A Nice Meal On The Back Lot

Part 3 of the Judy Tomaini Rock Series


The small towns around Fort Wayne, Indiana, had little fairs, that were called Pumpkin Fairs. They were just small weekend doings, like the Seafood Fest's are here, in Florida. A few kiddy rides, and maybe a live pony, they could have the kids ride. And the fair specialties, popcorn, candied apples, hot dogs and the like. These little fairs usually were just a few hours away from home, in Blufton. The old Model T, took the whole family on the trip of fantasy. They were getting paid to have fun. And this was every weekend. Nellie, would pile her kids in the car and off they would go. John usually had an excuse, why he had to stay behind. But it most often, was to spend the time they were gone, picking up women in the bars. His little 3 year old daughter, was by rights, supporting the whole family. It was hard on Nellie, as she loved her husband, the father of her beloved children. He didn't work much, as now he just laid around drunk. Taking every extra cent his family had. They moved quite often, as the rent money, was down at the closest bar.

The food for the kids was scarce too. A lot of potato soup was eaten, and sugar water drank, in the very lean years on the road. By this time, John was traveling with the family. They had to keep following the shows. Five children, and two parents, along with Johns philandering, put a big dent in the cash flow. They were living in a tent and sleeping on the ground, and in the car, in back of the sideshow stage. The children loved it, they played with the other children on the show lot. Bea, was always fussed over by the people that came to look at her. They would bring her toys, and clothes, and even a silk and gold kimono brought from over seas, by a WWI soldier, which I still have. She was 7 at the time. By now she had started doing a routine for the shows. Instead of just sitting there, she did one hand stands, went up a ladder on her hands, and down the other side. In her spare time, she would make her fancy costumes by hand. She beaded them and sewed on rhinestones, and spangles. Any extra money she had she would use to buy material, or even use old clothes that she could dress up. The show girls, and clowns, would give her their old costumes, and she would take the beads off, and sew them on hers. She was very resourceful, and just made the best of a bad thing.

John, by this time had taken off with another woman. And after a long time of not even knowing where he was. Nellie met a man, that could help her to care for her children. The couple of years he was with her, were the best of her sad life, of being a slave to John. When the family learned, how to book into other shows, the life on the road got to be a little easier.

The boys were older, and able to do little jobs around the lot. A family of head hunters, joined the show, and the boys started playing, with the children of the new family. They couldn't understand each other, but were soon exchanging words, and the new kids were learning English. Whenever the boys couldn't be found they were with the new family. They begged Nellie, to let them have supper with their new friends, and she kept telling them no, since it was hard times, and it was all they could do, to feed themselves. One day the mother of the new family, ask Nellie if the boys could eat with them, because they had plenty to eat that night. They cooked out side on a log fire, and the smell of the stew, wafted over the whole lot. The boys were ecstatic, and they ran off to dinner. Bea stayed at the tent reading, she had taught herself to read, as she didn't go to school much. But she was very bright, for a young lady, just starting into her teens. She would help her Mother as much as she could, but she started to take in sewing, for people on the show. She loved to sew, and it gave them a little extra for food. The boys couldn't stop raving over the meal they had. It had been a long time since they had meat in their diet, and wanted their Mom to get the recipe for the stew. After the kids were in bed, and Nellie was enjoying the cool evening air on the lot. She heard the man with the flea circus, calling for the mutt dog, he had gotten from the nearest pound, since it was the supplier of the fleas for his show. There in the quiet darkness, Nellie smiled to herself. Now she knew what was in the delicious stew, the boys had for dinner....

2003 Judy Tomaini Rock, All Rights Reserved

Published with the permission of Judy Tomaini Rock


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