The Greek

 

by Laszlo Kolozsy

 

The W.T.Collins Shows[i] was the quietest midway I can remember ever being on…

 

No diesel engines roaring or music blaring…

 

Noiseless transformer “pot trucks” with fold-down trees mounted on the roofs for the linemen to drop the high lines to. Silent energy around the clock, with all joints, rides, and shows, “cut in” to red wooden “apple stick boxes”…

 

Standing by the front gate you could hear the Sideshow bally on the back-end. Then the Motordrome bally featuring the hard-tail Indians with the megaphone exhaust, And the Freak animal show with the talker who would grind all day…

 

Way down in the back end, if a Bally wasn’t going on, you could easily hear the Bingo caller up at the front telling ‘em “Look under B for four, that’s B four, not B forty four, B four, and if you can’t keep up get out of the game the next number is”…

 

Music on rides was uncommon in that era. The Ginny at the head of the Midway had the Wurlitzer band organ, but the currently popular top forty radio station format had not yet become a part of the Carnival scene. It was during the late sixties that Wally Baptist[ii] introduced electronic sound to the Midway Showmen. It was the early seventies before it really caught on…

 

 

Shows were plentiful. Midway shows. Buy a ticket, see a show. A freak show, a geek show, a girl show, a thrill show, a pit show…

 

SHOWS !  SHOWS ! SHOWS ! …

 

Live ballies to build a tip, freeze ‘em in their tracks, lock ‘em in, make the pitch for the wonders to behold, and then, turn the tip and turn the duke…

 

And a free act to hold-em late. “ Welcome visitors to the Tulsa State Fair, and as you visit the many attractions on the fairgrounds, don’t forget to see Commander Stratosphere on the high sway pole. He risks his life for your amusement tonight at nine so make plans to attend this thrilling performance, you can see the apparatus stretching high up into the sky from anywhere on the fairgrounds, and the show is all free, so stay late for the unforgettable thrill of a lifetime.”

 

The proprietor of all of this splendor was “The Greek”, William T. Collins…

 

Bill Collins was a great Showman and he had assembled a spectacular Midway of rides, games and shows for what was then the premier route of the Midwest…

 

My dad had us hopscotching from show to show in search of the short jump and the long green. Looking for the short in and the long out…

 

We had just paid a visit to the Royal[iii] I remember how impressed I had been with the greatest carnival on rails. A show so big it had a string of Eifel towers down the center of the horseshoe lighting up the Midway like Wrigley Field…

 

I remember telling the Greek that his Midway was dark by comparison and that he should get some of those Zaccini[iv] built towers like the Royal had…

 

He was way smarter than I gave him credit for, and he said something I will remember forever…

 

“Kid, don’t you ever put nothing up on a midway that you can’t put an agent or a ticket seller in front of ”…

  


[i] Later to become the Murphy Bros. Exposition

[ii] Baptist Sound was an audio supply firm from Springfield Illinois catering to Showmen

[iii] Royal American Shows

[iv] The famous family of human cannonballs and ride builders

 

Photographs W. T. Collins Shows 1965

 

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