Estelline Pike

 

Estelline Pike was born, I am going to guess in 1908. I believe the town is Hoxie Kansas. It may be close to it but it’s way out in the Western part of Kansas. She got married To John "Lucky" Ball and then remarried a gentleman named Pike her second husband. She had a son and he was a sword swallower also. Jimmy quit sword swallowing way back in the early sixties. Then he had an unborn show for a couple of years, after that show he moved back to their home town. I think he went into the real estate business there. Jimmy wasn't Pike's son, he was the son of her first husband.

 

Estelline was with numerous Mid Western carnivals in the 30's and 40's, I don't know how she ended up in New York she had been with the Royal American Shows I believe with Dick Best, possibly with the Loral Brothers that would have been in the late 40s or early 50's. The first time I worked with her and got to know her, was in Madison Square Garden for the Ringling show in 1960. She had already been at the Flea Circus at Hubert’s Museum for several years it was on 42nd street. She would take leave from the Flea Circus to come work at Madison Square Garden each year. She worked the Garden all the eight years I was there until they discontinued the sideshow at the end of the1967 season.

She stayed at Hubert’s until it went out of business. She had an economy apartment at the Belvedere Hotel on West 48th street. She was living there before I knew her, for the eight years we worked together and was living there after that time. I went to visit her a couple of times after we worked together. Hubert’s was still open then but closed soon after that. Hubert’s Museum was in the basement of the building. There was a penny arcade upstairs, the man that owned the building ran the arcade and after Hubert's closed Estelline went to work for him as a cashier. As far as I know she worked there right up until the time of her death. I would guess she was in her early eighties, she was a really good sword swallower and a very nice person.  "That is Estelline".

 

Mimi Garneau,

 

***Mimi Garneau, (Hazel Kirk Thomas) Mimi was born January 27th 1894 in Philipsburg, PA. I don't know when Mimi quite swallowing swords. I first became acquainted with Mimi Garneau and Woody Dutton when they were operating Lou Dufour women’s show on the Gooding's Million Dollar Midway in 1967. I think they took it over from Dufour either in1966 or 1967. She had already quit swallowing swords by that time, she was getting older by then. She and Woody owned a home together, he was a friend and companion for many years.  He took very good care of her. I have a picture of her and her son, Garneau her husband had already past away by then. The picture was of her and her son on the front of the E.K. Fernandez Hippodrome Show which was like a sideshow.  He toured the Hawaiian Islands with this show. When World War Two started her son was drafted into the service. He told Woody, (Woody told me this story) He said “I know I'm never going to come back so I want you to promise that you will always take care of my mother.” Woody did that, he was the talker on the show, that I mentioned I have the picture of. Her son was killed in the second World War.

 

She had been with Sam Alexander, I would guess that was in the mid to late 50's. I worked with Sam in 1961 I don't remember that we had a sword swallower that year.

Mimi worked the Folks Celebration Show where she did lecture for Bessie B. in 1946. Bessie was the half and half, the Folks Celebration Show was a little show that toured in New Mexico and Texas maybe into Arizona. It was a carnival owned sideshow and Bessie managed it.

 (J.R., I read this reference to Ward about Mimi found in The Sword Swallower Hall of Fame. Mimi worked with the Dick Best Show at the Canadian National Exhibition and later in 1961 was on the Steve Allen Tonight Show.) I worked that fair the year of 1961 for Sam Alexander and he had that show for many years prior to that. I'm not sure that Dick ever had the Canadian National Exhibition but Mimi did work for Dick Best but I think it was on the Western Canadian A circuit of fairs. Which at that time the shows that made the Western A circuit did not make the Canadian National Exhibition even though it was Conklin Shows. That sounds right that she would have been with Dick but she would have been on the Royal American Shows.

I want to tell you about her Flea Circus now. Maybe she had a Flea Circus earlier in her life but it was about 1976 I believe, it was the last year that her and Woody had the show out for Lou Dufour. I think that was the year Lou died.

1977 was the year we got busted with our Freak Baby Show. Somebody was stirring up garbage at that time and putting the finger on everyone. That bust took place on July 17th, when I got home that fall in November. There was this letter in my P.O. Box. It had just been mailed,  the letter had not been sealed and it was not signed, but it was from the States Attorneys office to inform me that I had be arrested on August 2nd when they got a search warrant and searched my home and found a couple of pickled punks there. It was just a few days after that they took a search warrant and went out the Mimi’s and Woody’s house. The officer called Woody out and he told him we know that you have all those pickled punks in that trailer over there in your yard. We don't want to arrest you, we don't want to cause you any problems, what I'm requiring that you do, because we don't want to step on your property if we do we will have to arrest you. I want you to go and bring those punks and put them out here on the sidewalk so we can take them. That’s why I know that they did not have that show out in 1977.

It was later than that because I visited with them at their house that next winter and Mimi had built this Flea Circus it was in the late 50's. Mimi had a jeweler build all of the little props for the her Flea Circus. Some of these Flea Circuses today are all in the imagination and don't have any fleas, but she was doing it the way of the old timers with real fleas. Now the jeweler made all the props for her and she had this special table made that folded up the size of a suitcase that she would just sit up on a larger table it had the Flea Circus in it. She carried her fleas in a little vile, she was booked for Sam Alexander's Sideshow in Belmont Park in Montreal Canada for the season of 1978. So she took her Flea Circus and went to Montreal, it had been very cold up there that winter. Her fleas were Florida fleas and they didn't live long, she lost them all. There were always kids hanging around the park there, she told them if they would bring her any dogs that they saw hanging around she would give them fifty cents a piece for each dog that they brought her because she had planned to get the flea off of them. As I had said it had been a cold winter and the dogs that kids brought her were those outside dogs and they didn't have any fleas. So she remembered that on 120th street her neighbors had this big shaggy dog and he was just covered with fleas. So she called them and asked them if she had a crate made and paid for the transportation and all would the neighbors do her the favor of shipping the dog up to her and then she would extract the fleas and ship him home. They agreed to do it for her and shipped the dog to her. When she got the dog it didn't have any fleas on it. She had over looked the fact that when the dog came through customs in Canada they dipped the dog which killed all the fleas. When she found the dog had no fleas she shipped it back to Tampa. She returned to Tampa also because she gave up working the Flea Circus. It was built in the winter of 1978 she went to Canada and returned and never operated a Flea Circus again.

Mimi never worked for me but Woody did when we put together the Midway in Savanna Georgia for the movie Carny with Jody Foster in 1979. We started up there about April 1st and we finished the last day of June. Woody was in charge of our equipment because Chris had stayed in Gibsonton and was building some other stuff. About half way through the shooting, I took out one of the other sideshows and went to Hawaii and was there for six weeks of the shooting time. Woody ran everything there for me. Mimi and I worked together on several shows over the years. We worked together on the Million Dollar Midway for a couple of years. We were very good friends and she was a wonderful lady and when I say lady I say it with a capital “L” and Woody was a very fine Gentleman also.

 


***MIMI GARNEAU'S SON - PASSED AWAY NOVEMBER 15, 2009 AT 91 YRS. OF AGE IT’S BEEN SO VERY HARD... ONE THING I PROMISED HIM WAS TO CORRECT SOME OF THE INFO ON WARD’S COLUMN….MY MOM AND DAD VISITED WITH WARD …AND THEY HAD A GREAT TIME  A FEW YEARS BACK AND THAT WAS THANKS TO YOU… MY GRANDMOTHERS REAL NAME WAS HAZEL KIRK THOMAS AT BIRTH …NOT HAZEL JUDE THOMAS AND SHE WAS BORN IN PHILIPSBURG PA…Chris Brickel

 

     Hazel Jude Thomas - Mimi was born January 27th 1894 in Bloomberg, PA

 

    The info. above was corrected by Mimi's family on Jan. 31, 2010 to the information below

 

Hazel Kirk Thomas - Mimi was born January 27th 1894 in Philipsburg, PA


 

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