Free cigarettes at the State Fair of Texas

Our friend Bob Sonnamaker, a true genius in the entertainment industry, wasn’t working when the 1982 State Fair of Texas rolled around. He loved the Fair and somehow was offered a job giving out free cigarettes at a booth inside the park on Grand Avenue. My Bob and I worked with him many times on park deals and he was a good friend. Sonnamaker (few knew him as Bob) called and said, “Lottie join me and my sister Linda giving out cigarettes at the Fair.” In 1982 everyone smoked but me, but it sounded like too much fun with Linda and Sonnamaker. Back then amusement parks closed after Labor Day so I was free, let’s go to the Fair.

First item, first day at the Fair – food. We sent Linda out for our first snack. Bob Halford, head of PR for the Fair, walked by our booth and stopped to visit. He said, “Whatever you’re making handing out cigarettes, I’ll double it if you two will run my information booth, the only one at the Fair”. I was stunned when Sonnamaker made up some ridiculous figure and Bob said OK to double that amount, told us to get our stuff and follow him. Sonnamaker grabbed as many cigarettes as he could and then started stuffing more down my shirt, pants, in my socks, etc. Little sample packages of cigarettes trailed me as we walked to Big Tex Circle.

Our information booth was big, four sided and stocked with a small bottle coke machine, cups and a phone. Score! And I didn’t have to steal cigarettes for Sonnamaker anymore. Halford showed us the boxes of maps. He said, “Sonnamaker, if you guys don’t know the answer to a guest question, don’t call me. Lottie, just start talking and they will forget the question and wander off.” My dream job! And I quickly fell for the big cowboy and his wonderful voice,

I watched the time because my plan was to be on my way home when Linda’s shift was over and gunning for us. Didn’t work. I blamed Sonnamaker, Sonnamaker blamed me. No score there.

Though happily married, I found My Favorite Boyfriend and he is to this day. I’m on my way to Dallas tomorrow because my birthday is during the Fair and I have not and will not miss a “Happy Birthday Lottie!” booming all over the park from My Favorite Boyfriend.

Thank you Randall Minick for encouraging me to write these stories.

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