Big Texas Fun at Six Flags Over Texas

My daughter and I just returned from our annual visit to Six Flags Over Texas. For about seven years we’ve made Six Flags the heart of an extended visit to the area. We also work in minor league baseball (Grand Prairie Air Hogs, Fort Worth Cats, and Frisco Rough Riders), major league baseball (Texas Rangers), a great zoo (the Fort Worth Zoo), and horse racing (Lone Star Park).

Some of my earliest impressions of Texas history came from Six Flags back when the park highlighted its historical theme. I’ve started collecting memorabilia  from the old Six Flags because of its unique combination of history and amusement. One of my favorite postcards from the earliest days of Six Flags features a Yankee spy facing a firing squad (all captions are the originals from the postcards). To me, nothing says “family fun” like shooting a Yankee.

Death to Yankee Spy

"Death to Yankee Spy - Confederate Section. In the midst of an enlistment rally, a Yankee spy is discovered. The Confederate firing squad solves the problem with one short burst.""

It’s interesting to see how Texans mix their fun with their history. One of the themes in our textbook is the difference between the myth and reality of Texas. It’s easy to imagine how big the gap between real Texas history and the myths we hold when you consider the kind of impressions we might have picked up from places like Six Flags. Most of these myths  proved harmless. However, it’s disconcerting to think about how many hours our history teachers labored to give us a little authentic history only to see us run off over the summer and witness the recreation of a little “Texas justice” first-hand.

Quick Justice West of the Pecos

"Quick Justice West of the Pecos: Another outlaw meets his just fate at the end of a rope at fabulous SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS"

The image of the old west lives in Texas memory. Rick Perry launched his 2006 reelection campaign with the image of cattle being driven (down a modern city street). In truth, the days of the cattle drive were a very small part of our history and ended when fences blocked the trails. Cowboys of some variety still tend to herds but migratory life of the cattle drives existed only briefly. The “wild west” is more than a century in our past and we’ve generally been much more civilized than we often care to admit.

"BOOT HILL BOUND -- Texas Section Quick as Judge Roy Beans's court is, the gun hand of the sheriff and his deputies is often quicker, and some of the more desperate outlaws prefer to try shooting it out. They never win, and visitors continually see justice done -- a high- light of of a visit to Six Flags Over Texas."

"BOOT HILL BOUND -- Texas Section Quick as Judge Roy Beans's court is, the gun hand of the sheriff and his deputies is often quicker, and some of the more desperate outlaws prefer to try shooting it out. They never win, and visitors continually see justice done -- a high- light of of a visit to Six Flags Over Texas."

Today, Six Flags Over Texas is very different. Little remains of the Spanish, French, Mexican, Confederate, Texas, and USA sections of the park that mirrored the six flags that have flown over Texas. The sections are still on the map, but have clearly lost their flavor as history gave way to corporate influence (Panda Express™ has a location in the Texas section while Ben and Jerry’s™ is in the South) An “El Sombrero” ride still spins patrons on a giant Mexican hat (although a smaller hat size than the original ride). The original conquistador de Coronado ride is long gone since Six Flags quickly decided that having tourists riding around on the back of live burros was a bad idea.

Brave conquistador leaves Mission of San-Fran- Cisco de los Tejas to organize expedition to search for the riches of the Seven Cities of Cibola

"Brave conquistador leaves Mission of San-Fran- Cisco de los Tejas to organize expedition to search for the riches of the Seven Cities of Cibola"

The “branding” that goes on has little to do with cattle and more to do with Starburst, Papa Johns, and other national brands. There are many more Looney Tunes characters and super heroes wandering around than cowboys.  The “Texas Justice” shootout is still staged five times daily but more kids have their picture taken with Batman than Six Flag’s local sheriff. This year saw the replacement of Sam Houston’s Texas show (a short history of the state) with Dick Clark’s Bloopers. The live show at the Crazy Horse Saloon still survives (perhaps because it’s air conditioned), but too many tourists talk noisily or wander in and out during the performance.

SHOWTIME -- CRAZY HORSE SALOON Visitors to Six Flags Over Texas relive the days Of gas footlights and greasepaint as they enjoy an old-fashioned songfest in the Crazy Horse Saloon."

"SHOWTIME -- CRAZY HORSE SALOON Visitors to Six Flags Over Texas relive the days Of gas footlights and greasepaint as they enjoy an old-fashioned songfest in the Crazy Horse Saloon."

The demise of history at Six Flags Over Texas is not the fault of the Six Flags corporation. I think it’s safe to say that they days in which Texans would find it entertaining to ride  past a few skeletons propped up in an fake saloon are far as our past as the stagecoach. The days of Texans as accidental historians are gone.

"STAGECOACH PASSES GHOSTTOWN TEXAS SECTION -- SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS Here in a colorful and authentic ghosttown saloon, the piano plunks and animated skeleton of the 'Old-Timers' entertain."

"STAGECOACH PASSES GHOSTTOWN - TEXAS SECTION -- SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS. Here in a colorful and authentic ghosttown saloon, the piano plunks and animated skeleton of the 'Old-Timers' entertain."

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2 Responses

  1. I love this post about Sixflags. I grew up in Arlington. As a child visiting the park in the 60’s, these photos ARE my memories of the early days. Then I worked there in the 70’s. It was a good experience, and I’m looking for a few people I worked with then. Thanks VERY much for this commentary along with the photos.

    • Thanks for the comment. Sorry for the slow response.
      I’m working on a collection of Six Flags postcards. I’ve put a larger selection of the older cards online at http://www.kencollier.org/sixflags/sixflagsindex.html. I love the early campy days. I have a picture of me riding in a goat cart–and loving it! It was definitely a very different time in the theme park business.
      There is at least one website where Six Flags veterans connect. I lost the web address (probably because I’m jealous of those you you who got to work there). One of my co-authors (Julie) worked there as well. One of the nice things about Six Flags is that it’s a memory that many people from across the state and from across different generations can share.

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