Side Show and
Grind Show operators are almost always independent and don't
generally consider themselves "carnies". They see themselves
as real Showmen and rightly so.
It is not the purpose of this book to chronicle every Side
Show or Grind Show that has ever existed throughout history.
There have been far too many of them and the nomadic nature
of the carnival industry makes it nearly impossible to keep
track of the numerous shows and personnel that have criss-crossed
this country over the long years that this particular type
of entertainment has been around. It is also not my
intention to delve deeply into the Circus Side Show,
Ten-In-One or so-called Freak Show. This kind of show covers
a lot of ground and the recent interest in Human Oddities
has produced more than a fair share of books, posters and
even trading cards (called FREAKCARDS). Besides, it is not
this type of show that I am most interested in. I love the
A Grind Show is a show that, regardless of what it exhibits
or how it is housed, grinds away endlessly hour after hour
bringing in the dimes and quarters without a break. It is an
exhibit that never ceases operation, does not have show
times and usually begs a lower admission price than the
bigger tent shows. It is said a Grind Show owner makes his
living a nickel at at time.
Grinders are often Single-O attractions and many times the
exhibit is not alive - and may never have been! Sometimes
the exhibits are complete fabrications and bogus hokum. ET.
Barnum was a great one for exhibiting creatures that never
really existed. Replicas of his famous Fiji mermaid (a
taxidermied monkey sewed onto a fish body) is still being
manufactured and displayed to this day!
Grind Shows usually require very little personnel to operate
them. Sometimes only one person is needed to set-up and
start selling tickets. Some shows, like the Gorilla Girl
illusion require a small army to set-up and operate, but
never as many as the Ten-In-One Show, even though as few as
four performers sometimes make up the "ten" Side Show acts -
the Rubber Girl doubling up (so to speak) as the Electric
Girl and maybe even as the target for the Knife Thrower!
This single-minded independence is attractive to certain
showmen and certainly costs less than the housing and
boarding of Side Show performers (a Fat man can eat a lot if
he puts his mind to it!), thus requiring less of an overhead
operating expense and making its profit much quicker and
cleaner than a big show.