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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©1991-2007 Ward Hall, all
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