INTRODUCTION PT-4

 

A small Grind Show travels readily, depending on its overall size, and affords its owner the convenience of being simple to operate and easy to maintain and keep control over.


Grind shows can be simple, sometimes fitting entirely inside a ten by ten foot tent. More recently the shows have begun to be built into mobile trailers and cube trucks like those rented by U-Haul, but the showman's preference still seems to be the old-style canvas tent as this lends a circus-like atmosphere to the proceeding and gives the customers the impression that there is a much bigger exhibit inside than there might actually be. In simple English - the public still loves a tent!

As a small boy growing up in Florida I marveled at the various shows that appeared at the Florida State Fair in Tampa and The Sarasota County Fair. While I was often too intimidated by the idea of actually facing these horrors eye-to-eye to go inside, I became entranced (enchanted?) by the incredible artwork that adorned the exteriors. I will never forget the image displayed outside the Spidora show in the early 1960's that showed a worried doctor and nurse showing a horrified mother her infant child born with the head of a girl and the body of a hideous black spider! Promises made over the loudspeaker that the Spider Girl was very much alive inside and ready to talk to the public insured my absence from that show!

At the same fair I saw the terrific Motordrome where motorcycles roared furiously around the inside on a large silo-shaped arena, criss-crossing each other only inthes from a flaming death. Likewise, the Freak Shows with their banners depicting such attractions as the Turtle Boy and the Alligator Skinned Girl always made me queasy. Throughout our young lives we are taught by our parents not to stare at those less fortunate folks who are afflicted by physical deformities, yet here they were - ready to be stared at for a price and the talker outside was doing everything in his power to entice the crowd (called a "tip") to line up for a ticket. Getting the crowd together was not so difficult. Outside the big tent would stand a small stage (a bally platform) and the talker would bring out a few of the performers -usually some of the "working acts" like the scantily clad Electric Girl, and he would attempt to build a tip by telling the crowd what marvels they were going to see inside. Building a tip was easy, it costs nothing to stand outside and look, but "turning a tip" (getting the crowd to pay up and go inside) has always been considered a fine art.

My own nervousness about looking at the Human Oddities kept me safely outside the Ten-In-Ones for many years, but as I grew older, bolder, and a bit more curious I began to join the tip.
 

All stories are copyrighted Fred Olen Ray and posted here with his express permission,

 

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