Milton Fairground - North Front Street
A day at the races in the early 1920s. The grandstand to the left was along Front Street. The railroad tracks were to the far right. The fairground was at the north edge of town. The outline of the track can still be seen from space on Google Earth.®
The ferris wheel was at the north end of the racetrack. This view is facing east toward the railroad tracks.
Below is a drawing of the fairgrounds. Use the slider to zoom; click and drag or use the navigation tool in the upper left corner to move around.
The fairground was burned in 1925 and never rebuilt. Alfred Frank Krause, in his book “The Front Porch”, page 403, says that the fire was arson. Here is his account of the incident.
In addition to several businesses, my father’s chief outside interest in the community was the Great Milton Fair. It was a yearly event held just north of the town limits during the early fall season and at the time had become the largest drawing fair of its kind in all of central Pennsylvania. Aside from being a major stockholder, he was its treasurer and principal guiding light. Along with three of his old friends, namely Oscar Foust, Dr. Frank Bailey and Tilman Paul, they prided themselves on owning and operating the fair association without any Shimer money. The Shimers, however, each year had a reserved box in the grandstand, but seldom attended anymore as it conflicted with their other social activities.
During the fair season of 1925, September 22nd through the 26th, George Jr. and some friends were occupying the family box. It was a beautiful warm afternoon and the trotters were running the fourth race of the afternoon chart when George Jr., who had become quite drunk, began yelling and cursing loudly at the judges in the tower because his selections had not yet been in the winning circle. So when he lost the fourth race, he suddenly went into a rage. In fact, he stood up and threw a whiskey bottle down at the winning jockey, missing him by inches but hitting the carriage and spreading pieces of glass upon the track. Immediately, chaos spread among the jockeys, trainers, and the track judges. Never before had they witnessed such a display of violent anger. The judges decided to stop the races while they summoned help from the fair association officials.
Father at the time was in his office in the administration building. Advised of what just took place in the grandstand, he immediately went into consultation with the racing officials. The consensus was the races could not proceed under the existing circumstances. So he went to the Shimer box to tell George Jr. that he and his group would have to leave the fair grounds at once.
In loud abusive language, George Jr. replied:
“YOU GO STRAIGHT TO Hxxx! I CAN BUY THIS FAIRGROUND AND EVERY GxxDxxx THING IN IT IF I WANT TO. FURTHERMORE, THERE ISN’T ANY S-O-B ALIVE THAT CAN PUT A SHIMER OUT OF HIS BOX!”
George Jr., now standing, looked down at the five-foot six-inch frame of my father, and pointing his finger at the tip of father’s nose, continued with his loud drunken tirade.
Father left and gathered up six of the largest fair policemen he could find and returned once more to the Shimer box. By now, some four thousand people, both in the grandstand and on the grounds, who had come to enjoy the fair, now assembled to see another show - a show that wasn’t on the program. The people who had witnessed the previous confrontation now gathered closer to see the dramatic finale as it approached with my father leading the six policemen to the box.
Once more father asked George Jr. if he and his party would please leave the grounds.
George Jr., ignoring my father’s presence, proceeded to pass the bottle back and forth between his guests.
With the races at a standstill, father hoped that humiliation would prevail and Shimer would just get up and leave. As the minutes ticked away, George Jr. continued to ignore him and proceeded to empty the bottle.
Then suddenly, without warning, just like before, George Jr. stood up and threw the empty bottle out on the track, and asserted in a loud iniquitous abusive voice for all to hear:
“THERE! HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT?”
Father said nothing. He simply gave the nod to the six policemen. They physically removed the three men and their girl friends, leading them with half-nelson arm holds down the stairs and through the main gate. However, it wasn't accomplished without a struggle and further abusive language from George Jr. When they turned George Jr. loose he became violent once again and called to my father:
“YOU S-O-B, I’LL GET EVEN WITH YOU IF IT’S THE LAST GxxDxxx THING I EVER DO!!”
And he did!
On the night of September 30th, just a little over a week after the fracas, George Jr. brought from New York City a gang of arsonists. They set fire simultaneously to the grandstand, the judges tower, the stables and livestock show buildings, the exhibit buildings, and the administration building. When it was all over, only the dirt race track, the concrete piers that had supported the grandstand and the water tower remained.
Fear of a repeat performance delayed the rebuilding for a few seasons. In the interim, the stock market crash of 1929, the beginning of America’s Great Depression began, thus finishing the rebuilding plans forever.
In one three-hour inferno, my father and his three associates lost their invested money. However, the town was the big loser. They lost an important piece of culture and an annual civic event. Fair Week, a piece of Milton’s culture, was gone.