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Barry Jamieson

Ottawa, Tuesday, 23 August 2005

My grandfather wanted my father to be a white-collar worker. My father was a big guy and he had huge hands on him. So my father went to school, he had to take a commercial program at the school. Of course, he was in there typing, or trying to type, he’d hit the key and two would go up. He got very frustrated, and he couldn’t do it. He went and told my grandfather that he couldn’t do this, it didn’t work. My grandfather insisted that he still do that.

So my father left, 16, 17, something like that. He just took off, and he wound up getting a job on the carnival. He worked on various rides, and he was able to fix them, he was just a worker. Then he progressed from that to being the trainmaster, he was the trainmaster and the ride superintendent. He was teamed up with a guy by the name of Hank Blade, who was from Peterborough. Hank played hockey for Chicago. Him and my father, and Johnny Bunk, and Phil Cronin, and all those guys, were all buddy buddies. My father learned how to weld, and he could build; he not only loaded the train, he also maintained the rides, all self-taught.

Then when he retired from that, when Sullivan sold the show to Patty, my father lived in Simcoe, Ontario, and he became a second-class engineer, stationary engineer, just self-taught. He looked after the Casual Dairy there for years, until he passed on. He passed on at a young age. He had a massive heart attack at home, and the doctor said he was probably dead before he hit the floor. He had a bad heart from when he was a child because he had rheumatic fever. Sullivan always wanted him to go to the Mayo Clinic to get it fixed. And they could fix it in them days, but he never wanted to do that. Anyway, such a big guy, and having to deal with medical things …

From what I remember of him, he was a tough guy. I was a kid, and they were loading the train one night, and a wagon was rolling back onto a bunch of guys at the bottom of the ramp. He put his hand there to stop the wagon, in front of the wheel, so the wagon wouldn’t run down the ramp and run over these guys. So he had no feeling in one hand, busted all his bones in there. He got a cast on, and they set some bones, but it did a lot of nerve damage to him. So yeah, he was a tough, tough, tough guy. If he hit you, you knew it. He booted me in the ass a couple times.

When I was a kid, I was on the train, me and another boy by the name of Gary Higgins. We were out on the flats, and we weren’t supposed to be on the flats. We were out there jerking around. We got up on top of the coaches, and we’d swing through the doorway of the coach. I swung through first. My father was laying in the state room, and he saw the shadows alongside the train. So that was the one and only time I was ever out on the train when it was moving. I think I went the full 70 feet down the flat. He come out and grabbed me.

The train had a coasting speed of 35 miles an hour, fully loaded. It was a sight, when it rolled into town. In them days, you couldn’t work on Sundays. They’d try to stop them 1 from loading and unloading the train. There’d be 5,000 people out on the side of the street, watching us getting on the lot. The same with trucking on Sundays.

I spent a good part of my youth around that show. You know, I’d help them, but really, they didn’t want me to be around the show. My father thought that I should be a mechanic or something like that. He thought that I would be better off doing that. He was probably 35, 36 years on the road. He was 62 when he died, he’s probably been dead 20 years. That’s a little bit of history about him. You know, there wasn’t as many shows in them days. He was always with Sullivan. When Sullivan sold the show, he didn’t want to go any further, that was enough for him.

Sullivan couldn’t afford to run the show on the train anymore and he couldn’t convert it to a truck show. When Patty bought it, he broke it up and sold it, from what I understand, I don’t know, I was still going to school. Hank Blade bought his own show.

When I finished school, I went out and worked for a show, by the name of King Shows. Howard Jones had that show, the show was built around flat stores. It was an experience. Lots happening on that show. But Howard was a great guy. His son Dukie’s out here. I was with King Shows eight years. I had a couple of rides. I’ve been here probably 30, 35 years. When Jim put a show on the road, that’s when I came over. Stacey would have been six months old. We bought a house in Woodstock and stayed there and worked in Brantford.

I kind of looked after the Bicycle Unit. Some guys came over with me, we had a good time. Ray Coffing was in charge. I was working under Ray at the shop. I hung around and worked my way up. Then the opportunity come to buy the show, with Jim, to buy the show. I’ve kind of enjoyed it. You know, we’ve done well together in this. Sam Ganz is a partner as well. That happened 12 years ago.

I was back in the east, and had the opportunity to go out west for a few years. I went out there with Alfie and thoroughly enjoyed that. Ray had moved into the United States, so I kind of moved into his place.

There’s been some good stories, but I’ll have to think about it. I remember there was a guy tearing down the Skooter, and he’s got the roof iron and one end is up higher than the other, and he sticks his head out. I says, “Use your head.” So he jumps up and bangs it with his head, knocks him cold.

I’ll have to think about it some, but here are some stories.

Out west, one year, Alfie used to lay out the joints, and I’d lay out the rides. So we’d always fight for the corners, who was going to get the corners. In Calgary, I win, and Alfie was pissed, and he said, “Well, we’ll call Jim, and let him be the decision maker.” I wasn’t going to give up the corners, I had two corners in Calgary, and he had two corners, but he wanted more corners, he wanted them all, for the joints. I had a Tidal Wave on one corner, and a Monster on the other corner, cause they used to ride the shit of the Monster in Calgary, they used to love it, and they’d ride the boat. I wasn’t giving up the corners. So Alf says, “Well I’ll phone Jim and let him decide.” So he phones Jim and Jim says, “Well, I’m with you, Barry, you can keep the corners.” So I kept the corners.

I had that strong corner, because it was strong, I put a ticket box there. So now, I have a ticket box there, and Joe Staten and a couple of other jointies take the ticket seller out and put a mannequin in, with a T-shirt and a wig. People come up there to buy tickets, and a mannequin would be sitting there. So, Jimmy Glover, he comes over to me, he said, “Barry, you have one dummy in that ticket box, and I mean dummy!” So I go over to the ticket box, and I look in there, and son of a bitch, there’s a dummy in there. I open the door and throw the dummy out, get in there, and start selling tickets myself.

Now they get a piece of cardboard put across the front of the ticket box: “Closed.” And I’m in the ticket box. Then they lock me in the ticket box. Now, after all this is going on, they wanna take and move the ticket box, figuring that I’ll give in to them. They get it moved to and I get it back, and I get a big chain, and I chain it to the base of the Tidal Wave. They had some fun with that.

Because they were messing with the ticket box, that night I took a PC joint with the crane, and set it right on top of a joint trailer. Then we got into their fish joint, and we got a case of that Mr. Bubble. We didn’t say a word and they come in there the next morning and put the pumps on, open the awnings up. Well, you couldn’t see the joint for bubbles, bubbles all over the midway.

This is what we would did, you know, we would have a little fun, have a little humor, we had a really good time out west, and made a lot of money.

Another time, Alfie and I got in a grab joint, kicked the staff out, and started serving the public ourselves. There was a big run on drinks. There must have been a lot of garlic in them hamburgers. I don’t know if much of the take ended up in the count that night.

Note: There are over 200 pages of interviews here, mostly verbatim and unedited. If you find spelling mistakes or typos, or want to add something, contact me at john [dot] thurston [at] sympatico [dot] ca. Thank you!


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