A GARNER MEMORY - Paddle Boats
Story and photos provided by Robert Parks
from Corpus Christi, Texas
The family trips to Garner State Park began when I was a young kid in the 1950's. As a teenager in the 60's, Garner remained an annual summer destination, but usually with a large group of other Corpus teens. By the mid 70's, I began bringing my own kids to Garner. Today, it's our grandchildren that we bring to the Frio. One memory of those early days at Garner were the paddle boats. The park rented the boats at a concession near the dam....as they still do to this day. However.....the Garner boats back then were low and slow. We preferred to walk across the dam and rent the boats from Mager's River Camp. Their boats were much faster and easier to operate.....might have been cheaper, too. I had noticed for the last few years that the old Mager's boats were no longer there, lined up on the other side of the dam. Several days ago, I asked a Mager's employee what happened to the boats. He said that they were finally taken out of service just 5 years ago....for liability reasons. But, he said that they all still existed....lined up in the paddle boat "graveyard" in a wooded area of the camp. Of course, I had to go over to see and photograph them. It was a sad sight to see them, slowly disappearing into the overgrown weeds...old and worn out, just like me, but bringing back good memories from Garner days in the past.
Reflections from the past
Submitted by Chuck Williams
My memories of Garner come in a "package".... they include things like, the smell of the park, trees, eating camp food, climbing Old Baldy, swimming, swinging on the rope swing, tubing down the Frio River, paddle boating, chasing "critters" through our camp site in the middle of the night, dancing endless hours on the slick slab practicing Whip dance steps, meeting lots of new friends, and falling in love at least four times per trip.
The pavilion however, had it's own personality. Somehow it was separate from the rest of the experience, the smell even seemed different. The music from the jukebox resonated throughout the park like a fog, and found it's way into many camp sites, which drew us to the pavilion like magnets.
Do you remember how hard it was to settle down to eat a meal at the pavilion restaurant while listening to all those great songs playing on the jukebox just outside the door? We'd gobbled down our food so we wouldn't miss our favorite song that might play any minute! The food in the restaurant was outstanding, especially the pies!
And what about clothes and fashion? The girls hair styles back then were priceless! During the day, girls rolled their hair in huge rollers, covered with frilly (and colorful) curler bonnets. Shorts were short and tight.... and who could forget the year those "crop top" blouses became popular which reveled those beautiful navels! Oh Yea!!!!! Moccasins were "considered mandatory", all the girls wore them with socks of course, which was cool. I remember one of my girl friends had a pair for "daytime use" and "night dances only".
Guys on the other hand, wore heavy starched Wrangler jeans, boots, and hand tooled, buck-stitched belts. Some guys wore hats, but hats got in the way when we were dancing the Whip, so they came off quickly. Somehow our freshly ironed shirts made the trip from home without too many wrinkles!
In the mornings, some guys just pulled on a pair of jeans, with "flip flops", no shirt, and headed to the pavilion to practice a few dance steps before going for a swim. If you were one of the few who owned a muscle car, most of the day was spent driving around the park checking out the girls in every campsite.
Remember when campers strung a row of paper plates across their campsite with their high school name or hometown printed on the plates.... Galena Park, Baytown, Pasadena, Deer Park, etc.? Somehow this made meeting girls easier..."Hey your from Spring Branch...I'm from Spring Branch, do you know.......".
Around 5:00 p.m. we all headed to the bath houses to shower up, shave, and splash on our "favorite cologne" for our sweethearts. Strange as it may sound, many of the guys were curious what their “new “ girlfriends looked like without all those curlers in their hair! A few of us got embarrassed because we didn't recognize our new girl friends without the curler bonnet.
The dances were crowded, but wonderful! Of course they never lasted long enough. The pavilion smelt like a giant perfume factory! Records played one after another, you never had to wait for someone to "feed the jukebox".
For me, the highlight of the night, was walking my girl friend back to her camp after the dance. I don't know how many people we tripped over while trying to find a little privacy on those "secret" trails on our way back to her campsite. I never wanted the night to end? Her perfume stayed with me all night which made it hard to fall asleep. Life just couldn't get any better! These were the best times of my life.... would you agree?
GARNER STATE PARK
written by Sherri Culp Forest
About ten miles north of Con Can,
A ways beyond the fork,
There's a place that's very special.
It's called Garner State Park.
People come from all over the state
At different days and times.
They fish, swim, ride and dance,
And leave their cares behind.
Some kids are there all summer.
Well, just to name a few,
There's Robin, Roy, Vernon and Red.
Oh, what a crazy crew!
Memories made there will last forever,
Carried always in our hearts.
And really, there's not a better place
Than our own Garner State Park.
Most Embarrassing Moment
Story told by Nick Finley, Uvalde, Texas at the 2004 Garner Park Reunion.
written by Chuck Williams
Many many years ago, there was a young boy (age 15) who worked his first job at the park store in Garner State Park. One day a very pretty girl (about the same age of the boy) caught this young boys' attention when she approached the counter to make a purchase. The boy anxiously walked up to the counter to wait on her and greeted her with, “Hi, can I help you?” The girl paused for a minute, looking somewhat shy, and said, “Uh, I think, I’ll have a popsicle please”. The young boy asks “What flavor would you like?”…. “cherry, please", she replied.
After paying for the popsicle, the girl walked over to her girl friends who where standing at the edge of the parking lot. They stood around laughing, but the boy didn't pay too much attention to them. Some time later, the girl walked back up to the store counter and the young boy met her at the counter with a big smile and again asked if could help her. Again she acted a bit shy and hesitant, then said she just wanted another cherry popsicle. As before she returned to her friends who were standing at the edge of the store parking lot. He noticed that all the girls were laughing and the boy was thinking that maybe she wanted to ask him to the dance but was too shy.
Finally, the girl returned to the counter where the young man greeted her a third time, “Would you like another popsicle?” This time the girl paused, took a deep breath, rolled her eyes back, and whispered, “I would like to buy some Kotex, please.” Without any reaction, he replied, “Ok”, and walked to the shelf where the products were placed.
The boy didn’t have much experience in this area and was having a little trouble because the store stocked: 10 regulars, 20 regulars, 10 supers, and 20 supers. As he stood their pondering over the products, a female employee (who had been in the back of the store) walked up to him and asked what he was doing. He replied, “Well, I’m trying to decide if she, (pointing to the girl standing at the counter), is a “10 regular” or a “10 super” . The female employee grinned slightly and said, “Why not let me handle this?”
According to Nick, the female employee made a point to wait on all the girls who came to the store thereafter…..
Story written by Carolyn Massey
Living in San Antonio, Texas
In the early 60's my family camped at Camp Riverview, about 3 miles from Garner State Park. I could not wait for summer to come because that meant going to the dances at Garner Park.
In the summer of 1964 I was nineteen. I saw a guy at the dance who was so cute and could really dance, especially the Whip. So I ask my friend to introduce me to him. His name was Jimmy Mixon. He was 17 and from Houston, Texas. Needless to say I fell in love that summer and also learned how to Whip.
Jimmy and I dated from 1964 to 1967. We were going to get married, but he went into the Army so he broke up with me. During his time in the Army he got married and had children.
Several years passed before we found each other again. Naturally we had grown older but our feelings for each other hadn’t changed. In spite of the changes in our lives we remained friends. Even though it had been 1984 since our last meeting, Jimmy remained in my in my heart and on my mind.
I tried to locate Jimmy in 2003 and again in 2008 but had no success, each time I hit a dead end. I just wanted to talk to Jimmy again before I left this world.
On October 28, 2008 I got a great surprise; Jimmy called! Even more surprising, I learned he lived about 40 miles away. We had a great conversation and set up a date for the following Saturday night.
When we saw each other sparks flew, it had been 24 years since we had seen each other. Jimmy was no longer married and I have never been married. Long story short, we have been dating ever since and enjoying each others company during our golden years.
Dancing the Whip
Great dance...Great times!
written by Chuck Williams
I am a "misplaced Texan (Corpus Christi) who now lives on the outskirts of Omaha Nebraska, but one of the true "veterans of Garner State Park" and the Whip (1961 ~ 1966). There are still a few us around, however, my contact with many of them is very limited since I live so far away.
Several years ago, I learned the Whip is still "alive and well" and still being danced in Texas. You can imagine my surprise to know that this great dance is still popular, I thought it died with those of us who stopped going to Garner in the mid and late 60's because we went to college or Viet Nam.
Many of the "Whippers" were from Houston, Baytown, San Antonio, Leaky, Uvalde, with a few from Corpus Christi. Garner Park was THE central meeting place for learning to Whip. Most of us did anything (legal) we could to raise money to go to Garner during the summer. I lost track of how many lawns I mowed. I would make three to four trips a summer, each lasting a week or longer.
For the serious dancers like myself, our biggest objective was to learn as many steps as we could, and perfect our technique. Of course, we always managed to find some good looking partners along the way (Californians think they have pretty girls...ha!... Texas Rules)!
An added benefit was the great entertainers that would come to Garner. B.J. Thomas was a regular visitor. His band, The Triumphs, recorded the song, “Garner State Park”, which played on the jukebox for years. Several others would come up routinely, Gene Thomas, Johnny Winter, Jay Frank Wilson, Johnny Rodriquez, Roy Head, and too many others to mention. Many times, after the dance, we would all go to someone's campsite to listen to them jam.
I remember one girl's family in particular. The Zimmermann's, had one of the best campsites in the park. They came to Garner every summer and spent most of the summer there. Some how, Mr. Zimmermann was able to finagle around the parks policy of only being allowed to keep your camp site for thirty days. The Zimmermann's' were the "parents" of so many kids like myself, who came to Garner without adult supervision. As long as we behaved ourselves, we were welcome. Their daughter, Carol was an outstanding dancer who "loved to Whip". Over the years Carol taught me many great steps.
During the day, the kids would meet at the pavilion, and practice, practice, practice. The "slick slab" was a section of concrete on the pavilion floor that was usually dominated by those who practiced spinning. We could perfect our spin there, so that in the evening when the pavilion was crowded, we had the technique down well enough to spin without the benefit of a slick surface.
I can't remember clearly when the style of Whip changed to the "push", but it really brought on a lot of controversy. The traditional style looked more like the swing, but the "push" brought on stiff arms, shorter steps, and SPINNING! The "rock step" was in and the swing was out.
The years I spent at Garner were amazing! There were so many kids learning the Whip, it was incredible! Every night of the week, the pavilion was crowed with kids either learning to Whip or perfecting their steps.
I forgot the year the park rangers started ending the dances at 11:00 p.m. and enforcing a park curfew. But even then, if there was a celebrity like B.J. Thomas in the park we would always find a "party" at someone's campsite to jam. And believe it or not, after all those hours of virtually non-stop dancing, we would still practice our steps on the dirt camp site ground while the guys were jamming. We were OUT OF CONTROL!
There was a section of the pavilion designated for "learners". Most of the more experienced dancers stayed clear. Boy, did we have the egos! As with many dancers we developed subtle hand signals, so our partners would know what step we were going to do next. The competition was somewhat serious, but strangely enough we never had a dance contest, that I recall. The best dancers were just "kind of well known". Even though he doesn't know it, I regarded Bill Jones as the "King". He was smooth as silk, moving from one step to another without a flaw. I studied every one of his moves and committed them to memory, so I could practice them later.
At home, during the school year, if I wasn't dancing with my bedroom doorknob or the window blind draw string, I was at my Whip partner's house (Jane Jones, no relation to Bill Jones mentioned earlier) practicing. She and I spent hours practicing steps, and working on technique.
We returned to Garner the summer of 1963 where we were finally "recognized as great dancers". That year, I met a girl from Baytown, Judy Roush, who I nicknamed (Popcorn). Her family owned and operated a dance studio in Baytown. Judy was an awesome dancer and could Whip like an expert. Some how, Judy and I hit it off, and my life changed. She taught me so many steps, spins, techniques, it was incredible! I thought I died and went to "Whip Heaven". For the next three years, she and I went together [long distance] and each summer would return to Garner. Judy always had more new steps to show me....duh!!! ... after all she was a dance instructor at her parents studio. She also introduced me to some of her male dance partners, who were willing to share their steps with me. Back then, my talent was spinning, some how I had great balance and technique. Nowadays, I get lost in a circle!
Strangely enough, I don't dance these days. My wife (California girl) never really learned to dance during her school days. Our life together was filled with so many other interests we just never got to dancing. A few of my Garner friends who I keep in touch with are surprised that I never pursued dancing further.
I was drafted right out of high school, and quickly joined the Air Force before reporting to the Army. As I traveled over the years (spent 25 years in the Air Force), my devotion to dancing just kind of fell by the wayside. However, in 1995 at my 30th high school reunion, my old Whip partner from Corpus Christi and I had a blast. We had a great evening dancing without too much embarrassment (the whip really does come back like riding a bike). I remember several school mates approached us that evening and complemented us on our dancing. A few wanted to try their "Whipping skills" again. It was a hoot!
I don't know if this story will "muster" any fond memories from fellow Garner Lovers', but I have certainly enjoyed writing about my memories. For those of you still Whipping, thanks for keeping a great dance alive. It brought me and many others some really great times. Best of luck, "keep Whipping".
More stories to come....keep checking back!
Garner Park 60s Style.com. Copyright 2003. All rights reserved.