As a child, my memories generate to Central Avenue around 1958 or so. We would make signs Derby Eve stating "PARK HERE $1.00". On Derby Day, all of us neighbor kids would stand near our driveways yelling, "PARK HERE and sure you won't get blocked in!" By noon, most all the spots were taken.
Then my Mom, sister, brother and I would get dressed up and walk to Churchill Downs. We would go to a gate near the old turnstiles at the Club House entrance. Dad was a valet so he had a friend open a side gate for us. Dad couldn't talk to us because he was working but the wonder of the whole situation was tremendous. You could just find a seat, sit there and watch all the horses, jockeys, pretty dresses and hats, sights, and the magic. And, of course, we were rich with all our parking car money!
Dad held many different racetrack positions so to us the Derby was special. As a valet, Dad saddled lots of favorites over the years, which usually wasn't a good thing. He would always get a Derby rose and a Derby program signed by all the jockeys for Mom. I inherited 2 of those programs and donated them to the Museum, unfortunately, I feel certain they were lost in the flood.
As I grew older, we moved to Indiana and not many knew or cared about the Derby but we all still did. We went to the infield in high school and college. We always brought friends to the Kentucky Derby!!!!
I married a Hoosier who had never been to the Derby. I may have missed one Derby but not many more for quite some time. We took family and friends to the Club House first turn on Derby Day. As a few years went by, we became partners with Mom as horse owners and spent several Derby Days on the backside. The most impressive thing to see on the backside was the parade of those magnificent horses, owners, trainers, grooms and a bunch of lucky friends walking to the paddock. This was always the highlight of the day.
Derby is a special time all its own. It is in the air the first Saturday in May. I never sat in reserved seats on Derby Day but have been on the backside, the first turn, the paddock side, and my living room couch with still seeing and feeling it all. I have seen Princess Margaret, John Wayne, Telly Savalas, Cheryl Tiegs and just so many people. It is the one day that you can say I don't need to see so many people again for a whole year!!!! Being a little girl, high school student, a college student, wife, mother and grandmother, it is still My Derby.