World of Wonders 2001

by Ward Hall

 

This was an unusual season, Opening in Mid May at Yonkers New York at Westchester Fair, we were there four weeks and had  quite a bit of inclement weather.

 

Next stop at our 15th year at the Meadowlands Fair we were joined for a few weeks by Krista, and it was great to have her with us. She did a fine job in spite of some difficult situations. She had many duties including eating fire, blockhead, glass and sword ladder walking, nail board, mystery girl on bally, ticket seller, and helped up and down the show. She is a real 100% trouper.

 

We were also augmented at Meadowlands with Bindlestiffs: Keith and Stephanie, Okre, Magic Brian and Miss Ula. Also helping out for most of the spot were the Modern Gypsies all of whom were greatly appreciated. I am certainly proud to have had all of them in the same show.

 

Our regular performers for the entire season were Mephisto, and David Apocalypse, Pete "Poobah", and Fat Man Harold Huge. For the Meadowlands, Hammonton, N. J. and Middletown, N.Y. we also put up three new grind shows, so we took Harold and put him in a fat show, with Apocalypse working the front; Eeka and the Monsters snake show, with Mephisto working the front, and Brandon as EEKA. Also a freak baby show.

 

Starting in Hoesdale, Pa. we only put up the sideshow and everyone resumed their duties there. Meadville, Pa was our next spot where we scored half of the front page in the Erie paper. The Great Allentown Fair ended a successful run on labor day. Bambi and Bunny Love were added to the show there, and no doubt their presence helped the show  do good biz. Bambi and Bunny are truly a delight to work with.

 

 

The Dallas, Pa fair is a lovely scenic area in the Pa. hills.

 

Then we jumped to  Frederick Maryland. We were Scheduled to open there on Fri. Sept. 14th. On the eleventh Chris hurried back to the show from breakfast to inform me "Were in a lot of trouble" as he turned on the TV. Indeed it was serious trouble for the entire nation. Fair officials decided to open the fair as planned. Their foresight that the public would need a diversion was correct, as biz continued good for the remainder of the season, at Shelby, N.C.; Spartanburg, S.C.; and Jacksonville, Fl.

 

The year provided several good articles in magazines, and network TV including "The Daily Show" on comedy channel last Nov. "Jerry Springer Show' in Feb. (repeated in Sept.) A documentary for the Travel channel was taped in May (no air date yet) a documentary for Discovery channel  was taped in June (no air date yet) a doc-u-drama for  London British Independent Network was taped in July (no air date yet) and taping for British Associated Press TV was done late Oct. All TV, newspaper, and magazine coverage was arranged by C. M. Christ.

 

Everything was back at winter quaters by Nov.1. R. Bruce Snowden aka Harold Huge purchased an Oldsmobile Station Wagon, and a house on Alice street, about a half mile from C.M. and me. Jimmy Long, our boss canvas man for 35 years, left today for a visit to Ft. Lauderdale. Poobah is planning his annual Caribbean Cruise. This was our final season in the sideshow business.

 

Fat Man will seek another show on which to display his obesity. Chris will continue his career as a publicist, promoter, probably doing marketing for a major circus. Last winter he handled that position for the "American All Star Circus". During the summer he handled the advertising and publicity for seven weeks for L E Barnes Circus, (the only circus to have a sideshow. They dropped it in August.

 

In my future I will be doing programs at colleges etc., lecturing on the history of the sideshow, the philosophy, psychology, exploitation, and logistics. This will also allow me time to remain at home to attend my flowers.

 

I want to thank all the wonderful sideshow performers who worked on our show this past year, and to the wonderful sideshow fans who visited along the route. I am saddened by the passing Nov. 9, of Joe McKennon, a dear friend, publisher of "The Pictorial History Of The American Carnival" and my autobiography "Trials and Triumphs of a Modern Day Showman".

 

It was certainly a sad phone call from Bonnie, Melvin Burkharts daughter to inform me of Melvins hospitalization, and then the call from his wife Joyce to tell us of his passing. Chris and I have both had conversation with Joyce since and I report she is holding up okay. One son was visiting at the hospital, and had an apparent heart attack at Merlins bedside, an was admitted. I was a friend of the Bursar family since his children were wee ones. We worked together on Bobby Hassons sideshow on Royal American in 1955 and with Kelly and Sutton on James E. Strates in 1962, also I think with Dick Best on Royal American in 1962.

 

Melvin was a loyal friend and a loyal employee. He was with Kelly and Sutton for 31 years. During that time he never missed even one performance, which is nothing less than remarkable considering a sideshow give 10 to 30 shows a day. Melvin worked for Chris and I many times over the years, but only at times the Kelly-Sutton Show was not working. After Slim Kelly died Melvin continued on with Whitey Sutton and when Elsie Sutton took over after Whiteys death he stayed on with her until she finally closed to retire, and there was no more permanent sideshow with Strates Shows.

 

Melvin came with Chris and I on the Toby Tyler Circus in 1986. He became ill on the road, and reluctantly returned home. When his health was better that year he finished the season in Coney Island with John Bradshaw. Regardless of discomfort or inconvenience, I never heard Melvin complain. He got along with everyone. I never heard him say a bad word about anyone. He truly loved entertaining the public. The last work Melvin did for us was on "The Daily Show", on the comedy channel last Nov. and the as yet unnamed documentary for the Travel channel last May. he is being seen tonight in the movie "Gibtown" on WNET New York. Watch for it on your local PBS station.... The World will long remember Melvin through the may TV tapes , magazine and newspaper articles and some faded sideshow banners lovingly preserved by some collectors.

                                                                         

Photographs by

Krista Price                                                                                                                                             

 

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