Monty Bowman


To say that I have been fascinated by carnivals since I was a small child would be an understatement.  When someone once asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, my answer floored my mother and grandmother.  My answer was, "I want to run a ride at the fair".  This was of course unheard of since all mothers only expect their son to be a professional such as a doctor or a lawyer.


The first carnival that I remember is the World of Mirth Shows.  I remember being in the first grade in 1956 and my mother taking off from work at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and taking me to the Dixie Classic Fair in Winston-Salem.  I was also released from school early to attend the fair.  My mom and I visited the Kiddy Land, but none of the rides were running due to an electrical problem.  this is all I remember from my first visit, but the next year I went to the fair with a friend, Bill Waldron, and his mom.  This year I think was the first time that I saw a Sky Wheel which I remember riding with my friend Bill.  I know for the longest time I was scared of the Round-up, but once I got up my nerve, it was always one of my favorite rides.  Other rides that I remember from my early visit to the World of Mirth were the Caterpillar, 3 or 4 ground-mount Eli Wheels in a row with wooden seats, the Silver Streak, Twister, Looper, Fly-o-Plane, Spit-fire, Octopus, Scrambler and Tilt-a-Whirl.   Another new ride that I first saw on the WOM in the late 1950's was the Flying Coaster.


After reading Bob Goldsack's book, World of Mirth Shows, I can remember walking by the Monkey Speedway and wanting to go inside, but my mom was always hesitant to allow me to go into sideshows.  I did, however, talk her into letting me go inside a 10-in-One which featured a headless lady illusion.  This is the first time that I ever remember seeing a blowoff.  There was an extra 10-cent charge to see how this "beautiful young woman lived".  Since I didn't have a dime in my pocket, I remember running to get out the tent and tell mom.  Of course, this reinforced her perception that I shouldn't go into the sideshows because this was "an old carny trick".  It was some devious trick to separate me from my money.


Since my mom worked for R.J. Reynolds in the sales department, she always came home with a Gold Pass.  She received this pass from none other than Gerald Snellens who according to my mom. always visited the sales department to purchase cases of cigarettes to be used on some of the show's cigarette games.  Snellens also gave her several of the pictorial magazines featured on page 115 of Goldsack's book.  How I wish I still had those magazines.  I can remember thumbing through them and time again as a kid.  Although I can't say for sure, I would suspect that the Camel ad on the sides of one of the show's wagons was possibly negotiated at the same time.



World of Mirth Wagons Photographs

Taken by Jim Dillman


The WOM wagons were in a field near Winston-Salem, NC in 1975.


Winston -Salem is the last city played by the WOM in 1963 just before its impoundment and demise into bankruptcy.


























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