Ohio State Fair
There is Not the
Similarity in the Sideshow Business Today
There is not the
similarity in sideshows of today as there was when I started in
the sideshow biz. I began in the circus when I was 15 as a
magician and fire eater, The side show that year had a lady
snake charmer, sword box (with ding) Punch and Judy, knife
throwing (impalement act) novelty musical act, ventriloquist,
and anatomical wonder, fifteen people jig show (seven musicians,
two comics, five girl chorus line, one girl doubled as vocalist.
I was with that big railroad circus 4 years and then smaller
truck shows for several years. Over the years the performance
remained about the same.
On the small
circuses there was no jig show. As you can see the shows were
sort of like vaudeville None of the shows I was with in those
years (1946 -1951) had a sword swallower, pincushion, or
I bought my first
sideshow mid season 1951 from a defunct carnival. It had several
sideshow illusions which I immediately threw away, A bad
mistake. Having! no knowledge of what to do with a carnival
show, I staggered along for a couple of years. When I finally
discovered that it was better to have freaks, I started to
prosper, and once C M Christ became my partner in 1965 it became
a good operation. My shows became good, with freaks, starting in
1960 when in partnership with Nate Eagles (of midget shows fame)
we had the sideshow with Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey at
Madison Square Gardens N.Y.C. thru 1967. That year we purchased
the Jim Stienmetz sideshow and were booked with Goodings Million
Dollar midway which at that time had the strongest route of
fairs in the U S. (I had been on that carnival in 1955. In the
ensuing years Chris and I bought the tide shows off other good
showmen who at advanced age were retiring. Don Hepburn,
the tent and some illusions etc from Archie and Mae MacAskills
Helles Belles, The rest of their show went to Pete Hennon, Dick
Best, Bill Chalks, Pete Notes, Kelly-Seton, and others.
Starting in 1967 we
began featuring freaks and tried to have a minimum of four in
each show. We also always had a sword swallower, fire act.
pincushion. and other working acts. We reached our apex in 1981
when we had 12 shows at the Oho State Fair, and at the same time
had four other ten in ones and five other grind shows on tour.
So few people
understand what a huge industry the out door shows once was.
Today so many things are called sideshows. The sideshow used to
be ONLY the Ten-In-Ones or circus sideshow, In the heyday there
wasn't so many rides on the midways and there were over one
thousand shows of various kinds at fairs, carnivals and
circuses. It is estimated there were at least 400 girl shows in
the carnival industry in 1950. Everything from a one girl show
to the big elaborate musical revues.
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