TATES!!! Now, THAT brings back some memories!


by Dick Oslund


It was early May, 1945. I was 13, and just breaking into the business! (magic) SKERBECK'S CARNIVAL wintered in my home town (ESCANABA MICHIGAN). WWII was "on" and there was an excellent machine shop in Escanaba. Old "dad" Skerbeck had owned a circus in Germany. He had brought it to the U.S., long before the war, and it "morphed" into a carnival. Spare parts for rides were virtually non existent. The machine shop kept the show on the road!

Dad Skerbeck always opened the season in Escanaba. I walked on the lot and this season, Dad had booked a little pit show. The MGR's ancient band organ (wooden horses! imported from Germany) cranked up and the season began.

I walked up to the ticket box. A "young" middle aged lady was in the box I asked for professional recognition. She looked down at me, smiled, and said, "Go right in."

It was a 40 foot round top. The banner line was about 50' and it was somewhat generic! Inside was a pit and a young fellow began the show. The pit was about 30' long and took up about a third of the top. The man reached into a crate and held up a 6 or 7' bull snake. He did the "standard" snake lecture. Next, he directed our attention to a little glass covered casket in which reposed a "dead" two headed infant. It was a pickled punk from TATE'S!!! --But, it wasn't pickled!

Next in this "museum" was a "shrunken head". (Yep, TATE's) Finally, he worked his way through a couple of magic props (an Abbott Square Circle and a Disecto. There were a few other items, but, I've long forgotten what they were.

I thanked the lady as I left. She said that her husband had the show "next door". The single banner advertised: "Caesarean Birth". I met Charlie Fretz, and I was welcomed as though I was a veteran carnie!

I visited the show every night (school was still in session) and we got better acquainted. He needed a better crate for the bull snake. I brought him a "nice" wooden box from my dad's warehouse. Charlie reciprocated! He gave me a set of P&L Rice Bowls, and an Abbott "production box".

I was in SHOW BUSINESS! As Bob Hope used to say: "Thanks for the memories!"

 


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