Woodside Amusement Park
by Walt Hudson
Yamagoti was the only oriental act I have ever
worked with. She was hired and showed up about a
week after Princess Yvonne, the midget stripper,
left our show (because of the accident). Eikee was
billed as The Snake Enchantress. I thought she would
be like the rest of the snake charmers I had worked
with the past two summers. There was Mazie, who did
a short dance with a small boa constrictor around
her neck, in Doc Williams' "Congress Of Human
Oddities." And there was Micki Wiski, who worked
with her sister and mother, in the "Strange Girls"
show, who also danced with a snake.
I knew Eikee wouldn't be doing an act like the one
Zino and Zero did in their "Wild Jungle Girl" show
that was on the carnival I traveled with the first
season I was out on the road. This was a family show
and raunchy acts were out.
I was surprised to discover that Eikee's act was
more educational than it was entertainment, per se.
She had two large boas each housed in a glass
fronted box (about the size of a large steamer
trunk). The snakes were each about fifteen feet long
and so heavy that she could not pick them up without
help from at least two men. Eikee also had a large,
thick and shimmering rock python that she draped
about her shoulders while she lectured. She related
the reptile's natural habitats, feeding habits and
other interesting facts. She also spent time
answering any questions the marks asked. Because she
was a native Japanese, she spoke English very slowly
and with a heavy Japanese accent, which made her
presentation very charming. She also wore the
traditional Japanese kimono and she was a classy
I was talking with her one day and she said she had
come to this country after World War II as a
Japanese war bride and had become a sideshow act
through a series of fateful events.
When she arrived in the United States with her
serviceman husband, she spoke practically no
English. She fell in love with her Army husband when
his unit had occupied Japan. She was, as were all
Japanese women in those days, a very subservient
wife. She knew little about the U.S., but had
imagined it in terms of photos she had seen and
stories, she had been told about the larger cities.
When she arrived here she found out I that her
husband was a poor farmer who lived in the back
hills of Kentucky, well away from the cities. In
fact, the nearest farm was about five miles away!
It was a very lonely life for her, isolated from
everyone but her husband's family. The only contact
she had with others was on Sunday when they went to
the little rural church or on Saturday whten they
went into town for supplies or to see a film. People
stared at her and talked abut her behind her back.
Mixed marriages were not readily accepted in those
days and especially one with a girl whose homeland
had been an enemy of the U.S. just a few years
Eikee said that she had been in this country for
about a year and every day just dragged by. Her
isolation from her family, friends and culture
became almost unbearable. Her husband had little
interest outside of farming and she had nothing in
common with his parents. Weekends only meant being
stared at by strangers - who all looked alike to
her. Loneliness turned to despondency and she
thought the only way out of her depression was to
The event which saved her life was the state
agricultural fair that she and her husband attended
one August. Her husband was exhibiting some of his
prize animals and they attended the fair for a four
day stay. One of the grandstand attractions was a
variety show that featured a troupe of Japanese
jugglers and acrobats. She was so happy to see
"someone like herself" she practically burst with
joy. She went backstage to meet them and was
thrilled to learn where they were from in Japan. She
was overjoyed with her new-found friends and spent
all day with them when they were not performing. She
explained her unhappy situation to them and they
invited her to join their troupe as an assistant.
On the day before the fair was scheduled to close,
she stole away with them when they left to go on to
their next date. She never said goodbye to her
husband and was surprised that he never came after
her or never tried to locate her. Perhaps he knew
how unhappy she had been and didn't know what to do
about it and this was the easiest way out of the
mistake they had both made.
When the fair season was over they joined with the
Mills Brothers Circus and, while working with them,
she earned extra money working in the sideshow as a
snake charmer. She eventually left the circus and
went out on her own.
When she worked with us at Woodside Park, she
traveled with a good looking young American guy
named Troy. She said he was her manager. He took
care of the big snakes and ran the "ding" for her.
Besides her salary, she made extra bucks with two
successful pitches. She would pose with the marks
for a photo with the python around her body or let
them pose alone with the snake. She sold dozens of
photographs each show.
She also pitched "bugs." "Bugs" were chameleons
which Eikee bought wholesale from an animal supplier
in Florida. When a new supply of chameleons arrived,
she and Troy would sit backstage and tie strings
around the lizards' long tails so that when they
sold them the marks could hold onto them. The
lizards would jump away unless there was something
to grasp. The body of a chameleon was about four
inches long and their tails were almost as long as
their bodies. They had long tongues used for
catching insects to eat.
The selling point in the pitch was the fact that
they had the ability to change the color of their
skins. When placed on a colored cloth their skin
would adapt to that color. When not on a specific
surface, their natural color was a greenish brown.
Eikee also sold little collars to place around the
chameleon's neck. This collar had a small chain and
a safety pin attached so that the animal could be
worn as live jewelry.
The chameleons sold for fifty cents each and they
were packaged in little boxes. The collars were ten
cents each and a box of scientific chameleon food
(meal worms) sold for twenty-five cents.
Instructions for the care and feeding of the
chameleon were enclosed in each box.
Troy really took charge of the pitch and sold the
photos and gave the spiel for the "bug" sales. The
Snake Enchantress stayed with our show until it
closed on Labor Day weekend and then she headed
south for the fair season,
(To Be Continued)
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