Eric Martin

Entertainer / Host – Gay 90’s Saloon at HemisFair ’68
Musician – Golden Garter Club at HemisFair ‘68

In February of 2013 I had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Martin to hear some of his memories of working at HemisFair ’68. Below is a transcript of my conversation with Mr. Martin

How did you become involved in HemisFair ’68?

A friend and I had just graduated from Harvard University in January of 1968 and we were talking about how cold the weather was and wanting to go someplace south where it was much warmer. I mentioned that my mother and brother had recently moved down to San Antonio, Texas and we could probably find work there. Being fresh out of college we didn’t own much so we loaded our cars and drove on down. The minute we arrived we heard everyone talking about the World’s Fair opening in April and so we both applied with a guy who was going to run a saloon type eatery and some midway games on the fairgrounds and were hired almost on the spot.

This actually was my second World’s Fair where I worked (see last question).

Where did you work during the six month run of HemisFair ’68?

I worked at two different venues on the fairgrounds, first as an employee at a restaurant and second as an entertainer at a saloon.

My first job at the Fair was working in a saloon type club called “The Gay 90’s” just across from the USA Pavilion complex. It was housed in a small turn of the century house and we served a variety of sandwiches and beers. My job there was as a musician and as a server. The man I worked for had a small stage set-up outside and one of my jobs was to perform (singing w/ my guitar) for the crowds, especially for the large crowds as they exited the U.S. Pavilion’s Confluence Theater across the way to get them to visit our establishment. Inside I helped serve customers their meals but I mostly performed for the customers by singing while playing a guitar or piano. After a while I became quite popular and remember folks asking for my autograph, the house was always full and a lot of times they would get in on the fun and sing along.

My second job as an entertainer and performed at the “Golden Garter Club” on the other side of the Tower of the Americas. As the Fair neared the half way point I contacted a great college buddy of mine that I used to play music up in Massachusetts and told him he should come down to HemisFair and we could probably get a gig performing. So he came down to San Antonio and we revived our Jazz / Blues style group called the “Fathers of Destruction”. Almost right away I quit my job at “The Gay 90’s” and we got a gig performing at the Golden Garter. The way the entertainment was set-up there was we were one of many groups which performed daily, the group before us I remember had French / Canadian accents that I learned later were from Montreal and performed at EXPO 67 the year before.

What other memories do you have of HemisFair?

The year before HemisFair the city Montreal up in Canada held a World Expo known as EXPO 67 which was very successful. So a lot of the folks who had food / entertainment booths at EXPO 67 made a lot of money, so afterwards the packed-up their things and came down to San Antonio to participate in the 1968 World’s Fair. After the Fair opened it was very well received and was big success for the city. The residents of San Antonio loved having a World’s Fair in the Great Southwest.

Another memory I have was at the closing of HemisFair, the folks in charge of the Fair hosted a party in the Convention Center Arena for all the employees. I was invited and there were several tables of great food and drinks. A few of us got together and sat up near the top and watched the thousands of people involved with the fair coming and going, it was quite impressive.

You mentioned earlier that HemisFair ’68 was your second World’s Fair as an employee, which other did you work at and where?

I previously worked at the New York World’s Fair back in 1964 as Bozo the Clown. Even though I was only 17 at the time I was already over 6 feet tall and a near perfect fit for the character. I remember going to a local television station where I learned how to apply the make-up as well as how to interact with children. One thing they told me was that the little kids would always want to grab the red clown nose,  so the trick was to gently raise one arm to block them and they were right the little kids always went for the nose. Overall I had a really great time in ’64 and was glad to have more great memories four years later in ’68.