It meant the
end of a livelihood, for most of the ones still on the road.
In my parents case, they retired from traveling around
51' when the shows were at the top, but my Dad had good
sight into the future, and saw it was time to get out.
He still had a
Giant Sea Turtle show that went out for a couple of years,
with someone else in charge. It did ok, but nothing like
their big Sideshow. The one with the 150 foot front. And
enough acts to fill, the 150 foot tent behind it.
Back then along
with the "Freaks", a word my Mother hated, instead of having
one person do 10 acts, they had 10 people each do one
outstanding act. They were all the cream of the crop. My
Parents looked after their help, and worked right along with
them, only longer hours.
Since my Dad
died in 62' I have NEVER, not one time heard a bad thing
about him and how he ran his business.
He and my
Mother were fair and honest people, and I, as a child, was
reminded to be respectful to the help, as "they are the ones
putting food on your plate, and clothes on your back". They
were always treated with respect. They had two fat ladies,
one black, one white, very small Midgets, walking skeleton,
Popeye Perry, Lorello, I think he could turn his head all
the way around. An ossified man, Runts, also black and
white, A pincushion, A sword walker, The same swords that my
grandson Alexzander walks. My Mother Jeanie Tomaini,
My Dad Al Tomaini, A REAL half and half,
a complete baby show, with real punks, a complete Illusion
show. Sword swallower, or two. Inside talkers, and outside
talkers, Most of the time Daddy did the bally, Andy Brisky
the fire eater, who could blow a volcano to the top of the
tent. Snake charmer and BIG snakes, one of which had about
100 babies on a jump, and when they got set up and Daddy
opened the lid of the shipping crate, they all struck at
him, and he almost died on the spot. No one even knew the
snake was expecting, so it was a real shocker, to have all
of them jump at you, when you opened the lid. Daddy was
squatted down, and fell over backwards, using all the choice
Italian words he remembered from childhood, While everybody
else fell over laughing. He wasn't a real snake lover, but
took excellent care of any wildlife he had on the show.
He owned all
the equipment in those days, and would hire the help to fill
what ever spot was empty. And if they didn't have what was
needed for putting on a show, it was waiting there for them
at show time.
I think what I
am getting at, is that the "freaks", were just like everyone
else, people. Some had a chip on their shoulder, because
they felt they had been dealt a bad hand. These were the
ones that didn't last long on their show, or anyone else's
for that matter. It was a place where they could be for a
few minutes, the star of the show. The talkers were top of
the line, and everyone was treated the same, my parents
included, they were just doing a job like everyone else,
except they saw to it, the others were paid well.
Over the years
we have seen them die off, not to be replaced. Mothers
passing, has been a great loss to many people, ones that
knew her well, and those that just knew of her. She always
had time for her fans right up to the end.