Woodside Amusement Park

Part 3


by Walt Hudson


I liked Virginia Dakota from the first time I met her. She was an attractive, outgoing gal in her early thirties. She worked in carnival sideshows during the summer months by choice and taught school during the winter months by necessity.

The working act she presented was as unusual as her name. She was known as "The Woman Who Smoked Cigarettes Through Her Eyes!" And she did just that!

Virginia's act consisted of three parts. First, she would light up a cigarette, inhale the smoke and then blow the smoke out of the corner of her eye! Secondly, she attached a small tube to a small balloon which she held up to her eye and then she inflated the balloon! And, finally, she held a toy flute up to her eye and expelled enough air through her eye to play a tune on the flute.

As she presented her act she explained her unusual talent to the gawking marks. "I can do these things because I have an enlarged lacrimal duct in the corner of my right eye.

"I was born with this condition. My mother first noticed that something was different when I cried as a baby.

I actually cried unevenly. There was an unusual gush of tears from the tear duct in my right eye, while just a few tears came from my left. When I was five years old I was taken to several leading opthomologists who examined my eyes and these specialists explained that while my condition was rare it was not unique.    

"The doctors informed my parents that there was nothing to be alarmed about.

The enlarged tear duct would have no effect on my eyesight.

"As I grew older I noticed that whenever I had a cold, my right eye would fill up with tears and run for hours at a time. Often, when I sneezed, air particles would be expelled through the tear duct.

"I must have been about ten years old when I returned to a specialist for another checkup. This time I was examined by Dr. Edward Campbell at the Department of Otolaryngology of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. He explained that the lacrimal duct is connected to the nostril and that my duct was about five times the normal size. He reaffirmed what the other doctors had said and told us there was nothing that could be done about this condition at that time.

"When I was a child I began to control my breathing so that I could shut off the air from my right nostril and force it through my right eye duct. I would amaze the kids in our neighborhood by blowing soap bubbles through an old corn cob pipe. I had to be careful not to inhale or I'd get a nose full of soap."

When I asked Virginia how she got into the sideshow business she told me she started her career as a summertime professional during her sophomore year at West Chester (PA.) State Teachers College.

"I remember sitting in the Student Union building at college one evening with a group of guys and gals when this good-looking guy came in and introduced himself as T.J. He told us he had transferred in from Penn State University. He was a likeable guy and pleasant to talk with. He had an object he was carrying wrapped in a towel.

"When someone asked him what it was, he told us it was a sword. He unwrapped it and showed it to us. One guy asked him what he was doing with it and did he collect them.

"T.J. said that he not only collected them but that he swallowed them, too. He passed the sword for all of us to see that it was a real sword and not a trick one where the blade goes into the handle. T.J. threw back his head and slipped the blade down his throat. The crowd of kids that had gathered around to watch all applauded.

"My room mate, Denise, announced to the crowd that I had an unusual talent, also. When I told them I could smoke cigarettes through my eyes they all thought I was crazy. I reached over and took a cigarette from one of the guys, took a long drag on it and expelled the smoke through my right eye duct. The crowd was amazed. They applauded me more than they had T.J.

"They all wanted to know how I did it.

I explained it was not a trick; just a stunt I learned to do when I discovered I had an enlarged duct and could expel air through it.   

"T.J. walked me home from the Student Union that night and we became good friends. About a month after we had begun dating, he told me he worked summers in a traveling carnival sideshow which his uncle owned. He suggested that I consider joining up with the show for the summer.

"I thought about it a!I winter and when spring came around I knew I would have to decide what I wanted to do for the summer. Most of the gals at school worked as waitresses at summer resorts.

I finally decided to join T.J.'s uncle's show.  

"I really enjoyed that summer. T.J.'s cousin and aunt were along and I stayed in their trailer with them. So I had 'proper'
living arrangements.

"T.J. did a good sword act and also swallowed neon tubes. When they dimmed the stage lights you could see the lighted tubes in his throat.

"He also did a knife throwing act which he taught me. Before the summer was over, he and I took turns doing the act, with one throwing knives and the other acting as the human target.

"It was a great summer and I also worked in the sideshow following my junior and senior years in college.

"I went on to teach English in a high school in Ohio. T.J. became a physical education teacher and coach somewhere in New Mexico. We communicated for a while but then we lost touch. I spent summers in college working on my Master's degree. About five years ago I heard T.J. was killed when a neon tube he swallowed broke inside his throat and the gas escaped into his body.

"I returned to working sideshows after I finally got my Master's degree. It is a great break after teaching kids all winter long. I only play amusement parks now because I have to leave around the middle of August to go home and get ready for the new school term."

I told Virginia that my situation was similar to hers and that I would probably only work another summer in sideshows. I asked her if the people she taught knew about her unusual talent.

"Oh, no. I never discuss my summer job. Once, though, I had a scare that someone might find out back in the small town where I teach. I was written up in the National Enquirer and also the Midnight tabloid. I guess no one ever saw the stories because I never had any bad reaction from them."

(To Be Continued)


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