WORLD OF MIRTH
To say that I have been
fascinated by carnivals since I was a small child would be an
understatement. When someone once asked me what I wanted
to do when I grew up, my answer floored my mother and
grandmother. My answer was, "I want to run a ride at the
fair". This was of course unheard of since all mothers
only expect their son to be a professional such as a doctor or a
The first carnival that I
remember is the World of Mirth Shows. I remember being in
the first grade in 1956 and my mother taking off from work at
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and taking me to the Dixie Classic
Fair in Winston-Salem. I was also released from school
early to attend the fair. My mom and I visited the Kiddy
Land, but none of the rides were running due to an electrical
problem. this is all I remember from my first visit, but
the next year I went to the fair with a friend, Bill Waldron,
and his mom. This year I think was the first time that I
saw a Sky Wheel which I remember riding with my friend Bill.
I know for the longest time I was scared of the Round-up, but
once I got up my nerve, it was always one of my favorite rides.
Other rides that I remember from my early visit to the World of
Mirth were the Caterpillar, 3 or 4 ground-mount Eli Wheels in a
row with wooden seats, the Silver Streak, Twister, Looper,
Fly-o-Plane, Spit-fire, Octopus, Scrambler and Tilt-a-Whirl.
Another new ride that I first saw on the WOM in the late 1950's
was the Flying Coaster.
After reading Bob
Goldsack's book, World of Mirth Shows, I can remember walking by
the Monkey Speedway and wanting to go inside, but my mom was
always hesitant to allow me to go into sideshows. I did,
however, talk her into letting me go inside a 10-in-One which
featured a headless lady illusion. This is the first time
that I ever remember seeing a blowoff. There was an extra
10-cent charge to see how this "beautiful young woman lived".
Since I didn't have a dime in my pocket, I remember running to
get out the tent and tell mom. Of course, this reinforced
her perception that I shouldn't go into the sideshows because
this was "an old carny trick". It was some devious trick
to separate me from my money.
Since my mom worked for
R.J. Reynolds in the sales department, she always came home with
a Gold Pass. She received this pass from none other than
Gerald Snellens who according to my mom. always visited the
sales department to purchase cases of cigarettes to be used on
some of the show's cigarette games. Snellens also gave her
several of the pictorial magazines featured on page 115 of
Goldsack's book. How I wish I still had those magazines.
I can remember thumbing through them and time again as a kid.
Although I can't say for sure, I would suspect that the Camel ad
on the sides of one of the show's wagons was possibly negotiated
at the same time.
Mirth Wagons Photographs
Taken by Jim Dillman
The WOM wagons were
in a field near Winston-Salem, NC in 1975.
Winston -Salem is
the last city played by the WOM in 1963 just before its
impoundment and demise into bankruptcy.