Few of My Friends
In talking the bally
in front of the sideshow, I like to sell a giant, fat person or
midget. It is easy to form pleasant word pictures in describing
them. One day while dining at a Tampa cafeteria, a pretty big
guy came in and sat nearby. I decided to talk to him about
joining the show, and was surprised that he was in the carnival
business with games. We billed John Kampnier as "John the Giant
Lumberjack", with advertising art resembling Paul Bunyan.
John was a big man although less than a giant. He filled the
bill and was an excellent truck driver.
When playing the State Fair of Texas that year, I was hoping
that Wayne Gallager, the fair manager and Lowell Staph, the
midway coordinator would never happen to stand on either side of
John, for they were both tall Texans. John would not have
appeared unusually tall next to them.
Dave Ballard was among my closest friends. He and his lady,
Spaine Thorne, lived in New York City. Spain was a retired
Broadway actress and Dave appeared in various forms of show
business, but had not trouped with a sideshow at the time I
first met them. Dave was born and raised in Commerce, Texas.
Spain was from Stamford, Connecticut. They were long time
friends of Nate Eagles, the sideshow manager of Ringling
Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus, who I was working for. Dave
had worked for Nate in "The Midget City" at the Chicago World's
Fair, with one hundred twenty-five midgets and the Texas Giant.
When he became available, I convinced him to join our show. He
was one of our features until ill health befell him on the fall
of 1968. He trimmed a corn on a toe which became infected. We
put him hi Columbia, South Carolina hospital with blood
He was recovering and we put him on a plane to New York. Later
complications caused deterioration to his health and he died in
New York, in the spring of 1969.
Dave was a congenial man with a great sense of humor, and a
bigger appetite than any fat man or woman I've known. I
introduced Dave to the hobby of baggage auctions, where
unclaimed baggage from New York hotels are auctioned off. The
bags are sold unopened so one never knows what you may find.
Dave loved it, but before long their elegant apartment was
cluttered with luggage. Spain had about had it. Dave promised
the next auction was to be his last. But, alas he bid a dollar
for a small bag and on examination, its contents included three
fifty dollar bills. He was hooked forever.
The dinners and parties I attended in their home were
innumerable. The guest list always included people from the
worlds of opera, theatre, art, literature and circus. When Harry
Leonard, my partner of nineteen years expired with a heart
attack, Dave and Spain moved me into their home to comfort me
through my grief.
I always remember Spain relinquishing her room for me, and the
comfort of the luxurious carved wooden bed.
All text and images on this page
unless otherwise noted are copyrighted
©1991-2007 Ward Hall,
all rights reserved. The stories and images are
excepts for Ward Hall's book My Very Unusual Friends.
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