Ducked Me Half a Yard for my End of the Action


The next day, I got a lard can, a pair of shoestrings, some rosin, a blank starting gun (which was legal), a baby doll, a whip, some baby's toys and an empty cigar box.

After getting back to the lot, I had prep school in the geek show, showing the ruffey and Bla Bla what to do and how to do it, especially the roust. By opening, everyone was cued in and ready to go. The dips moved in after we opened and must have had a fair night because Ralph ducked me half a yard for my end of the action.

Back then, there must have been hundreds of carnies and circuses on the road. The big side shows and circuses that played the large cities like New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore could well afford to pay the salaries of bona fide freaks such as the Siamese Twins, the Three Legged Man and the Girl with Elephant Feet and Legs. But what about the smaller show that either couldn't find freaks or couldn't afford to pay them?

Well, the side show operators solved that problem merely by making their own freaks. In the early days, people were easy to fool and gaffed up scams made out of clay, plaster, papier mache and pickled human babies. Acts such as a two headed baby or Siamese twins, were on the midways of ninety five percent of the carnivals.

The small time operators took advantage of all the publicity and notoriety that the news media gave to the real freaks of nature.

In a few years the marks wised up and the side show operators found it much harder to get them to go in to see dead attractions. Oh, they specified that the two headed baby of the Siamese twins were born alive but that was the cue that they were dead, stuffed, pickled in alcohol or petrified. In order to recapture their losses, the side show gaffed up attractions and advertised them as real and alive.


Well, that did the trick. The side shows prospered and the marks after hearing the talker make his pitch, would rush to the ticket boxes to go inside to see the four legged girl who roller skated and danced, or the man with his brother growing out of his chest.

My Dad had a tent full of gaffed up freaks, wonders and oddities, along with the working acts. I remembered all of them and they came in handy when May and I had our own side show.


To be Continued


Posted here courtesy of Midway Publications - Copyright 1999 William T. Usher All rights reserved


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