GUEST COLUMN: Corunna’s Gala Days brought Tuffy, gators and the Octopus

Nadine Wark

Looking back at my summers growing up in Corunna, I fondly recall a weekend carnival each July called Gala Days.

Summer and amusement parks just go together, although with todays multi-roller coaster mega-parks it’s unlikely youth could relate to a small midway with a few basic rides.

Nadine Wark

The excitement would build for days before the Friday night opening. All the kids in the neighborhood would check their piggy banks, count change and ask their parents just how many times they’d be allowed to go over the weekend.

The Murray and Cook families lived about a block apart and we’d walk a few yards up Baird Street, where there was an old corral adjacent to the railway tracks.

When we climbed to the top we could see for miles (or so it seemed) and from our perches we watched with great anticipation as carnival workers assembled the various rides, games of chance and food stalls.

Gala Days set up at the original baseball diamond, where the Giants played, and which is now called Duggan Field, after the long-time caretaker. To a child’s eyes this empty space looked huge at the time. There was even room for a stage.

The rides consisted of the Swings, merry-go-round, the Scrambler, a Ferris wheel and, for the very brave, the dreaded Octopus! I believe mine was the only mother in Corunna who would ride the Octopus.

Sitting on my grandparents’ front porch at night we could see everything all lit up at the park. Even watching from a distance was a thrill.

Gala Days meant being lured into games, like the “fish pond,” with a prize guaranteed every time. There was no sense eyeing up the stuffed animals; winning one wasn’t going to happen. Some of our money was spent on food. Candy apples and fluff were a big hit with us, if not our parents.

For entertainment, the legendary Tuffy Truesdell was a huge hit wrestling his alligator, Rodney, and actually placing his chin on the gator’s nose!

Friday night there was a beauty contest featuring Corunna’s finest, and the queen and her court would sit in a special car in the Saturday parade.

As members of the Lionettes Drum & Bugle Corps, my sister and I proudly marched from Lyndock Street down Hill Street to the ballpark where the corps performed.

Local bands played in the evenings along with bigger draws, such as renowned fiddler King Ganam and country favourite Tommy Hunter.

A lot happened at Corunna’s Gala Days, and I have memories to prove it!

Nadine Wark is a retired office administrator and freelance writer who resides in Sarnia