brother, was older than me and Dad made him the 'Boy with
the Elephant Skin' and to prove his skin was thick and
tough, he would dance on broken bottles in his bare feet and
walk up a ladder of swords.
As for the gaff of the glass dancing, you take three crates
of empty beer bottles, break them into pieces about the side
of a half dollar, then put all of the broken glass in a
burlap sack and shake the sack back and forth. In doing so,
all of the sharp ends of the pieces of glass are dulled by
being scrubbed together.
By using a burlap sack, all the fine slivers of glass sift
out of the sack, leaving only the clean pieces. Then you
dump the gaffed up glass into a box 36 inches by 36 inches,
sprinkle a little bit of powdered rosin on the glass, take
off your shoes and socks, step in the box and start to
The 'Ladder of Swords' was made out of old Civil War cavalry
swords that had their cutting edge ground off and rounded,
so that when you step on the sword with your foot parallel
to the blade, it's like stepping on a piece of rope. You can
step from sword to sword without breaking the skin. As
for me, Dad couldn't figure out anything for me to do in the
show at that time, because of my age and my disability.
I roamed the lot at will, riding the rides and petting the
animals at the Monkey Speedway. That's where they trained
monkeys to drive little electric cars around a race track
that resembled railroad tracks. Well, in a couple of weeks,
the novelty wore off of riding the same old rides and seeing
the gaffed up Monkey Speedway.
The carney we were with had eight weeks to play around
Philly., showing neighborhood lots and almost each
neighborhood had a movie theater that opened at 11am for a
I always had six bits or more in my pocket because the first
thing I did in the morning was to check the shake spots
around each ride. These were spots on the ground where the
change in the rider's pockets would be most likely to fall.
Some mornings, I'd pick up five or six quarters plus a few
dimes and nickels. One time I found a watch.
I would tell Mom and Dad I was going to see the matinee
show, then get on my scooter (made out of a roller skate and
two by fours) and take off to the nearest theater, see the
movies and be back home by three or four o'clock.
It so happened, at that time the radio and newspapers were
crammed with stories about child molesters, kidnapping and
kids that vanished into thin air without a trace.
It was Saturday and the neighborhood theater had been
advertising a triple feature program for that day, three
westerns, with my favorite cowboy stars, Ken Maynard, Hoot
Gibson and Buck Jones. Naturally, I took off to the movies
to catch the matinee.
Well, I stayed and saw the pictures twice. When I finally
got back to the carny grounds, it was after dark. As I
walked through the front gate, Buster came running toward me
with a hot dog in one hand and a glass of lemonade in the
other, and said, "Boy, just wait till Mom sees you! She's
gonna bust your keister, but good! She's had every carny on
the lot looking for you, even the fuzz! Where in the hell
have you been all day?"
As we walked back to the ten-in-one, I explained about the
triple feature program and how come I stayed so long to him.
When Mom seen me, she grabbed me by the arm and banged me up
beside my noggin a couple of times saying, "Where in the
hell have you been all day and half the night, dammit, with
all of us worrying ourselves half to death!"
As I explained how come to Mom, one of the off-duty cops
that was on the lot walked up to us and said to Mom, "I see
your boy's back, safe and sound, I'll call headquarters and
tell them to call off the search."
Well, after the midway closed that night, they dismantled
the shows and rides and moved across town to another lot for
a big Polish celebration.
Owing to the fact that thousands of people were expected,
Dad decided to put Ellen in a single pit show. He had access
to several small twenty by thirty tents and it wasn't too
much trouble for the fat girl show.
Mom still worrying what to do with me while she was working,
decided to let Ellen look after me.
Well, she had me take all my clothes off. Then she put one
of her dresses on me, tied a ribbon in my hair, rubbed a
little rouge on my cheeks, put some lipstick on my lips and
stuck my keister in the fat girl show where Ellen could keep
an eye on me. She damn well knew I wouldn't dare go outside
in front of all the carnies in that getup.
Well, Ellen, at the end of her lecture, would pass around an
empty cigar box asking for donations to see her dance the
Charleston and do the splits. She told me if I passed the
box, collecting the donations and played the gramaphone for
her to dance, she would give me part of the money.
So, I passed the box, wound up the Victrola and set the
needle on the record for her to dance. We had been open
about an hour when these two 'stewed' Pollocks came in to
see the show After Ellen finished her routine, danced and
did the splits, the two drunks
me, saying, "You're a cute little fat girl. I'll bet you got
a lot of boyfriends. How would you like us to be your
boyfriends? Come on, give me a little kiss."
By then I was fed up with their crap and said "I ain't no
damn sweet little girl, I'm a boy." One of them said, "A
boy! You're telling a lie, little girl."
I said, "Like hell, I am, I'm a boy!" One of them said,
"Yeah, how can you prove it?"
My reply was "Give me fifty cents each and I'll show you my
boy thing." They each handed me a fifty cent piece and I
pulled up my dress and showed them my little worm. Ellen was
about to bust her guts holding back the laughter.
Seeing the marks were 'lushed up' and knowing Dad had a half
man and half woman in his sideshow, I decided to try and con
more money out of them. So I took another shot at them,
saying "That ain't all! I got a girl thing, too! Give me
another fifty cents and I'll show it to you."
Again, they each gave me a half dollar and I raised the
dress, pulled my testicles up as far as I could, and showed
them the crease below that looked like a girl thing.
One of them said, "What about that! A real hermaphrodite'."
Then they walked out.
About a half, hour later, they were back, with five or six
of their friends, wanting to see my boy and girl thing. So I
kept on collecting the money and flashing my boy and girl
thing. About the third day, some of the marks would be
standing at the ticket box, wanting to get in to see the
I heard Mom and Dad talking one night after the midway
closed and they were checking the ticket sales for the day.
When they got through checking the gross on the fat girl
show, Dad said to Mom, "See there I told you the fat girl
show would get some money here and you said it wouldn't be
worth the effort to put up the show."
"Ellen's dings must be damn good, too. Fats just bought a BB
gun, a three cell flashlight and a fire truck."
For the next two days, Mom watched the marks going in and
out of the fat girl show and figured that something was
going on inside that she didn't know about. So she got on a
chair in back of the tent and peeped over the side wall.
Just as I was flashing, all she could see was my back. Soon
as the marks left, she raised the sidewall and came in,
walked over to me and said, "William (she always called me
William when she got peeved at me), what in the hell are you
showing them friggin' marks anyway?" I answered, "I'm
showing them my boy and girl thing, Mom." She said, "I'll
boy and girl thing, you," and she drawed back her hand to
bat me in the kisser.
Ellen grabbed hold of her arm and said, "Ella (that was my
Mom's name), don't be too hasty about scolding Fats! He's
a damn sight smarter than you think."
She showed Mom the ding box with fives, tens and twenties,
saying "Take a look at this and we've only been open two
Seeing all the scratch in the box, the cash register in her
head must have started to ring and she said "OK show me your
boy and girl thing. I know about your boy thing. I've washed
it a zillion times, but I'd like to see that girl thing."
So I upped the dress, pulled up my testicles and showed the
crease below. She looked at it for a few moments, then
busted out laughing.
Then, as she walked out of the tent, she turned and said
with a big grin, "I didn't know that I gave birth to a
hermaphrodite. You guys shore got me fixed! Just don't
outgross the ten-in-one and make your Dad mad, because you
outsmarted him." And she added "Wait till your Dad sees this
gig." Well, I kept on showing my boy and girl thing over and
over for the rest of the day and night.
To be Continued