A 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 poisoning,
 
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.

 

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