Time was, springtime meant it was time for Longview’s Friendly Trek.
In 1938 Longview hosted an East Texas Chamber of Commerce “Homecoming” convention that featured home, garden and oil field tours drawing large crowds.
The event was so successful that the Longview Chamber of Commerce and the Longview Federation of Women’s Clubs decided to make it an annual affair. The festival would be called the Friendly Trek Homecoming.
The Trek paid homage to Longview’s past, and residents donned period clothing during the event.
“The spirit of the old days, revived after weeks of careful planning, seemed already to have overtaken Longview although the Friendly Trek Homecoming was not officially to begin until today,” said the Longview Daily News of April 16, 1939.
Initial activity involved Friendly Trek Sunday services at various churches. Other events for visitors included a massive downtown parade, jitterbug and fiddlers’ contests, an historical play by the Longview Little Theater, art show, antique-glass show, guided tours of the great East Texas Oil Field, and tours of some of Longview’s most beautiful homes.
On the Trek home tour were the Franklin Martin, C.L. Taylor, Judge E.M. Bramlette, S.R. Thrasher and N.G. Conley residences, among others.
Miss Dolly Northcutt served as chair for a wildflower show at First Baptist Church showing off 300 species of native flowers. Also popular was a tour of the gardens at the Nugget Hill home of Fred and Sallie Stuckey.
“The gardens were landscaped by Mrs. Stuckey, partly in formal style and much in natural growth,” said the Daily News. “Every flower and shrub native to East Texas blooms and grows in the Stuckey gardens.”
An estimated 18,000 visitors “jammed downtown streets … to witness the Friendly Trek Homecoming Parade,” said the newspaper. The “10-block long” parade featured 11 bands and 21 decorated floats representing periods of Longview’s history.
The 1939 Friendly Trek was another rousing success.
The only “casualty” of the Trek was a woman doing business in the Gregg County Courthouse. According to the Daily News, Assistant District Attorney Mike Anglin strolled into the courthouse on the final day of the Trek “decked out in cowboy boots, handlebar moustache, a ten-gallon hat and a toy pistol that looks just like a real .45 thumb-buster.”
Caught up in the spirit of the Trek, Anglin pulled out his pistol and began “shooting” at a courthouse buddy. “When the firing started, a lady drinking a bottle of pop let out a bona fide scream and tore out for the safety of the DA’s office,” said the newspaper. “It took her fully five minutes to get over her scare.”
The following year (1940) the Friendly Trek featured Jan Garber and his orchestra playing at the Palm Isle Club. Longview’s new train depot, which replaced the 1874 depot, and the Federation of Women’s Clubs’ new Longview Community Center were dedicated as part of the Trek.
“One of the biggest thrills of the tour of homes in Longview during the 1940 Friendly Trek will be a visit to the beautiful gardens of the Rogers Lacy estate,” said the Daily News. The Lacy gardens annually attracted thousands of visitors to see the azaleas, irises, lilies, hyacinths and other flowers.
The labor-intensive Friendly Trek Homecoming eventually was retired to make way for other Longview festivals. Over the years those have included Viewfest, Festival in the Pines, Loblolly Jubilee, Alley Fest, and two that are still going strong — Dalton Days and the Great Texas Balloon Race.
As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc with Longview’s sesquicentennial celebrations but we can look forward to a number of fun and educational community activities during May through September. In the meantime go to Longview150th.com for updates and activities. Thanks to Laura Hill and her committee for their work and dedication on making Longview’s 150th celebration a special one.
The Grande Sesquicentennial Trek Parade has been rescheduled for Aug. 29 in downtown Longview with a Sept. 12 rain date. See you there!