The First Giant I Ever Knew




The first giant I ever knew was Al Tomaini, who was from a large Catholic family in New Jersey. By the time he was twelve, it was obvious that he was a giant. A common ailment of glandular giants is foot, leg and back problems, all of which Al suffered with.
Giants have more weight than their feet can properly support. This causes a collapse of the metatarsal arch. It generally happens with one foot at a time. This causes an unbalance. As the torso bends to one side, leg muscles weaken. When this affects the spine, the leaning stature can cause a pressure on the heart, resulting in further complications. Giants therefore do not have a long life expectancy.
Al met his wife Jeanne Weeks while both were with Ray Cramers Side Show on Dodson's World Fair Shows carnival in 1936. Jeanie appears to have no body from the waist down, so was billed as the living half girl. After Al and Jeanie became man and wife they were billed as the world's strangest married couple, which may have been true at the time. They appeared in several shows for others before starting their own show, which they operated very profitably. In 1946 they had the side show with the new Sparks Circus owned by James Edgar.
In the spring of 1948, I was trouping with Dailey Brothers Circus when our private show train was parked side by side next to that of Cetlin and Wilson Shows at Knoxville, Tennessee. The Tomaini's had the side show with C and W and visited the circus that day. Al saw me do the fire eating and magic acts and offered me a job. I was in love with the circus, so I declined.

In 1952, I started wintering in Florida, when I next met them. They had quit the road some years previously, and purchased land where the Alafia River flows into Tampa Bay. They built a cabin court, trailer park, restaurant, marina, bait shop, and boat rental. Both Al and Jeanie were astute business people. One of the reasons to settle in a permanent location was for the benefit of their two growing daughters. Al didn't entirely forsake show business though. He sent attractions on the road with managers, including an exhibit of giant turtles. In fact, there is an enlarged photo of Al and Jeanie and the turtles on the wall of the "Giant's Camp" cafe.
The place became the gathering spot for the other side show attractions wintering in town. In those years there were a lot of professional oddities living here. One might drop by for dinner and see a couple of giants, four or five fat people and some midgets and others.  Al was also the local fire chief, and Colonel Casper, a dwarf, was the local policeman.
After Al's death, the International Independent Showmen's Association was formed in Gibsonton and is the center for social activities. With the decline of oddities and side shows, one seldom sees anything unusual at Giant's Camp Restaurant on Highway 41 on the south side of the Alafia River Bridge. You can still get a good meal for a reasonable price, twenty-four hours a day, and see an interesting ambiance.
Most days Jeanie will be found conducting business in the bait shop and marina office. Both of the daughters are grown, and Jeanie enjoys being a grandmother
(Jeanie died August 10, 1999)


Post Script the Giants Camp Restaurant in now Closed


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