so memorable. Seeing and meeting famous people on a regular basis, knowing how to spot Secret Service agents, having my picture taken for the newspaper, being interviewed on TV, hearing President Johnson give a speech, the 21 gun salute that rattled the glass of the Confluence Theater, being invited to a party given by the Governor… I knew it all would come to an end, but life would go on when the final day in October arrived. A time for some to return to college, a time for others to return to Washington DC, a time for some to marry or for others to follow husbands wherever the armed services took them.

Last day of HemisFair’68.

For us guides, the real show WAS the people, and the events that took place every day. The “pursuit of happiness” is supposed to be our “unalienable rights” as Americans. I don’t think I’ve ever fully or vigorously pursued it as much as I did in 1968 when every day was like the 4th of July and I thought all my tomorrows would be that way.

12 Comments

    1. Thank you, Tom. This was an excerpt from a story that was published many years ago on Texas Escapes and a Hemisfair website. You can still find it if you want to read more detail about my Hemisfair’68 experience. You can find it by googling Texas Escapes “When The Fourth Of July Was Everyday.”

    1. Thanks for kind comment, Shirley! Working at the US Pavilion was one of the greatest experiences in my life. I don’t know who these people are who would not be 19 again…I would definitely go back if it were possible to relive some fun times along with the difficult times.

  1. It was so wonderful to share this great adventure with you and the entire staff. It started my career in the hospitality business that lasted fifty years. Such fond memories.

    1. Jo, I was so thrilled to read your comment. Guess you saw your beautiful face in that one picture! Wish we could do those 6 months again! Too bad not ALL the guides were present for the group picture in the U.S. Pavilion. As I recall, that was towards the end of the fair and some guides had left for school and others might not have been on that shift. Still hoping some more guides eventually can be located. Hopefully, some will come across this story.

  2. So wonderful for you to have had this experience. I remember when you told me all about it on my front porch in Rockport. You captured your story, a beautiful time in your life to share with us.

    1. Thank you for the compliments. It was a special yet difficult time in my life with quitting school for a year and someone dear to me being in Vietnam. I remember the experiences like it was yesterday and feel blessed to have been on the staff of the United States Pavilion.

  3. Sherrie, once again you allowed me to walk down memory lane with a smile on my heart and a song in my mouth. With all the complaining that we did working in Hemisfair the reality is it was a wonderful time in our nation and in each of our personal lives. It was a wonderful adventure especially in a time when we would step out and get a job working for the government !

    1. Patricia, thanks for the comment. I will never forget anything about those 6 months that we both worked at the United States Pavilion during Hemisfair’68 in San Antonio. It was such a good experience and an honor to be a guide and representative of the pavilion and to have met so many people of different beliefs and backgrounds. Navy blue is still not my favorite color, considering how long we wore those uniforms, and I always laugh to think of our battle with the higher ups to allow us to shorten them! 1968 was a special year.

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