THAT brings back some memories!
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
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
I was in SHOW BUSINESS! As Bob Hope used to say: "Thanks
for the memories!"
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Good Old Days